Another beautiful month in the garden. The pheasant and his partner seem content. The moles are staying away and we are about to trim the box hedge, something of a marathon! No sign of any potential house buyers yet.
Over in Hagley, the rabbits are content, the neighbour has bindweed in his lawn and all the neighbours have box hedges planted by the developers, the plants just too far apart to grow into a decent hedge. Ollie, a brilliant ground worker I have used for the patio, shed base, etc., has brought his mini-digger and removed 2ft depth of clay from a lot of the garden before replacing it with good top-soil. I shall now start moving some of our more precious plants to the new garden. This has been an immensely frustrating year so far. Usually, I grow over 1,000 plug plants to fill the beds and we buy plants as we see them in garden centres and emporia such as Aldi, where I used to rescue the plants from certain dehydration and death. Not this year, however – the unsettlement and limbo caused by a frustrated house move has put paid to all that and we have had to exert extreme discipline in the garden centres. This has been difficult, because there is a wonderful Webbs Garden Centre a quarter of a mile from our new house, bulging with beautiful plants. The good news is that they do a really good cheese on toast and we are still working through the card of 12 free drinks we were given when we took out their loyalty card.
The local B&Q superstore is only 4 miles away in Kidderminster. Utopia, much nearer than Cambridge, our current nearest big B&Q. We bought a new swing seat for the garden. The offer was attractive and the box said it could be easily constructed by two people! It lied. It took four of us a couple of hours. I treated it to a cover and it now sits on the corner of the patio – very comfortable and soporific.
We are having to arrange our trips to Hagley around the events the children gave us for Christmas (they thought we would have moved by now). They arranged for us to see Funny Girl a few weeks ago and, next week, we have afternoon tea on the Severn Valley steam railway. There will be the usual grandchildren fest – they all descend on us frequently. Happily, Fraser, our 11 year old grandchild who had major heart surgery six weeks ago, is now at home and doing really well after a torrid time in hospital. We have a lovely time when we go to Hagley – it is a bit like visiting a timeshare and we have to remind ourselves that there are things to do and that we are not on holiday!
Management and I enjoyed a day out on East Anglia’s railways with our friends Nick and Dawn. Arranged by Nick, we took the train from Ely to Norwich and had a cup of coffee before boarding the antique diesel train to Lowestoft where we had sea food and a drink before climbing on the much newer train to Ipswich where we had lunch. Finally, we caught a very smart Peterborough train which took us back to Ely. Run by Abelio Greater Anglia, all the trains ran exactly on time and had a ticket inspector / host, all four of whom were very friendly. Beautiful scenery all the way, especially around the Norfolk Broads. All the trains were diesel powered and we asked the hosts how they go on about filling up with diesel. “We drop in at Tesco’s” was the usual initial response but, in truth, the trains only have enough fuel for 2 to 3 days and they are refuelled at Norwich or Ilford. There is a department which determines which units run on which routes, scheduling them to be in either Norwich or Ilford every second or third night so that the maintenance driver can take them off during the night and “fill ’em up”. They are serviced on a similar principle. This seems a bit sketchy to me so homework is called for and there may well be a future article.

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July Gardening

The garden is now in full swing, and the question is what to do first in the time you have available! July is often a peak month for many vegetables, and the weeds are continuing to grow as quick as anything else! Keep on top of watering, dead-heading and feeding to get the best from your displays.
Salvia’s are a large group of garden plants that includes annuals, biennials, perennials, and shrubs. The perennial salvias are mainstays of the midsummer garden border. Salvia’s are a member of the mint family, and have the common name ‘sage’.

