St Mark's Mansfield

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Standing up for ‘Green and Wild’

Watch this space for the result of the RHS East Midlands in Bloom presentations coming up on 1st November at Newark Town Hall.   You will remember that this year’s target has been to gain more than 90 marks for our Community Garden efforts.   Fingers crossed!

The display of pumpkins and marrows, overseen by our friendly scarecrow (Fr. James has named him or her, Mark/ Marcia, as we’re not quite sure of the sex) at the Harvest Festival last week was magnificent!   If anyone fancies making soup or pumpkin pie to share, please let Isobel or Sheila know.

There’s just under a week left for people to write to Mansfield District Council to protest against the proposed access
road off Quarry Lane to the Gregory Quarry development.   Although it’s very easy to feel we have no power to make a difference, I believe very strongly that this is something we should oppose, not only from the traffic congestion problem but far more for the future of our Nature Reserve.    The more people who bother to write, the more our voice will be heard.   An excellent letter in the Chad this week puts the argument against the new road very eloquently.

To comment/object (Ref: 2017/0575/OUT) by 18 October 2017, please email:

or write to Head of Planning, Mansfield District Council, Civic Centre, Mansfield NG19 7BH.

Please share this information as widely as possible.

Walking beside our River Maun, the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins ring in my ears and although I can’t articulate exactly what this poem means, I know it’s about my place in creation and my relationship with the Creator.   This green space is a special place:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
                                           Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Pumpkin picking

As I fill another barrow-load of topsoil to build up the raised beds and borders ready for another year of growing in the Community Garden at St Mark’s, I  wonder why on earth I’m doing it.   Let’s face it, I’ve got my own garden at home and even an allotment, which should be more than enough to satisfy my passion for gardening!

After the service last Sunday (even before refreshments), Wyatt Leigh and Isabel joined me in the garden to cut the pumpkins, all fourteen of them!   Wyatt Leigh has watched the progress of his two pumpkins right from sowing the seeds, to planting them out, watering and proudly watching them grow.   Now he’s harvesting them and looking forward to carving them as Halloween lanterns, hopefully saving some seed to dry for next year and maybe even making soup or pumpkin pie for bonfire night.

That’s why we do it!  We’re passionate about inspiring young people to engage in the whole cycle of life that makes the seasons turn and feeds and sustains us.

On Tuesday, Wilf and Esme from the Under Fives Group toddled over to the garden with Mums and Grannies to pick runner bean pods for drying so they could save the beans to sow next year.   The look of wonder on their faces as they popped open the bean cases to discover the shiny seeds inside and as they stood at the door of the greenhouse to cradle one of the beautiful orange pumpkins, was a real joy.

That’s why we do it!   It’s about caring and nurturing, about  giving and receiving gifts, about trusting and being rooted in a God who is faithful and will not let us down.   That’s a good enough reason for me.






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Community Garden Goodies

As August wends its way and summer moves into autumn, I must record the joys of the community garden through these last sunny weeks.   “We’ve not had much of a summer” is always the cry, usually based on the bank holiday weather, but we certainly couldn’t complain this August.   Baking temperatures brought out the barbeques and blessed late summer celebrations.   As I took inspiration from a beautiful cut flower garden, ‘Wild in the Country’ in Eyam, Derbyshire on Bank Holiday Saturday, I floated on a cloud of wellbeing!

On our doorstep at St Mark’s the garden is ripening.   “Where’s that come from!” someone remarked, as a large pumpkin poked out from the undergrowth.   We’ll have a fine display for October 8th when we celebrate our Harvest Festival.   See how many pumpkins you can spot before we pick them in late September.   Incidentally I’ve discovered from one of our African friends that the leaves of the pumpkin are a great delicacy and very nutritious.

The brightly coloured ‘Bishop’ and ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias have been lovely, their flowers set against dark foliage.      Most of us think of big showy dahlias but these little beauties prove that the simplest things can have a huge impact.

There have already been some good windfall apples from the four espaliers, Jonagold, Katy, James Grieve and Charles Ross.   They’re fine if you cut out the protein (slugs and woodlice) and I’ve used several (apples that is!) in blackberry and apple cake, one of which was shared with Pam and Phil Bishop in Liverpool.

Our young people planted a lot of courgettes along with the pumpkins and now we have GIANT marrows!   The runner beans planted by the Under-Fives are also going strong.   It’s a shame the youngsters aren’t around to reap the rewards but maybe when they return next week they can open the pods and pick out the bulging pink seeds to dry for next year’s sowing.      We plan to let the children empty the seed heads from love-in-a-mist and other annuals as well as picking the papery everlasting helichrysum to decorate the tables in the hall over winter.   The garden is always full of hope.

Talking of hope, it would be good to make the driveway look a bit tidier before 25 September so maybe we could have a Big Weed as well as a Big Clean.   Any volunteers will be welcomed with open arms.  Sheila and I are in the garden each Monday 9.30-11.30am.   Do come and  join us!

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Don’t give up!

On Tuesday, Sheila, Su, Abigail, John O’Leary and I welcomed RHS assessors Jenni and Steve to the Community Garden.   Over tea and courgette cake (a great hit!) we described the progress that had been made in the last year and found ourselves glowing with pride as we realised how far we’ve come.   Steve took lots of photos, loving the sunflowers and also the pollinators hard at work in the flower beds and wild meadow.  Everything looked beautiful on such a glorious day.

