St Mark's Mansfield

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New Arrivals

coal tit

Looking after our precious eco-system and ensuring the survival of native plants, insects, birds and mammals has never been a more urgent topic.   Statistics show that some species are disappearing at an alarming rate and the familiar sound of the cuckoo heralding the spring could soon be a thing of the past in our English woodland, as climate change makes migration routes more and more perilous.

When I was clearing some of the goose grass from the wild (but managed) meadow at the front of church last Monday, I was really excited to hear the chirping of tiny beaks from the bird box on the alder tree and an adult great tit flew out, obviously having delivered some tasty grubs to its young.   This is the first brood to have been reared in the alder tree box since it was put up at the beginning of last year and although the great tit is far from a red-list species, it’s brilliant to have it nesting in our front garden!

I wonder how many birds raise their fledglings around the church?   Last year there were blue tits in a grating near the foot of the tower and I’m sure we have blackbirds in the undergrowth just over the wall of the community garden.   A grey wagtail bobbed about on the front lawn as I weeded and I know there are young on Quarry Lane Nature Reserve, just over the road, behind the laundry.   If ever you fancy hanging up a tasty treat for the birds, either on the feeder behind the vicarage or on the arch to the memorial garden it will be much appreciated by our feathered friends.

We welcome all visitors at St Mark’s, feathered or not!   Let’s treasure the life that thrives here and do all we can to look after our fragile environment.




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Weaving Dreams


Last Friday the Henley Hall was perfumed with the sweet scent of willow as 12 people wove garden ornaments under the watchful eye of  inspirational Yeoman Basketmaker, Eddie Glew.   You might have seen Eddie on the television in programmes such as Kirstie’s Handmade Home or Garden Rescue.   He’s a great teacher, clear and simple in his instructions and always ready to sensitively offer encouragement and support if you’re struggling.

We had a great time and at the end of the day we glowed with pride, forgetting our aching thumbs, as we admired our finished obelisks, dragonflies, bird feeders and other garden decorations.

You can see some of Eddie’s own baskets and willow sculptures if you visit his website

Alternatively look out for his wicker snowdrops at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire or Wallington Hall in Northumberland.   If you go to Warwick Castle mind you don’t get lost in his ‘Horrible Histories-style’ willow maze!

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At the Turning of the Year by Isobel 30.12.2018

At the Turning of the Year

As Sheila and I came down the church drive this Sunday morning, we were amazed to see the winter honeysuckle in full bloom and a bumble bee feasting on the nectar in one of the little trumpet-shaped flowers.   I know I’m always going on about winter honeysuckle, but I make no apologies as it’s a wonderful plant.   All the bushes along the wall in the Garden of Remembrance (as well as on my allotment and in several other gardens), were propagated from an original plant bought at Hodsock Priory one Snowdrop Week a number of years ago.   Everybody should have a winter honeysuckle – just take a small branch, stick it in the soil and it will root for you!

I guess I’m a thrifty gardener and love the idea of making more plants from just one purchase.   Looking back over this last year in the community garden at St Mark’s, we’ve proved that we have such bounty in the garden here.   We’ve used the opportunity of the newly-established Coffee Mornings and the Summer Garden Party, to share medlar, gooseberry and apple mint jellies, blackcurrants and whitecurrants, courgettes and pumpkins, tomatoes and chillies, as well as numerous plants, herbs and seeds.   I feel we’ve touched and inspired many people to grow their own food and to make their gardens fragrant with flowers.

At this time of the year there’s nothing more encouraging and hopeful than to see the shoots of bulbs thrusting up through the soil and winter-flowering shrubs melting us with their fragrance.   Although it’s unseasonably mild at the moment and I’m sure there is wintry weather still to come, let’s look forward to another year of abundance in the garden.   You might even like to come and join us in the Community Garden at St Mark’s now and again.

Happy New Gardening Year!

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Harvest 2nd October 2018

Harvest Time

Today the toddlers came to the Community Garden on their way to storytime in the church with The Revd Jan.   Just as in Oscar Wilde’s wonderful fairy-tale ‘The Selfish Giant”, it was as if the garden smiled.   Each child picked one of the rosy Jonagold apples that have been hanging invitingly on the espaliered tree and took it into church as a harvest offering.   The building rang with the sound of small feet and children’s voices as we thanked God for His generous gifts.