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Meet Helaine Wyett


Although I was born in Salford, Lancashire, you could say I’m a Norfolk native. My parents brought me to Stoke Ferry when I was only nine months old and my father had been posted to RAF Marham.
At first, we lived with Mrs Brown in Wretton before moving to a flat in The Hall, Stoke Ferry followed by a short stay at Marham. Then, when my father was posted overseas, Mum and I moved back to Stoke Ferry living in Canterbury House. It was owned by Mr and Mrs Manning and Rachel, their daughter, and I became lifelong friends. Rachel was a bridesmaid when I married John in 1973.
There appeared to be no animosity, but my parents drifted apart when my father chose to continue his RAF career overseas. So eventually Mum and I moved again to Stoke Ferry, this time on the High Street, when my Mum married my lovely stepfather, George Owen. George was invalided out of the services when a bout of polio robbed him of the use of his left arm and his right leg. All the same, he would walk from Stoke Ferry to Wretton every day to have dinner with his father in Pangle cottage, though it didn’t have that name then.
The house figures on the Wretton Enclosure Map of 1818, possibly built as two-room (one up one down) workers cottage. George’s grandfather lived there in 1900 and his father bought the cottage in 1919. Since then the roof has been raised and rooms added.
It was given its name when my stepfather inherited it in a near-derelict state and took out a Council loan to do it up. The name came from a small piece of woodland owned by the family which was used as security for the loan. George was an excellent gardener and I’m always glad to see some of his flowers and an old greengage tree sill thriving there.
Until my half-brother, Simon, was born, I’d no siblings. Simon has inherited his father’s shooting skill and is now ranked among the top pigeon shooters in the county.
I started school at Stoke Ferry when George Coates was headmaster and at 11+ moved to Downham Market Grammar School. To meet the cost of the uniform, Mum worked part-time at West’s shop on High Street and also took cleaning jobs. And Mr and Mrs West were very supportive with useful Christmas and birthday gifts such as a dictionary, hockey stick and boots. After A levels, I did a 2-year bilingual Secretarial course at Norwich City College, furthering my French and Spanish. I only used the Spanish once when the police needed to ensure their instructions to a Spanish worker were understood but it’s become useful on the many holidays I’ve spent there.
Much later, in 2003-7, I did something I’d always wanted to do; I took a degree in Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Art at the UEA. I took the Maters immediately afterwards, but the cost of a PhD was too high to continue studying.
I’ve had a number of jobs, but wouldn’t really say I’ve had a career. Most of my jobs have been as secretary or administrator in education establishments. But my first job was with the public analysts in Norwich. I would record the samples of mostly food and water then type up the reports after testing. A sliced loaf of bread once contained a fingertip and a packet of crisps had a mouse’s head inside. We also test food for Which magazine.
After three and a half years I change to an easier job as secretary to the Director of PE at UEA. Haydn Morris had been a British Lions Rugby player. I now organise over-50’s badminton in the Hall named after him! One of his assistants – the Norfolk Ladies Champion – taught me to play squash and 15 years of league play followed.
Another really good employer was the Dean of Education at King Alfred’s College, Winchester. He introduced me to computers and told me I’d be the College’s desktop publishing guru! I’d no idea what he was talking about but decided to get to know more. Loved it, and became a teacher of word processing. Returning to Norfolk with this qualification, I worked part-time for 11 years at the College in King’s Lynn.
I’d met my husband, John, at Grammar School and we married in 1973. When he took a job at Guernsey College of Further Education I thought I’d be having a long holiday there but soon had 4 part-time jobs teaching IT. Eventually I became IT trainer for Specsavers whose administration and accounting centre is there. Alex, our son, joined us for 18 months and represented Guernsey at badminton in the Island Games in 2003. When we were preparing to return to the mainland, I took an AS level Archaeology course and did some practical archaeology.
I’d wanted to do Archaeology while at school! So, after returning, I started a degree course at UEA. In my second year, I was doing a required practical session in Cyprus. We excavated a series of chambers, pits and tunnels created 5,000 years ago and unearthed a cache of stone tools, pieces of pottery and one still perfect terracotta pot. Not a crack or chip, quite plain, but I wish I’d been able to keep it and not sent it to Larnaca Museum. Another significant dig was in Peru and I had a week in Amman, Jordan, on a site dating back to the times of the Walls of Jericho. There I unearthed a piece of mother of pearl pendant dating back to about 6,500BC; my oldest find.
Locally, I’ve dug at the Gayton Thorpe Roman Villa site, the only mosaic floor in Norfolk being found there, and at Durobrivac, a major roman site just off the A1 at Peterborough. Lately I have worked on the warren lodges with the Breckland Society and the wider landscape around Grimes’ Graves.
Sport has always been part of my life and began early with hockey. I played for Norfolk U15’s moving on to the U18’s and then Seniors until I left the areas in the late 1970’s. My swansong was playing in the finals of the National Hockey Cup for Winchester ladies followed by a tour of Austria.
When Alex began regular badminton training in Norfolk, it was not feasible to play hockey, nor could I play squash as there was no proper local club so I switched to badminton in Stoke Ferry. Chris Young, the Headmaster, asked me to run an after-school club which I did for over 10 years, then an after-school junior club at Methwold. In 1999, I became Norfolk’s first Sports Badminton Development Officer. I qualified as a coach in 1989, and still coach beginner adults for Active Norfolk and run a Junior Club for Downham Academy. I also play 2- 3 times a week for Downham Ladies and Mixed teams in the Ouse Valley League.
I became Clerk of the Northwold Charities in 2009. Mostly this is management of the 8 Almshouses and 24 allotments. On St Thomas day, around Christmas, the Dole is given to pensioners in the parishes of Northwold and Whittington and also from the Edmund Atmere Charity for the infirm.
My secretarial skills have continued to be useful. I was Advertising Manager for The Village Pump for several years before going to Guernsey, as well as being clerk to the Governors of James Bradfield School. Now I’s secretary to the Wretton All Saints and Stoke Ferry Parochial Church Council. Though I don’t attend church, I care about the building. This past year we’ve installed water, toilet and kitchen facilities and are applying for funds to improve the lighting and install heating, hoping this will provide the village with a useable centre.
Getting the church updated and suitable for community activities is my wish for Wretton’s future. After all, Pangle Cottage and the river bank here in Wretton is my favourite piece of Norfolk.
In 2008, I was one of a small group in the Wretton Historical Society who organised the “Wretton All Eras History Fair”, followed in 2010 by the “Wretton at War”. Both activities were highly successful. We also organised smaller events in the church and on the Green in Wretton including a lovely Jubilee event featuring “The Strollers”, the Seymour brothers being Stoke Ferry boys, of course.
My favourite holiday memories? Bit difficult to choose between so many lovely places. Borneo, paddling up a mountain stream with huge Rajah Brookes butterflies fluttering around your head; watching a wild orang-utan build its night-time nest, or surreally hot – air ballooning over Cappadocia in Eastern Turkey, or swimming in the Sea of Galilee on the last day of October, with the lights of Tiberius twinkling on the opposite shore; just like a Christmas card. That’s just to begin with…..
To finish, a few, more bits and pieces…. I prefer Radio 4 to either TV or theatre, read Margaret Drabble and Rose Tremaine and really love mussels; whilst my current favourite restaurant is the King’s Arms, Shouldham, though I remember with fondness the Workshop in Norwich. Good student fare! And I hate apostrophes, wrongly placed, or missing and litter.
I think you’ll agree that this is enough, except to hope you have found it interesting reading.

