Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sissinghurst Smallholding Fair

Journey down was quick and easy until the stretch beyond Goudhurst to Sissinghurst, where the road was closed. We stopped at a junction to examine options on the road atlas when a local driver coming from another direction offered to guide us round the closure. Apparently there had been a serious accident and he expected it would be closed for a couple of hours. It has to be said that the weather at this point was grey and drizzly. I suspect the roads were slippery, and, as we found out on our journey home, the stretch of road that was closed was full of twists and turns, so lethal for anyone travelling too fast for the conditions.

Thanks to his pathfinding we reached Sissinghurst and parked up. The Smallholding Fair was running separate to the main house, so we paid our fee and went to the fields. The livestock part was in a field set apart from the rest of the event. Not much on show - Southdown and Romney Sheep, Sussex cattle from the estate farm, some alpacas, a few ducks and Shire who were giving cart rides - possibly others had got caught up in diversions.

The main part of the show was in the area flanking the vegetable garden - hog roast, burgers, cider and snails (couldn't bring myself to consider trying them, even as an act of revenge),  along the top of the hill, and the rest of the stalls in the paddock between the veg garden and the barn. Treated ourselves to some totally frivolous things such as shitake mushroom spawn dowels. We do have a recently felled log of the best host tree waiting at the allotment, so there's an excuse. Bought a couple of lovely tea towels from the Emma Bridgewater stand - a chicken and an owl design. Howard wants to frame them and I agree - they're collector's items in the making.

Bought some sensible things as well - secateurs, green manure seeds two bundles of chestnut palings. The chances of finding hand hewns palings for anything near the show price in our neck of the woods is nigh on unlikely, and giving the longevity of chestnut, it counts as a long term investment.

We had a look round the vegetable garden. The field is divided into 11 sections, of which 9 are used in the rotation. Each of the beds are about the size of two standard allotments. The permanent ones are a decorative herb garden and a rhubarb and soft fruit garden respectively. The idea of a rhubarb patch the size of our allotment clearly inspired Howard, as he took photos of it from every angle bar bird's eye.

Given the time of year, part of the garden is between crops, and some of the rest had clearly suffered. However, there is something very attractive about alternating blocks of red & green lettuce, including the ones that had bolted and looked like tiny conifers.

Our walk round the fair and the garden was punctuated by a very funny talk by Matthew Rice on his experiences keeping chickens. During the question and answer session at the end I asked about the best ways to discourage hens digging out of the runs, during which I described my Braekel hen as possibly having some British POW blood in her given her fondness of starting tunnels. Towards the end of the show, while Howard was carrying the palings (the collection of which was delayed by Monty Don stopping to talk to the stallholder - I guess it's the kind of butch manly activity he would like, though he gave his prize for the best stand to the family selling preserves and donating a percentage to the turtle sanctuary on Zakynthos), and I was heading for the bookshop, Matthew Rice spotted me. I was wearing a Chartreuse lime green top so Howard could spot me if I wandered off and it clearly had proved unforgettable.   We had a further joke about my ability to bring out the more feisty traits in animals. I said it didn't bear thinking what could happen when I'm finally in a position to get goats!

We stayed almost until the end of the show, and made our way home very satisfied with the way we'd spent the day.  Hopefully it will run again next year, with more livestock - especially chickens.


Anonymous said...

hi i hope your chestnut palings you got from me did what you wanted them to
regards david

Blue Shed Thinking said...

Well, we've got plenty to put to use!

Some are being used to make a fence at the bottom of the allotment, and with the Autumn bearing down fast, we'll need to put a new leaf mould container together. The rest will be stored until we have another project to tackle.

I had been reading the current issue of Permaculture magazine on the journey down to the show, in particular Ben Law's article. In that he urges people to plant trees for the future, and one of the most important is the Sweet Chestnut.

As our allotment is best described at melting into a small patch of woodland, I'm seriously wondering about sneaking a few Sweet Chestnut whips into the woods.

The Cottage Garden Farmer said...

that sounds like a great day out, I will look out for it next year.