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Meeting reports 2023
A year in the life of the head ranger at Lyme Park
Chris Dunkerley

May Meeting 2023

Chris gallantly returned after the failure of the technology in February to present his slides and videos of his work at Lyme Park. Chris has been in his current role at Lyme for eight years, looking after the 1,400 diverse acre estate that includes woodland, moorland, parkland and ponds. 

    This time the technology was working and greatly enhanced the talk he gave.

    His role is a challenging one. Much of his work is about understanding the estate's long-term impact on the environment. For instance, the controlled management of the deer herd is vital to their survival. The red deer herd has been integral to the estate long before the current house was built. In contrast, the fold of Highland cattle largely looks after itself, though they play a vital role in conserving the pasture in a healthy state.  

    Climate change is having an impact on the estate, the mild wet winters pose a flooding risk not just to the estate but also to the communities below it. Whereas the bone dry Aprils that have become a feature of recent years pose a fire risk. The cattle reduce this risk by grazing the dead grass in winter.

    The situation clashes with the way the estate was managed in the past. A former owner, Thomas Legh, put in lots of drainage channels to “improve” the ground. Now Chris is having to reverse this work, rewetting the moorland. Last year, Chris and his team built 135 leaky dams to slow down the flow of water off the hills, they will be putting in a similar number this year.

    Woodland management is another issue with diseases such as Ash dieback hitting a number of trees. The fact that much of the woodland is either overcrowded, or all the trees are due to mature at the same time is a second issue. A further complication is the extensive areas of Rhododendron ponticum which excludes all other plants and provides little benefit to wildlife.

    Chris and his team aided by up to 90 volunteers are thinning the woodland, replanting with native species and gradually eliminating the Rhododendron.

    With approximately 400,000 visitors a year there has to be a lot of maintenance, - the 19 miles of stone wall for instance.Then there is the need for visitor engagement to ensure an understanding of the benefits of maintaining this estate.

    Chris was once again thanked for his talk and his excellent slides were greatly appreciated.

January Meeting 2023

Garden Wildlife by David Tolliday

Following on from the club AGM, we had an interesting and informative talk from David Tolliday. David made it plain from the start that he was no gardener, his expertise is in the wildlife that can be found in our gardens. His talk ranged across garden birds, mammals, invertebrates and insects. As a wildlife photographer his talk was accompanied by his excellent collection of photos.  Each bird photo was accompanied by an example of the call it uses. The photos can also be viewed on his website, During the talk, David reviewed the results of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, explaining why the numbers of the different species had changed over the years since it was started. He encouraged everyone to take part in this year’s survey on 27th - 29th January. Details of this can be obtained either by: -

    Phone; 0800 473 0251 or

    Text; BIRD to 70030 or


Meeting reports 2022

November Meeting 2022

Pat Bennett gave us an interesting talk on the work he has been doing on the three acre section of woodland he bought in 2013. Unfortunately, technical difficulties meant he was unable to show us the pictures and videos he has made. Nevertheless, he was able to describe how he has been restoring the woodland, clearing the overgrown boundary laurel hedge that was swamping the native trees. Felling a few of the denser areas of tree growth to allow light in and planting hazel to create an understory and allowing controlled coppiced regrowth.

    None of the felled timber is wasted, the small branches, the brash, is used for fire wood. The larger logs he cuts into planks with an Alaskan mill. These he air dries before making into simple pieces of furniture, garden benches, rustic stools and benches, even Welsh stick chairs and simple boxes with carved American pioneer decoration. 

    Despite a twenty year period when the wood was left unmanaged, he explained how he has learned to read the history of the wood from the remnants of the older management. He discovered an arrangement of planks that was used with a “froe” to cleave wood to make palings for fences.

    As a result of his management of the woodland he is restoring is coming back to life. His camera traps have revealed some of the wildlife that lives in the wood, badgers, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, wood mice as well as birdlife that includes, tawny owls, buzzards, pheasants, magpies, pigeons an blackbirds.

Chris Beardshaw,

Garden designer and television presenter

Gave an Illustrated talk on his work in developing the gardens at Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire

                    Chris Beardshaw                                                                Mount Grace Priory                                                 Mount Grace Gardens

September Meeting 2022
beardshaw, chris photo.jpg

Malcolm Dickson from Hooksgreen Herbs, Stone Staffordshire 07977 883810

"Growing Herbs"

Malcolm gave a well received illustrated talk. He explained how the family run nursery began with selling surplus plants at local markets. He quickly realised that a focus on herbs was the most profitable way forward and began to learn the tricks of the trade, exhibiting at various shows and gradually refining their approach. By 2010 they were collecting silver and silver gilt medals from the RHS shows they exhibited at. Their success grew until by 2017 they became accredited as ‘RHS Master Growers’ and won a gold medal at Chelsea.

