One of my ambitions when I moved up to Highgate was to sign myself up to work on the heath with the volunteer gardeners and bramble hackers/sapling puller-outers, Heath Hands. But no sooner had I moved in than lockdown happened and all volunteer recruitment came to a grinding halt. So I had to make do with taking pictures and posting them on this blog for you all to see. However, a few months ago, I reckoned that things should be easing up a bit so I re-applied to Heath Hands. I was told that they were a bit behind but that they would put me on the list. But then I heard nothing.
So, when someone pointed me to an appeal for volunteer gardeners at Highgate cemeteries, I signed up. Obviously, life being life, that meant that the following day I got the call from Heath Hands. So now I am a volunteer gardener at both!!
I was so excited about my first shift for Heath Hands – all kittted out in my smart green sweat shirt and steel capped boots (lest I should mattock my toes in the process of digging out an unwanted sapling) that I completely forgot to take any pictures. But here are some of the volunteers at a welcome drinks party around the Kenwood Dairy ten days ago.
My first assignment was in Athlone House garden along with two other newbies, two ‘old hands’ and a lovely ranger called Dermot to direct our labours – and hand out mugs of coffee when we looked to be flagging. While the newbies edged the beds, the other three of us laid into patches of nettles, and ‘mattocked’ the overkeen sycamore, holly and rhodendron saplings. (A mattock for those who don’t know is a sort of flat bladed pick axe with which you attack the soil around the saplings in an attempt – not always successful – to dig out the full depths of their tap roots.) All very satisfying, especially since it was a very pleasant autumn day.
My next shift (shifts are two hours from 10-12 and 2-4) is next Tuesday at the Hill Garden Pond up beyond Whitestone Pond – and this time I will remember to take some pictures.
My first shift at the cemeteries, on Wednesday of this week, was blessed with an even lovelier day. On this occasion there were four of us, two newbies and two old hands, under the wing of Adam, now a full time cemetery gardener who had originally come to the cemetery as a volunteer like us. I had gone fully equipped with my elbow length leather gauntlets and my razor sharp secateurs – so I was assigned to bring the roses which were sprawling over a set of five graves under control. What a perfect job….
Meanwhile, fellow worker, Olive was sent off to wrestle the rampant ivy off a flatter square grave across the pathway. You will not be surprised to hear that we both filled enormous bags with the results of our labours.
The cemetery shifts run from 10.30 to 1pm and then from 2 to 3.30 (although, as with Heath Hands, they are very happy for you just to do a morning or an afternoon) and I am booked in for my next shift on the 27th. Sadly, I doubt that I can expect such perfect day.
Menawhile, a few random images from my daily wanderings across the heath over the last few weeks.
This looked like a fishing convention strung out along the north shore of the boating pond a few days ago. Not where they usually sit and that is a camera tucked under the multicoloured umbrella so I am suspecting that they were some sort of club.
Over on the south side of the pond a few days earlier I had seen this amazing spaniel family. Seven of them in the picture and I think there were another couple further up the bank. The swans were showing a good deal more interest in them than in the fishermen.