Starting our gabion basket journey

We've made great progress with our gabion basket 'installation' - and that's probably the right word for it, as it's become a bit of a work of art. But let's start at the beginning and our half-metre cubes arrived promptly, but flat-packed. Which makes sense but meant an extra job.  The helicoils were strange things, spring-like looking but not spring-like in their nature; they're an alternative way of constructing the baskets, although we found that they're not as tightly fitting as the hand tied wire rings, or lacing, which we improved our technique the more we did.

The gabion baskets had arrived, just the assembly needed then
A close up of the gabion baskets and helicoils

The helicoils looked good though. We've used them on the corners of each basket to ensure neither of us scrape our legs on the corners. To start with I wasn't sure about their whirly-whirly look, but it's growing on me.

These are the helicoils and are used for joining the gabion baskets

Assembling the baskets took longer than we expected, but I'm pretty sure we sped up as we got into a rhythm. It was definitely a 'gloves on' job, although I'm not sure why MOH has two odd, but still yellow gloves, on. I don't have yellow gloves, and yet he's two pairs...

It wasn't long before we got into a rhythm setting up and assembling the baskets

We found it tricky to keep the basket assembled while we were assembling, and I thought I had just the thing - and I did - freezer bag ties!

The essential ingredient for us was these simple freezer bag ties!

They were super helpful and meant we needed many less pairs of hands.

the freezer bag ties were useful to keep the sides together

The 'lacing' was very much like sewing with wire. Harder than it looks, but definitely do-able. Especially after watching a few videos on YouTube!

Assembling the gabion baskets was akin to sewing with wire - and with gloves on!
It took strength too to get the wires tight enough like this

One down, twelve to go. Or at least I think it's twelve, it depends on how many we'll use. And if I get any other bright ideas along the way. Our next challenge was how to fill them, and I'd a plan for that

A completed gabion basket, how many more to go?

We're a little way off filling the baskets here, but we have made good progress - the least interesting part, but essential, was levelling the area for the larger baskets which will house the Pizza oven.  

And as if this post couldn't get more exciting, next up was levelling the ground!

Not the most glamorous of posts, especially the last phtoo, but an essential one as no one needs a wonky pizza oven!


The kitchen garden project at Blickling

I've been meaning to write this post about the kitchen garden project at Blickling for a while now, but it hasn't happened until now, and I'm not sure why. We were at Blickling looking for snowdrops and found so much more.  I'm a bit of a sucker for walled gardens, and kitchen gardens come to think of it, so a walled kitchen garden. Yes, complete heaven!

My pictures are unusually starting at the end of our jaunt around the garden, but it's such a pretty view I didn't want to leave it until the end; it's a view I think I could quite easily sit and watch for quite a while, preferably in nicer weather than we had on our visit there.

Looking through the gate at the Kitchen Garden on the Blickling Estate in Norfolk

I didn't remember the kitchen garden from our previous visit, and it's unlike me to not remember such a garden. But as I read the notices I realised why, it was grassed over when we first visited and so I suspect it didn't hold the magic that these gardens so often do. But through a regeneration project it's being brought back to life and is already supplying fruit and vegetables to the cafes there.

It's a five year project and in the first year over 600m of metal edging was laid - perhaps I should get them to come and help with the edging on our circleswe could certainly do with some help!  They also installed an irrigation system and reinstated paths from its past. It was interesting to learn that in its heyday the walled garden was four times bigger than today, and in the 1950s most of the garden was put to grass, and in the 1980s it was briefly a garden centre.

It's fascinating to learn that they've reintroduced apple and pear varieties that were grown there in the late 1800s. I was keen to get on and explore the garden and so have only really fully read the information boards as I'm writing this post. I know I should read them at the time, but well it was cold, there was a garden to explore, need I say more...

And in fact there was more out than I expected there to be, and more than I'm sure I have on my allotment which is no doubt covered in weeds and full of neglect right now. In the photo below there's orderly strawberries, lavender and parsley and once again I wish my crops would grow so neatly.

a well ordered walled kitchen garden

Instead in the meantime I'll just drool in awe and amazement and try to remember not to cram as many plants into my beds higgledy-piggledy in the future, but no that that's most likely to be exactly what happens!

One thing that I won't be able to do, or have, is an espaliered fruit tree of any kind. But I can admire them and marvel at them, the ones here had some fantastic shapes, not fully symmetrical but characterful nonetheless.

an espalier fruit tree at Blickling in Norfolk

The greenhouses - or glass houses whichever you prefer - were huge and reminded me of the ones at Heligan. I don't think I've ever shared pictures from there (sometimes I'm such a bad blogger!) but I'm sure one day I will. We've been there twice and I'd go again tomorrow if I could, it's such a fab place. And it has glass houses a bit like these.  Phew, back on track.

traditional Glasshouses in the kitchen garden at Blickling NT
It's quite a glass house isn't it?

After lusting over the glass houses, my next lust full item was these bean poles, so much nicer than bamboo don't you think?

plant supports ready and waiting in the walled kitchen garden at Blickling

There wasn't a huge amount out, as I expected. Well, it was January after all, and I soon found myself being drawn back to the glass houses and to the cold frames alongside them. I love to see how these gardens work, clearly on a much larger scale than most domestic garden.  Peering into one of the cold frames, I was amused to see an army of black grass being cultivated.

a nursery bed of black grass ready to plant out

And then I spotted one of the glass house doors was open and well, it would have been rude not to wouldn't it? Sadly as I expected it to be the rest of it was blocked off, but I was able to lean in quite a bit (all that pilates did pay off) and snap a few photos while I was doing so.

a peek inside the glasshouses - leaning in - to get a better look
the workbench inside the glass house at Blickling NT

It's a fascinating structure isn't it? And I'm curious to know if those alliums on the bench above will grow into new plants, I've not had much luck with some dad gave me, and more surprising is that he didn't have much luck with them either. Maybe we'll try again, or maybe I'll just admire their structure when they're done...

So an interesting discovery, a walled kitchen garden that's being restored to its former glory. I'm pretty certain I'll be back at Blickling much sooner than before to explore the rest of the estate and to check on developments here too.  I thought I'd seen most of what Blickling had to offer, but there was still another surprise, and that one was indoors. More on that one soon.