Malcolm explained some of the key factors in growing herbs. A south or south west position; water in the mornings and if possible take plants under cover in winter; don’t use posh soil and be cruel to be kind by keeping the plants under control.

    He brought a number of plants for sale and a range of seeds. More plants and seeds are available from their website: -

July Meeting 2022

June Meeting 2022

Maureen Sawyer from Southlands, Stretford, Lancashire M32 9DA

"An Organic Kitchen Garden"

Maureen gave a detailed and comprehensively illustrated talk on her organic kitchen garden at her house in Stratford which she has developed over a period of 25 years. To begin with she set out some of the science and principles of organic gardening:-

a. Soil building and improving. b. Pest control and management. c. Heirloom plant preservation.

She talked about her personal commitment to this approach, giving examples of how she has created a both a productive and decorative space.

Explaining about the techniques she applies, extensively re-using plastic bottle cloches, building raised beds, applying crop rotation, feeding the soil, not the plants, and watering carefully.

Her garden is open to visit on the 17th July as part of the NGS

May Meeting 2022

Jane Allison from Mayfields Nursery, Stanthorne, Middlewich Cheshire CW10 9JR

"It's a Family Affair"

Jane gave a light-hearted illustrated talk on various plant families. She began with the Asteraceae (daisy) and outlined the characteristics that define the over 23,000 members of this group. Explaining about the nature of the flowers, leaves and roots and the typical soil conditions they like. She then ran quickly through some of the elements of the mint, rosa, ranunculus, plantain, malva and solanum families.

April Meeting 2022

Kevin Pratt from Village Plants stepped in at short notice when the booked speaker was ill.

Kevin gave us a detailed talk on: -

"Woody Treasures"

Plant that merit attention

He selected over forty species that are attractive and viable to use in our gardens that are often overlooked and only usually to be found in specialist collections.

These included some of his personal favourites such as unusual Berberis varieties and Veronicas, the new official name for Hebes.

For more information go to: -  Village Plants Ltd 7, Bosden Fold Road, Hazel Grove SK7 4LQ

 March Meeting 2022

At a packed meeting, Adam Frost, garden designer and TV presenter, gave a relaxed but highly informative talk on "Getting the most from your garden".

He began by emphasising the need to understand your garden, starting with the state of your soil,

before moving on to talk about the garden's climate and understanding the nature of the space it occupies. 

He recommended that you should, slow down, stop, look and take in the garden, noting how it changes throughout each day and the seasons.

This, he explained would allow you to plan the space and get more from the planting that goes in.

Using examples from his work as a designer, he talked about choosing plants for, size, texture, shape and scent. He acknowledged that while colour was important, it shouldn't be the only factor. "We need to ask ourselves what elements does each plant bring to the space".

In summing up, he talked about looking after our gardens, planning for the future while accommodating the changes to our climate. He stressed the need to ensure diversity and gardening in an environmentally sensitive way and the joy of creating a space that attracts wildlife.


Febuary Meeting 2022

"Cyclamen, Hepaticas and Snowdrops"

Mr Bob Worsley, a self-confessed enthusiast for these three Alpines (he has the T-shirts) gave an illustrated talk on the delights of growing these plants. His enthusiasm for their various foliage forms was clear, as was his appreciation of the many rich and varied flower types. He brought examples to show with some for sale.As a keen advocate for the Alpine Garden Society and the East Cheshire Group which meets in Wilmslow. He invited everyone to see what they had to offer. 

January Meeting 2022

In 2017 Tony won“Best Deciduous Bonsai” at the prestigious Noelanders Trophy in Belgium with this Hawthorn tree

"Flowering and Fruiting Bonsai"

Returning by popular demand, Mr Tony Tickle a bonsai specialist, gave an amusing illustrated talk on the art of bonsai. He explained the various forms of bonsai and the requirements for each category that is grown, along with the elements that support each exhibit. He ended the talk with slides about his role as one of the judges at the 2014 China National Bonsai Championship.


 For more information go to Tony's website

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