NT Overbecks, South Hams


NT Overbecks in mid-September 2020


Overbecks looking glorious in the early autumn sun on 17th September. There was a clearly defined one-way system and no problem keeping distance. The cafe and house are closed, but the staff are as welcoming as ever.


British Tomatoes

I bought some tomatoes from a well-known supermarket and was pleased with how tasty they were. It turned out they were British, and grown in West Sussex by Chris Wall. The company is called Eric Wall Ltd. You might like to have a look at their interesting website.

Pam’s tomatoes looking great


My tomatoes are only just starting to ripen, but I know that a few of my neighbours have been harvesting theirs for a few weeks.



Nearly ready to eat




If any of your veg are looking as good as these sungold tomatoes, please send me a photo and some details and I’ll post your photos here. You don’t need to be a member of the Garden Club.

Nigel’s veg are coming on nicely!


His tomatoes here are Shirley, grafted onto a more vigorous rootstock, from Sutton’s, which by the way, offers Club members a generous discount on seeds. Nigel predicts a huge harvest.





Nigel reports that his sweet corn plants are “absolutely huge” this year. Hope you get lots of sun to ripen the cobs.



And finally, a basket of early veg.

Thanks for the photos, Nigel.





Folks, if you send me photos, I will post them here

I am going to sneak in one of my own. This is Dahlia “Nell Gynne” – the flower is truly blowsy and nearly 7 inches wide.

National Garden Scheme 2020

Two of our members’ gardens were open this year, for what was a very different NGS weekend.

Ashwell, a large steeply-sloping garden with a vineyard, is situated close to the centre of Bovey Tracey and looked perfect as always.

Club member Jeanette Pearce raises extra money for the NGS charities by selling jams from her extensive soft fruit areas and also wine from her vines.


2 Redwoods belongs to Club chairman, Julia Mooney, and it was especially good to see recent hard landscaping, clearly carried out by a perfectionist! A garden of two parts – a shady fernery and a sunny gravel garden, with a leat running between them.






The garden we were asked to start at was Gleam Tor, the lovely garden belonging to Gillian and Colin Liddy, with its long herbaceous borders, wild flower area and prairie planting. We missed Colin’s wonderful afternoon tea, however. Maybe next year.

Many thanks to these garden owners for agreeing to open their gardens in the present circumstances. They are three very different gardens and it was clear that visitors were greatly enjoying the chance to “do normal things” again.


Photos from Members

                                                     Life is just a Bed of Roses                                                          (though perhaps not at the moment)

Photos below from rose-grower Roger Hottot.


Roger has been winning the rose classes in the Bovey Tracey Garden Club Summer Show for many years.










Roger receiving the Sir Ben Smith Rose Bowl for his rose entries in 2019.

If anyone knows anything about Sir Ben, we’d like to hear about him.

Our gardens during the Coronavirus

Thank goodness for our gardens. Everyone I know has been spending lots of time gardening and I imagine Bovey gardens are as near perfect as is possible. Sadly, we cannot visit our friends’ gardens, so if you have a photo I will post it here. To start the ball rolling, here are the hostas in my courtyard.

Acer and hostas at Church Steps, May 2020



The Garden at Andrew’s Corner

The evening began with the Chairman appealing for donation of cakes for the Spring Show, for two boilermen for the Summer Show, and for contributions for the Club website.

Robin Hill then took over and gave us a very enjoyable talk on the changes over the years to the garden in Belstone, near Oakhampton, which his parents came to from Hertfordshire in 1967. It turned out that many of her members had been to Andrew’s Corner.

Gardening at an altitude of around 1,000 feet is challenging and Robin’s policy is very much to find the right plants for the conditions.
In 1972 you would have found lots of dwarf conifers and heathers in the garden, but heathers like an open situation and as the conifers grew they created shade, so the heathers stopped thriving and were replaced.

The Hill family, Robin, Edwina and their children, moved to Andrew’s Corner in 1979 and a few years later borrowed some of their neighbour’s land for their veg garden and for grazing for their goats.

A storm in 1990 brought down 20 of their trees along with the steeple of nearby St. John the Baptist Church, Hatherleigh. Another extreme weather event occurred in the winter of 2010/11, when there was heavy snow and temperatures of below 15 deg C.

The garden in April


Andrew’s corner is normally open to the public in February for snowdrop viewing – they have over 100 varieties. An early herald of spring is also the winter aconites such as Eranthis hyemalis.


And again in May

Robin showed us a huge selection of the plants he grows, many of which prefer acid soil. (Sadly, my garden has slightly alkaline soil.) He has a particular love of acers and particularly recommends erythronium such as the lovely “White Beauty” below.

Erythronium White Beauty


The ones I particularly liked were: Carolina spice (Calycanthus floridus), the Chilean Fire Bush (Embothreum coccineum) and the Scottish Flame Bush (Tropaeolum speciosum).





If you’d like to learn more about this interesting garden, or to visit it, you can find Robin’s website at Andrew’s Corner.

The Barn Owl Trust

Tuesday 14th January was a miserable day – wet and windy – and I wondered how many members would brave the elements to attend David Ramsden’s talk on The Barn Owl Trust. David is Head of Conservation and the Founder of the Trust, which is based in Waterleat, Ashburton. It was therefore a lovely surprise to find an almost full house and to see so many unfamiliar, as well as familiar, faces.