Whenever gardening seems like a chore, it’s good to remember such moments.   We have just received the 2018 East Midlands in Bloom “It’s Your Neighbourhood” assessment from the RHS who have classed us as “thriving”, but no-one could possibly quantify the value of being able to share the produce from this small piece of land with our extended community.

Do help yourselves to a bunch of flowers or herbs before the frosts come and if anyone fancies making pumpkin or butternut squash soup, there are some fruits in church for the taking!




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The return of the orchids!

So much has happened in the garden since my last blog I hardly know where to start, but I guess I should begin with the orchids.


The precious bee orchids have returned to St Mark’s as they do each June, some blooming in the meadow under the alder tree and others in the strip of rough grass near the church wall.   Also the ‘common’ spotted orchid that accidentally got the chop last year has bravely put in another appearance.

There have been masses of spectacular purple orchids in bloom on Oakham Nature Reserve (just off Bleakhills Lane behind the fishing lakes on Sheepbridge Lane).  Do take a short stroll and enjoy the beautiful wildflower meadow.   We’re so fortunate to have this gem on our doorstep and to have local groups such as Maun Conservation to protect and cherish them.



Then there was the Garden Party when our doors and garden gates were open to welcome friends and neighbours in our community.  It was a joyful occasion which instigated new relationships and conversations. 

Make sure you save the date (15 June) for next year – it WILL happen again and if you weren’t able to get involved this time please let us have your ideas and thoughts for the future.



In this hot weather it’s hard to keep everything alive.   If you have a spare moment any time please grab a watering can and give a drink to any plant that looks a bit thirsty!   Your reward will be in the produce that’s on its way.   We’ve already enjoyed the strawberries and there are broad beans ready, currants ripening, gooseberries made into lovely gooseberry mint jelly (for sale this coming Sunday), apples and medlars on the trees and a feast of flowers for the eyes.



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Teddy Bear Paw Hunt

The Community Garden provided a lovely sunny backdrop for a visit from the Under Fives Group yesterday afternoon.   Liz had hidden teddy bear paw prints around the garden and the children (and parents) collected them in paper bags.   All the children were presented with some bubbles as a reward!

On such occasions I realise why we cultivate this space in our church grounds.   It’s a place of welcome and nurture, a place to explore and experience the natural world.   There’s so much happening in the garden at the moment; flowers bursting open, vegetable plants including broad beans, runner beans, butternut squash, sweetcorn to name but a few and green strawberries forming where the flowers were.   We’ve also just planted a fig, blueberry and bay purchased with the token we were given by the RHS last summer.   Come and explore whenever you like and maybe pick a bunch of herbs you can use for flavouring or some sticks of rhubarb to put in a crumble …..

Caring for children with all their innocence and freshness and for our precious earth with all it generosity, is key to the future of humanity and we have such an opportunity to do both these things through our Community Garden.   I get very excited when I hear that Under Fives children, supported by their parents, are caring for the seeds they planted on a Tuesday afternoon, or that a couple of 8 year old boys have each taken a tomato plant to grow at home and will be thrilled if they succeed in producing just one tomato!   We’ve shared sunflower plants with neighbours in the flats behind the Community Garden and an African friend has inspired me to sow callaloo, a Caribbean vegetable which is a cross between watercress and spinach.

Seeds of change and roots of community and friendship are spreading wider, stronger and deeper from our small patch around the tarmac.

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Snake’s head fritillary

WP_20180415_09_05_43_ProAgainst the backdrop of the warm stone church wall, this tableau appears like a small miracle each year in April.

Fritillaria meleagris is a Eurasian species of flowering plant in the lily family.   Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip or, in northern Europe, simply fritillary.   What a star!

Why not take a walk around the front of the church and see what’s coming up through the grass?   There’s never a dull moment – it’s like a stage where the players are constantly changing.   Don’t miss the show – it doesn’t cost a thing!

