Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

October 2016

This months News



Visit to SS Great Britain & Tyntesfield

The art of a Chairman, both past and present, is to be all things to all men, preserving the ethos of the club and, with the help of the committee, devising ways to encourage and maintain an interest in all aspects of gardening, whether they may be minority interests or those of the majority of members.  Through all this finely balanced role play he or she has to ensure economic viability if the club is to survive.

Reg Gethin with this trip, proved that as an expert in funambulism, he can walk a tightrope with singular aplomb.  Some like the stately homes, some the garden and those with a hint of hedonism, like myself, vineyards and vegetable gardens.  However, into this trip our master of ceremonies introduced anticipation, time delays and a hint of rally driving from our coach driver, necessary as a result of motorway holdups.  The pressure brought about by thoughts of “Can we make the guided tour on time?”, when water pressure was distracting many of us before the tour was about to start, brought a certain frisson of anticipation.

The SS Great Britain is nothing short of fascinating but with its narrow access ways and the exhibits of how the sailors and immigrants had to live, cheek by jowl, with the merest hint of facilities it would take a minimum of an hour to get round this remarkable exhibit.  The temperature was verging on uncomfortable until our guide told us that, without ventilation, for those of lesser financial means, the travelling temperature below decks was circa 40 degrees. The sheer logistics of feeding people, caring for their health during a trip brought back memories of nursery rhymes of vinegar and brown paper.  The rats, prevalent in their day, apparently still have family members living on the ship now!  Our guide, with expert finesse, timed what we could see to perfection and, on the hour, we said our goodbyes to return to the coach for the next highlight of our day.

As with every good story this ended with us being left with the desire for something more and that fell to the genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Beneath the ship, whose life was a history in itself, let alone that of the designer, was an item that we sadly missed but which was awe inspiring.  Brunel decided pre-1854 that a propeller was a more efficient system of propulsion than a paddle wheel.  Thus for  the SS Great Britain he designed a six bladed screw which has fascinated scientists of today because following computerised analysis of every aspect they have concluded it could not be bettered.  As he was an ardent cigar smoker, unfortunately they cannot use poetic licence and claim he did it on the back of a “fag” packet.

“All aboard” and once again the question of timing became paramount, with a strict entry appointment would we have time for lunch at Tyntesfield, which is a garden set in acres of space on a hillside of plateaus?  The walk from the house to the vegetable garden and back alone must be close to a mile.  The restaurant, which by now had become of singular importance to some, was in the Cow Barn Restaurant which is perhaps more reminiscent of a stable block and was, by then, very crowded but my modest repast was excellent, cut short by a need to inspect my motability chariot, the much vaunted Tramper.

Two of us, Angela Gethin and myself braved the examination to ascertain our fitness to drive these dangerous vehicles and, despite my unlimited size of motorbike licence, we passed muster.  Now these un-braked “lethal weapons” are capable of speeds reaching almost half the pace of a sit upon mower, in Angela’s case Reg walked ahead with a red flag.  One had visions of Ratty and Toad of Toad Hall, Poop Poop with the pair of us racing at five miles an hour.  We were in our element, driving down “tweenies” passages at the back of the House to get to the other side where we parted, as I was  aiming for the vegetable gardens, almost a half mile from the house.  There I was greeted by gardeners, young, older, male and female each only too willing to talk visitors through their special interest.

Having lifted a particularly small crop of onions at home this year I promptly stalled the Tramper when faced with a huge section of the walled garden with onions the size of small footballs.  “They are small this year”, said the young female gardener who had brought them on from seed.  “So are mine” I humbly replied but these seem enormous in scale and she said 45 are the equivalent of 750 standard onions.  The plethora of edible fruits and vegetables was fascination in itself but for me there, in the sheltered walled garden, was a profusion of one of my favourite plants in its multitudinous glory, the dahlia - which was just as well because, due to the distance back to the house,  my knees had already waved a surrender flag at exploring, in all its Victorian Gothic splendour, I was about to head off to the formal gardens when The Ober Gruppenfuhrer arrived demanding that I show her the same vegatable gardens that I had just left.  I really do like Ddahlias.

Douglas Nethercleft, with his fine memory and erudite use of the English language, will resume his descriptive duties, hopefully soon, but for a day out this took some beating.

Alan Hedley

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Last modified: September 26, 2016