David started the evening off by playing the calls of three of our native owls – the little owl, the tawny owl and the barn owl.

little owl


Little owls are very rare in the south-west, probably because farming methods mean that beetles, their favourite prey, are in short supply. They are most likely to be spotted in mid-Devon where the habitat is mixed.


tawny owl


The tawny owl is the commonest owl in the UK (we hear them almost every night in Bradley Road). They are woodland birds, highly territorial and can be found where there are big trees.




the “moon” face of the barn owl


Sadly, barn owls have greatly decreased in number in recent years. Less nocturnal than tawny owls, the barn owl hunts by sound – its distinctive face shape funnels sound into its ears.


Barn owl in flight


Its fight is silent and barn owls have a “memory map” which allows it to find its way around in the dark. Its home range (of about 1,250 acres) is enormous compared with the territory of the tawny (around 50 acres).


Barn owls are lowland birds and are unlikely to be found on Dartmoor. They eat mice, voles, shrews and small rats and don’t put on weight, no matter how much they eat. This can be a problem in severe winters as they can lose weight. The female lays an average of 5 eggs and incubation takes 31 days. The young fly after around 3 months and the average success rate is 2.5. Two clutches can be produced each year. All the above numbers are highly variable, depending on food supply and weather.

The young disperse between August and November and typically only one in four survives into adulthood. Owls which survive their first year of life live for an average of four years; the UK record is 15 years.
The decline in numbers is the result of modern farming techniques, changes in farm buildings, the use of rat poison by farmers, which kills the rats (also mice, voles and hedgehogs) but also anything which eats the carcass.

David asked us to report any sightings of barn owls to the Trust. Their email address is www.barnowlssurvey.org.uk

I happen to be rather keen on owls, so bear with me while I show you a couple of my photos:

Verreaux’s is a large African owl, common in acacia and riverine woodland.This photo was taken on Lake Baringo in Kenya.  I have posted a large photo in the hope you can see the lovely pink eyelids.

Verreaux’s Eagle Ow













And this beauty is a Great Horned Owl, which posed for us for almost an hour in central Alaska



The Restoration of Hestercombe Garden


We had a truly delightful talk on December 10th from David Usher, who knows the Gardens intimately having spent 21 years working there, latterly as Head Gardener.

The House and Gardens, located at Cheddon Fitzpaine near Taunton, are best known as a collaboration between garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Sir Edwards Lutyens but offer more – 300 years of history to explore and enjoy.


Hestercombe House

To reach the property exit the M5 at Junction 25 and Hestercombe is only 5 miles from the junction – follow the brown signs. David suggested you stop at the Taunton Services and pick up a Hestercombe brochure which gives a discount on the entrance charges. As far as I can see from their website, the full adult entrance charge is £13.30.


From 1391 until 1872 Hestercombe was owned by the Warres family and in 1731 John Bampfylde, MP for Exeter, who had married the daughter of Sir Francis Warre, commissioned plans for a garden. Coplestone Warre Bampfylde designed the Landscape Garden as we see it today, having inherited the estate in 1750.

Below the Terrace

The last of the Warre family died in 1872 and Hestercombe was acquired by the 1st Viscount Portman who remodelled the house and created the Victorian Terrace and fountain. In 1903 his grandson commissioned Sir Edward Lutyens to create a new formal garden and Gertrude Jekyll designed the planting scheme.


World War I saw many Hestercombe staff in action and in WW II the house and estate housed the read HQ of the British Army 8th Corps. Six barrack blocks were built.

After the death of Mrs Portman in 1951, the administration of the estate was taken over by the Crown Estate Commissioners. Various possible tenants were considered and in 1955 the Somerset Fire Brigade relocated its HQ from Taunton to Hestercombe. Ultimately the Fire Brigade found that too much money was required to run the estate and now it is run by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust.

The Temple Arbour

When David joined Hestercombe in 1983 the Landscape Garden had become overgrown and was difficult to access and John Bampfylde, David and Philip White of the Somerset Wildlife Trust (and now chief executive of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust) won a grant to restore it. Excess wood was cleared out and the pond dredged of its mud – a 10 acre field was covered to a depth of 6 to 8 inches by the mud removed.

The Cascade



Today there are a number of classical and rustic buildings in the Landscape Garden, including the Temple, the Witches of Hestercombe Cabin, the Mausoleum, the Gothic Alcove and the Cascade.








Perhaps the highlight for many people will be the Edwardian Garden designed by Lutyens and planted by Jekyll.



“Our Small Garden” by Joyce and Alan Nightingale

The photo below shows the garden as it was when we moved in. As you can see, at the back of the garden we had a fairly steep granite bank which had to be addressed so that I could plant on the top of the bank.
I did a design keeping that in mind and I also needed a shed and a utility area for compost bins, wheelbarrow, plant pots etc which would not be on view.
We were very lucky to find a landscape gardener who was happy to follow my plan and suggested cutting into the granite bank and making a utility area which has been very successful.  He also created a path on the higher level which has enabled me to plant shrubs against the back fence and also to plant the fairly steep area below.


Access to the higher level is via steps on to a decking with lovely views towards the Moor.

We have chosen small shrubs and plants as the garden is not large and we do not want it to look overcrowded.







Many thanks to Joyce and Alan for their description of their now lovely garden.