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Published June 7th 2016
A Slice of Edwardian History Brought to Life by Volunteers
It is proof positive of the benefits of 'volunteer power'. An old Edwardian walled garden in the village of Elford, midway between Alrewas and Tamworth in Staffordshire, has been completely transformed after falling into disrepair and decay over many decades. Now the award-winning community project is pulling in loads of visitors, both eager to see the renovation for themselves but also to attend a variety of fun events within this wonderful outdoor setting.
The walled garden with head gardener's house behind
Elford Hall Walled Garden had formed part of a huge estate which featured the Georgian Elford Hall as well as a large area of farmland. The last squire of Elford decided to donate the entire estate to Birmingham city council in 1936, with part of the intention being to store valuable items from Birmingham's museums within the hall during the Second World War.
However, Elford Hall gradually fell into disrepair and ended up being demolished in 1964. Other parts of the estate either went the same way or were sold off, largely leaving just the walled garden. It may well have suffered the same fate, until a group of local people formed an action group to buy the crumbling, overgrown garden from Birmingham in 2008, possibly saving it from the hands of a housing developer in the process.
Since then, the Elford Garden Project, which began in 2009, has succeeded in transforming the walled garden and surrounding area into a wonderful community asset enjoyed by people from the village and surrounding area. And such has been its success that the project, which was entirely managed and run by volunteers, was recognised with a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2012, as well as several Royal Horticultural Society awards and a British Empire Medal for its chairman and founder member David Watton.
Today, Elford Walled Garden comprises a number of allotments for local people to grow their own produce, a rose garden, a seating area, a boules court, and various flower beds, while outside the walls themselves is a fruit orchard, a sensory garden, a new boat house overlooking the river, a children's Giant Garden play area, plus further flower beds. The original head gardener's house provides the base for the project team, while an altogether more modern marquee provides a setting for wedding parties and other groups.facilities, picnicareas and disabled access.
One of the flower beds running outside the walled garden
Although the garden project, which also saw the restoration of a number of buildings including the head gardener's house and a pump house, is largely completed, there is a need for ongoing maintenance with volunteer days taking place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The next main community event taking place at the walled garden is a Music and Real Ale Festival on Saturday 2 July. The entertainment starts at 1pm and continues until 11pm. Tickets costing £6 for adults and £3 for under 16s are available online or by calling 01827 383097. Following that there will be a Garden Party on Saturday 17 September organised by Tamworth Borough Council's Arts & Events team, which is making use of outdoor locations in the area while Tamworth Assembly Rooms is closed for refurbishment.
Part of the sensory and Giant Garden area alongside the river
Entertainment during the Garden Party will be split across a main outdoor stage within the walled garden itself and an acoustic stage in the marquee next door. The event takes place between 12pm and 6pm and will include a hog roast, bar, and lawn games. Tickets priced £10 and £8 concessions are available online, in person from Tamworth Tourist Information Centre in Corporation Street or from the Box Office on 01827 709618. A transaction fee of £1 is payable on all online and telephone bookings.
Any artists or acts interested in performing on the day are asked to contact Tamworth Borough Council's arts and events team on 01827 709314 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before June 17.