St Mark's Mansfield

Leave a comment

Growing gardeners

If you’ve walked round to the front of the Henley Hall or passed by on the street you can’t fail to have smiled at the sight of the colourful wellies spilling over with bright primulas!   They’ve certainly attracted some attention and comment.

The flowers were planted by the under-fives group one Tuesday afternoon and this is just the start of what we hope will be a regular visit by the youngsters to the community garden.   As one of the mums commented, ” they love getting dirty!”.  Sowing the seeds of future gardeners is one of the most important things we can do with our garden space.   We learn together that the earth is so generous and forgiving if we treat it with respect and care.

Before the Easter break, the children will plant up troughs with strawberries so they can watch them flower and fruit over the next couple of months on the wall outside the hall.   A tasty treat for snack time!

Leave a comment

From the garden seat

wp_20161204_10_52_28_proLast autumn, John O’Leary, one of our community gardeners, renovated an old seat that had been donated to us.   It now has pride of place in the memorial garden and on a sunny day it’s a comfortable spot to curl up and take some time out.   Thank you John!

Jackie (pictured here), writes, “Please could I give a little praise to our wonderful gardeners who keep everything nice, especially the piece I call my oasis on a sunny day.

It’s the bench in the remembrance garden where, armed with coffee and biscuits, I can sit and watch the world go by lost in thought and reverie and after a while one doesn’t notice the traffic going by.   You just see the different colours and think of kingfishers flashing past.

There’s a quote that says,” We have no time to stand and stare”.   NO  but we can sit and have a coffee!”

Thank you Jackie.   If you sit there on a warm day you might smell the wonderful scent from the winter honeysuckle blooming along the wall.   The flowers are small and insignificant to look at but the fragrance is quite overwhelming.

Leave a comment

Life cycle

wp_20170119_12_54_11_pro-2As the days start to lengthen, there is a feeling of something stirring in the garden.   Green fingers are getting twitchy and we want to clear the litter of last year’s growth to discover the green shoots of snowdrops and daffodils poking up out of the damp soil.

There are certainly signs of life in the community garden at St Mark’s.   See if you can spot the beautiful ‘turkeytail’ fungus (pictured below) growing on a dead laurel stump near the shed, or the shy primroses blooming in the wild meadow.   This area will generously reveal its secrets throughout the year until it is finally mowed in the late summer, enabling regeneration the following spring.   To find out what you might expect to see, have a look in the lovely Green and Wild folder at the back of church.   Feel free to borrow it for a week.

Just as the garden renews itself each year, our church community is a living body, subject to a similar cycle of apparent death and resurrection.   Beloved friends worship and work with us, enriching our lives.   Pam and Phil’s departure is painful but they leave us a fecundity ripe for metamorphosis and new growth.   We are grateful for the time they have spent with us and pray for them as they put roots down in another place.wp_20170110_14_07_00_pro-2

Creator God, we pray that you will help us to welcome change and to see your hand at work in every situation.   Thank you for the diversity of our church community and for the variety of gifts we share.   Although our shape may change and evolve we continue to work and worship together as part of Christ’s body in the world.

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” Teresa of Avila                                                                                                                 


Leave a comment

Dutch Gold

Here’s a ray of sunshine to brighten the gloom of approaching winter.   It’s rose Dutch Gold blooming in the memorial garden on a late November day – a wonderful plant with dark green leathery foliage apparently bred in Wisbech, Lincolnshire and named Dutch Gold because it won a gold medal in the Hague.

Dutch connections …….  Antoinette Lucassen, one of our St Mark’s choir members has roots in the Netherlands and has shown a keen interest in the development of the community garden.   Peter Bounford, past member of our Boys’ Brigade and serving team, currently lives in the Hague and is still in touch with his group of ex-BB friends, Joe Gallagher, James Elliot, Martin Jackson and Richard Turner .   He has been transporting large bags of compost by bicycle to the small paved backyard of his flat in order to fill raised beds in which to grow vegetables and flowers!

Our church family is much more than the group of people who meet on a Sunday morning.   We all have links and influences beyond the church walls and our extended family is rich and organic in its transformations.   Each week we pray “We thank you that when we were still far off, you met us in your Son and brought us home”…….. “May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life, we who drink his cup bring life to others, we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world”

This rose may seem small and insignificant but it’s a real gem shining out like a beacon in our church garden.



Leave a comment

Medlar harvest


Who’s this man meddling at St Mark’s on a Monday morning?!