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A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d look into which kinds of gulls are seen following the farmer’s plough in autumn and winter. The answer is that any of the seven species found in Britain, with the exception of the kittiwake, may be part of the flock. In fact the name seagull is deceiving as, apart from the breeding season, more of them are to be found inland than around the coast. During the last century more and more gulls have forsaken the seaside. They move back to coastal regions only to nest and can now commonly be seen foraging not only on farmland in winter but also in vast numbers all year round on landfill sites. At night these inland gulls seek out large expanses of water, such as reservoirs, on which to roost. Numbers are boosted in winter by migrants from Scandinavia, northern Europe and the Baltic. The latest trend is for gulls, particularly the herring and lesser black-backed, to make their homes permanently in towns and cities not necessarily near the sea. They have been recorded as living and nesting on roof tops in places such as Worcester, Swindon, Cheltenham and King’s Lynn.
The black headed gull is the species most often seen inland and will follow the plough very closely. There are about 130,000 resident pairs in Britain but in winter migrants swell the number to 2.2 million. In hard weather they can be seen in urban gardens, parks and on playing fields. They will also join bigger gulls foraging on rubbish tips. Herring gulls are real thugs snatching food from people sitting outside enjoying their lunch. Landfill sites are like a McDonalds to them and they’re not averse to scavenging from sewage works either! The average life span of a herring gull is 20, the oldest recorded lived until it was 35. Great black-backed gulls breed around the coast but the rest of the year can be found on farmland and rubbish tips. There are fewer of them than Lesser black-backed gulls. In summer these can be seen around the coast and on some high moors but in winter they desert the most northern areas of Scotland. The Common gull is in fact not that common. It is similar in looks to a herring gull but is smaller and tends to stay nearer to the sea. It is resident in northern England and Scotland and occupies other areas of Britain in winter. Mediterranean gulls are very similar in appearance to the black-headed gull only they are slightly larger. Prior to the 1950s it was rarely seen but is now becoming more common. In winter it is widespread across the east and south of England and increasing numbers are nesting around the coastal areas of south east of England
The Kittiwake really is a proper seagull and is very unlikely to be seen inland. It only comes to Britain to nest and raise its young on our coastal cliffs but spends each winter out in the Atlantic sea.