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Come and See – Our Easter Garden 2018 (from Isobel)


Our Easter garden – work in progress

As several people have asked me where the Easter garden is actually situated, I took a photo yesterday while Sheila and I were working in this gloriously sunny corner near the church tower.   The scent of winter honeysuckle blossom was wafting across on the warm air and the spring flowers looked beautiful.

Come and see for yourself.   On a mild day you’ll be led by the nose as you wander past the vestry door and between the driveway and the tower.  You might be enticed to sit awhile, the shadows of Gethsemane behind you and the sun on your face.   It’s still work in progress; all the pebbles we’ve decorated will be used to line the way, each one a unique offering to our Lord.   You may even find a little long-suffering four-footed friend ambling along the sandy path!

The whole garden is coming alive.   The greenhouse is full of seeds sprouting, daffodils are nodding their golden heads, birds are eyeing up the nest boxes and the wildlife pond, which was only filled on Sunday had a blackbird perched on the edge on Monday morning, dipping its beak full of nesting material into the water.

We’d love you to come and have a look.   You may even find there’s something you’d like to contribute to the garden’s evolution.  Watch this space for pictures of how the Community Garden has changed over the last 10 years!


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Location, location!


coal tit

The British Trust for Ornothology’s National Nest Box Week (14-21 February) has prompted us to add  a new bird box in the Community Garden.   John O’Leary has skilfully made and put up a lovely box for coal tits and blue tits on the wall near to the greenhouse and I’m sure it will attract some of the feathered friends who are already using our bird feeders.   The other nest box, constructed and kindly donated by Colin from the Maun Conservation Group, was put up by Alan on the alder tree in the wild meadow at the front of church last autumn.   Keep an eye out for any new visitors to these ‘des res’!

We also have a smart Belfast sink installed in the newly designated wildlife corner beside the shed. Generously donated by Judith and transported by Isobel’s kind (and strong!) neighbour, Mark, this is potentially an ideal residence for any amphibians or insects looking for a watery home!   We’re anxiously waiting to see if Sheila’s imaginative seal on the plughole (‘Pringles’ lid and bath sealant) will hold water!

A beautiful Easter garden is being created in the Memorial Garden, ready for contributions of painted stones to pave the way to the Cross.   Everyone is invited to decorate a stone with a colour, pattern, words, pictures – anything that they would like to offer or ask forgiveness for at this very special time in the church’s year.   We’re really happy that children from Sutton Road School will bring their decorated pebbles during Holy Week.

It’s very exciting that the community garden is already involving so many people in 2018.      Who knows what new shoots will surprise us in the year ahead!


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December 2017 – Green and Wild Musings from Isobel

Beyond the bare soilDecember’s Green and Wild Musings from Isobel

At this time of year, as autumn slips into winter, I sometimes feel as if I’m entering a dark tunnel, but beyond the bare soil and branches I know that spring is just biding its time and there will soon be new growth. This December some flowers are way ahead of themselves. The winter honeysuckle is already blooming and just needs a mild day to surprise us with its fragrance and primroses are out in the meadow.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel!

A couple of weeks ago, Sheila and I visited an inspirational community gardening project at the Oasis Centre in Worksop. Pastor Steve Williams apologised for the apparent lack of flowers and produce. “But we’re gardeners,” we said, “we can see beyond the bare soil!” Our time there was really fruitful. We plan to collaborate in the future and came away with a lot of new ideas.



At a recent Under‐Fives session, we enjoyed garden crafts with the youngsters. Helichrysum (or strawflower) are generous plants that provide beautiful dried flowerheads. With a lollystick stem, pipe cleaner leaves and playdough soil the children made lovely pots to take home. The sunflowers that stood sentinel round the garden in the summer are also productive plants and the dried flowers are full of seeds to feed the birds and to save for next year’s planting. We enjoyed popping out the stripy seeds and filling bird feeders made from recycled drinks cartons.





There is never a dead time in the garden. Life just goes underground for a bit, storing up its energy to be reawakened by the warmth of the sun. One of our plans is to make a wildlife pond from an old sink or barrel. You can be sure that once it’s in place it will be seething with life in next to no time. Watch this space!!