Thursday was the first of the volunteer days at Standen. http://gardens-to-go.org.uk/standen.htm While realistic enough to think that the job would not mean strolling through the grounds with a basket over the arm snipping the heads off roses, the day was an eye opener. First up was to clear a flower bed near the restaurant for dahlia bulbs to be planted. We hear that thousands have to go in...which means the volunteers will do it..... I loved being able to ask 'is this a weed?' and being told exactly what plant it was. Hop (for making beer) was in abundance and until that day, I did not know that it is a vine! Not all weeds were removed, some were left to add colour or texture and to keep a natural look to the garden.
The next job was to clean out the kidney shaped pool in the bamboo garden. It was built to swim in during the Victorian era. Lined with concrete, no pump, no chemicals to clean the water and with an island in the middle of it, (no longer there, but to be replaced) covered with arum lillies, it was quite primitive. Kids in those days were a robust lot. Can you imagine a modern child swimming in brown water? Most of the water had been pumped out to try to discover a leak. The slimey mud at the bottom had to be removed and the pool swept clean. So those of us with Wellington boots climbed in and shovelled out dozens of bucket loads of muck. The chemical free water was a happy spot for frogs and newts (the Great Crested Newt shown here) and a variety of insects. These we caught and released into the ornamental pond. I was covered in mud from head to toe and physically worn out by the end. But I can say, I cannot remember a more cheerful and satisfying job, ever.