Norfolk Herbs

For our first outside visit to the year we visited Norfolk Herbs – eventually. A few days before the event the owners had to pull the plug: groundwork they were having done to the site had unexpectedly hit a problem and would not be finished before we arrived. It has to be said that we did not have a well-oiled system that swung into action on occasions like this, but cancellations are such a rare occurrence that we have never thought much about it. Then again, I’m not sure how we could have had anything in place much more efficient than what we did. To cut a long story short, e-mails, then after 24 hours, phoning non-respondents. Phew! But we eventually rescheduled it and tipped up two weeks later.

Norfolk Herbs was an unexpected experience for me. I never give much thought to where I am going to visit, but you always form some kind of vague notion as to what the place might be like.

But we were getting good vibes even before we arrived. The journey there was charming: straight off the A47 there was instant picturesque country lanes, you know, the ones with grass growing in the middle and very old trees at the side. We passed through couple of hamlets with dwellings from many periods in history, so relaxing. Even the postcode into the satnav did the job and took us nearly to the gate.

As we arrived the garden next to the parking area was mainly grass and had that had that relaxed not too manicured feel. The owner, Angie, who after a short introduction gave us a guided tour. The working end of Norfolk Herbs was a surprise. I expected a little place where a few plants were propagated for the public sale, but no. This was a wholesale operation, mainly servicing the trade. Also, we learnt that they don’t propagate: companies specialising in seed and cutting germination do that stage of the work. Norfolk Herbs establish, then pot on and grow them to retail size. There were acres of weeny plants in pots forming a patchwork of colours. All of this was in polly tunnels, necessary to control the environment for best results. Watering is carried out by an automatic mist system, which chose to operate as I was walking past. This was indeed an industrial enterprise.

Having finished the tour it wouldn’t be quite right if there were not tea, biscuits and a retail opportunity. Members dutifully depleted Angie’s stocks by a significant amount.

Great Hockham Gardening Club at Norfolk Herbs
Great Hockham Gardening Club at Norfolk Herbs

Having moaned about soil last month, it’s now the turn of water to get a kicking. Having not had any meaningful rain for quite a time, a time when everything in the garden wants to start their growing season, it’s now that we wish we had uncle Sid’s well. What a piece of kit, it really did do the number. We had a submersible pond pump connected to two-inch pipe that could push out something like a thousand litres in in ten minutes. But then it would run dry. No matter, a dog walk later and it was ready to go again. How we miss it.

What to do? Well, the house has four down pipes, one of which has an interrupter into a water butt. So we purchased the largest water butt Myhills had and via an artistic system of pipework, diverted the water from two more downpipes. Since then there has been no rain. We could just run the hose and use tap water, but aside from having to pay for it, it has always seemed wrong to throw a commodity that has undergone several costly purification processes, to become an essential sustainer of life, a commodity that 1 in 3 of the world’s population do not have access to, onto the ground. So to minimise the waste we are reverting to something we haven’t had do for nearly thirty years: grey water. When you keep a plastic bowl in the sink to catch water from rinsing a cup or washing hands, it’s surprising just how often you have to empty it.

Anyway, judging by the naming of the roads where we live, moisture should not be a problem for too much longer: we have Swan’s Nest, Minnow Close and Otter Road. As building progresses we expect this to be followed by the likes of Deluge Drive, Salmon Street and Cataract Close. Do they know something we don’t? Watch this space.

Even though our garden club events have us roaming through the countryside, people may still join. Just turn up at the venue, The June visit is Medlar Orchard, Eastgate House, NR10 4HF, 1400. Full details on this and other activities are on our website, and you may join at any time. See www.greathockhamgardeningclub.org.uk

Edward Szczepanowski: Secretary, Great Hockhan Gardening Club.