I think Jenni and Steve were genuinely impressed.   Jenni is involved in the RHS schools gardening project and was very keen to hear about links with our Under Fives, Young Lions and Boys’ Brigade.   It would be lovely to forge a connection with our parish Primary Schools, High Oakham and Sutton Road and to invite them to come and learn about composting, seed sowing and the growing of fruit and vegetables.

We also discussed funding and possibly being part of Mansfield’s ‘In Bloom’ efforts and we came away buzzing with ideas and plans for the future.

“Don’t give up!” they said, and we won’t for as long as our knees hold us up and our hands can grip a trowel.   Let’s hope that some of the seeds we’ve sown in the minds of our young people mean that we can eventually hand over the spade to the next generation of gardeners and that the community garden at St Mark’s will continue to flourish for years to come.

We await the outcome at the awards presentation in September!   Fingers crossed we’ll top 90 marks this year!

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Taking stock

The garden is suddenly full of colour, with sunflowers, sweet peas, red and white runner bean flowers and the golden trumpets of courgette and pumpkin plants attracting bees, hoverflies and other beneficial insects.   The espalier apples and the medlar are loaded with fruit.   We must net the soft fruit next year though as the currants and the cherries were all bagged by the birds before we could get round to picking them.

All this produce belongs to the whole church community so do help yourselves and if you would like to offer a donation of time or money in return, we would be very grateful!

In the meadow only a few bee orchids have put in an appearance this year and the grass seems to have smothered some of the wild flowers.   We plan to sow yellow rattle in the autumn as the roots will hopefully weaken the stronger growing grass.   The common spotted orchid flowered again but unfortunately was beheaded by the strimmer!

The greenhouse has been a real boon and I can hardly remember what it was like before it had pride of place at the heart of our community garden.   The hot weather a few weeks back took us by surprise and the tomato plants unfortunately got a bit scorched as no-one was around to open the door for more ventilation but there are some lovely little cucumbers forming and hopefully we’ll get a few tomatoes too.

The wellies adorning the railings at the front of the hall are looking splendid with pansies and lobelia.   There’s a big red trug full of water inviting anyone passing to give them a reviving drink if necessary.

We’ll be getting our annual visit from the RHS assessors very soon so if you feel you could spare an hour or two to do some weeding, watering or mowing, please let Sheila or Isobel know.   We’d love you to join us!

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A breath of new life

Bird feeders

When I was a child, some of my favourite stories were about gardens.   At the top of the list, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde are both about opening up hidden and overgrown garden spaces for new life to flourish, creating places of healing and happiness.

On Tuesday afternoon this week, the Community Garden came alive with young children as the Under Fives and their parents and grandparents played with sand and water, planted runner bean seeds and made bird feeders.   What a joy to see youngsters and grown-ups discovering this open space, sowing seeds, watering and nurturing them and being spiritually nurtured in the process.   We may lose a few plants along the way as a two-year-old enjoys walking along straight rows of strawberries, but give him a watering can and he’ll soon learn what fun it is to water them!

Today, Friday, the birds (and the rain) have arrived.   Blue tits, robins and a chaffinch were flocking round the bird feeder when I dropped in this morning.   It reminded me of the moment in The Selfish Giant where the children, having been banished by the giant, return to the garden and melt his heart into love and kindness.

So we may get toddlers trampling our crops and pigeons eating our fruit, but at the same time smaller birds will feast on aphids and other pests and we’ll be inspiring gardeners of the future.

Isn’t this a healthy balance to strike?   There has to be a future in working with wildlife and children!

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Water of Life

Spring has really got going in the garden, although a very dry April has meant that the earth is crying out for water.   I really object to the way weather forecasters herald rain as a bad thing.   It may be inconvenient for a nice day out, but it’s so vital to life and growth.   Rain will never come at the ‘right’ time for us humans, but in these days of rapidly changing weather patterns, let’s welcome and conserve it when it does.   In the Community Garden at St Mark’s we have quite a number of water butts in place to catch the next downpour.

A barrel will be installed to save rainwater from the big greenhouse which, in its new situation behind the vicarage garage gives a heart to the garden, somewhere to grow tomatoes, nurture seeds and maybe shelter from the rain!   Many thanks to John Irons for moving and glazing it and to John O’Leary for making the base.

Our Community Garden (ie. the area around the vicarage car park) is a valuable resource for involving young people at St Mark’s.   We are very grateful to David Boot and Tristan Jones for spending May Day morning turning the compost and seeing how we recycle our vegetable waste.   A healthy compost heap is a mix of wet and dry ingredients, including garden clippings, grass cuttings, vegetable peelings, crushed egg shells, egg boxes, cardboard, sawdust, along with activators such as manure and comfrey leaves.   If you don’t have a compost heap at home, please bring your veggie kitchen waste to church.   The worms at St Mark’s will love it!

The Under Fives group has a regular garden activity on a Tuesday afternoon and last week they were decorating sticks for their flower bed.   We have erected a plastic greenhouse so that the children can safely plant and water their seeds …… and take shelter from the rain!

A passage of Scripture that first really struck me with divine meaning comes at the end of the book of Revelation (I was selling Bibles for Scripture Union at the time and simply looking for the reference number of a particular binding inside the back cover!):

Revelation Ch.22 begins “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”.

Next time it rains, I’ll treasure God’s gift of water, feel it on my face and cup it in my hands, rejoicing as it refreshes and revives the earth.