Picking the medlarsThis morning, 6th November, the air feels distinctly chilly despite bright sunshine.  Sheila, John and I decide it’s time to harvest the medlars before the weather gets too frosty.   The medlar tree, variety Nottingham, was one of the first planted by Keith when we started the Community Garden.   Closely related to apples, medlars are unusual in that they have to be stored for many weeks to ripen or ‘blet’ before they can be eaten raw or used to make a perfumed amber jelly for game and other meats.   A bit of a speciality!

Autumn is a magical time in the garden.   The fruit has fallen, the flowers are fading and all appears to be death and dying.  But wait!   Dig in the compost heap and you’ll find hundreds of worms are busy converting this year’s green waste into rich, friable compost to mulch next year’s crops.   Look for the buds already forming on the bare branches of spring-flowering shrubs and listen out for the plans that are being hatched in preparation for another year in the garden.   At the end of Gillian Clarke’s poem Burning Nettles she says,   “Fire, Buried in flower-heads, makes Bright ritual of decay, Transubstantiates the green leaf to fertility.”

We tipped the ashes from Sunday’s bonfire onto the compost heap.   The cycle of Death and Resurrection is at the heart of our gardening.   At dawn on Easter Day each year we meet in the garden to kindle the new fire and carry the Light of Christ into the dark Church.   For me this is the most symbolic and moving moment of the Christian year.




Leave a comment

St Mark’s ‘In Bloom’

wp_20160918_09_23_20_proLast Wednesday Sheila and I attended the East Midlands in Bloom awards at the John Fretwell Sports Centre in Mansfield Woodhouse.   Representatives from towns and villages across the East Midlands, as far afield as Northampton, Buxton and Cleethorpes, were waiting with some nervousness to see whether they’d been awarded bronze, silver, silver-gilt or gold for their efforts over the last year.   Mansfield achieved two silver-gilts!

The ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ category, which St Mark’s has entered for the last 4 years, is the non-competitive arm of Britain In Bloom, designed to encourage the greening up of neglected spaces and in so doing inspire regeneration of communities.   We were delighted to be presented with a Level 5 certificate and 89 out of 100 marks.   This is the third year running that St Mark’s Community Garden has gained the top level, classed as outstanding!

Looking back over the year and over the assessors’ comments, we realise that we have grown, not only flowers, fruit and vegetables but also in our community.

The judges were pleased to see increased  participation from church groups and individuals.    Members of the Boys’ Brigade are responsible for an area and the Under Fives are looking after a raised bed, learning how vegetables get from plot to plate.   New volunteers have joined us and we have learned from one another.
Assessors were also impressed by our environmental responsibility.   Materials that have been donated or salvaged have been recycled; for example a builder’s sand bag makes a good raised bed and pieces of the old organ are providing a home for bugs.   Comfrey is grown and brewed as a rather smelly but very effective plant feed!    Bark chippings from neighbouring tree-felling is being used to supress weeds on pathways and horse manure delivered in aid of St Edmunds Church funds is being used to mulch borders ready for next year.   Our compost heaps are producing rich compost to improve the texture of the soil.    Also this year we’ve gone vertical with the construction of a willow arch using the coppiced willow from the garden!

Raising 'eyebrows'?

Fruit trees, purchased last autumn with funds from the diocesan Edible Churchyards scheme, have already been productive and will be trained as espaliers, while the wildflower meadow has allowed two species of wild orchid to thrive.

The community at St Mark’s is certainly enriched by its gardening project and with effort and endeavour we’ll  continue to grow and flourish in 2017.

Leave a comment

Paradise garden


This is Katy.   She’s a beauty – perfectly formed, with soft white flesh, sweet, juicy and rosy-cheeked.   I found her fallen on the ground in the community garden on Tuesday morning, no doubt blown from the tree in the strong winds.  I was tempted and I ate her!

WP_20160823_09_15_13_Pro (2)The Eden connection reminds me of an inspirational interview on Radio 4 last Sunday with garden designer, Chris Beardshaw, who pointed out that the word ‘garden’ comes from two Hebrew words literally meaning ‘enclosed paradise’.   A garden can give us a sense of escape.   The clock seems to stop and we feel safe, unthreatened and at peace (though at times the weeds seem like an invading army!)

But the garden isn’t a retreat from the world, more a way of getting closer to the core of things.  St Mark’s Community Garden is a place where we’ve toiled and perspired, laughed and cried, partied and prayed together.   Thanks to Keith, Sophie, Martha and Bethany we’ve made a paradise garden in their backyard.   We’ll miss them all terribly.   However  the plants will continue to grow (I’ve just ordered 15 bags of manure!) and all that Keith, Sophie and the girls have taught us about open, hospitable and celebratory Christian community will continue to nestle at the heart of what we do just like the pips at the heart of the apple.  Happy gardening!