Monday, 15 September 2014

Shopping Extravaganza

Plantspeople and Nurseries 
in great quantity for the plantaholic purchaser
The Three Counties Showground offers the perfect opportunity to shop till you drop in one location - and a beautiful one at that. Where else can you experience the equivalent of a major shopping complex out in the open air than here in a dedicated venue, with such a variety of goods to choose from. Particularly plants of course. For after all, the Malvern Autumn Show is dedicated to the harvest; and that surely relates to sowing and growing. My list of things I want to look out for grows by the minute, the nearer the weekend of September 27th and 28th looms. Maybe it's the same for you, too.

Food stalls always attract large crowds - be prepared with 'cool bags' 
for such perishable commodities as local cheeses and fresh meat
With the Showground divided in roughly seven themes, you can rest assured that there will be something to suit the tastes of every visitor. (And that of course includes you!) To run through them again - you will find a celebration of food, gardening, harvest and nostalgia, each with their own shopping areas; and SHOPPING itself. The 'live' shows also all have their ancillary stands and sales pitches, as do the refreshment areas, plus the undercover halls. Wherever there's space for a stall, you're sure to discover something that takes your fancy. 

Nostalgia in so many areas of the Showground
The thing to do is to come to the Show with an open mind - setting your heart on exactly what you want to find might lead to disappointment. I was surprised last year by just how much I could discover related to my second love (mixed-media art), and in unusual places - antique fabrics (in the nostalgia section), handspun yarns, knitted jackets, retro-kitchen furniture, and crafts of so many genres. Not in just one location, but throughout the Showground. Snap up what you see when you see it - I was disappointed that the beautiful hand-knitted cardigan I fell in love with had been sold by the time I went back to where I remembered seeing it. Maddening.

Enjoying the 2013 Three Counties Caravan Show, and the local area
And before I forget, there's a special offer for those of you who might like to bring your caravan or motorhome and wish to visit the Autumn Show, the Three Counties Caravan Show the following weekend - AND stay on site for the days in-between, during which time you can enjoy exploring the local area. Camping for ten nights!  Or call 01684 584924.

My socially created postcard celebrating 
the 2013 Malvern Autumn Show
This final preview for the 2014 Malvern Autumn Show has been my 'swan-song'; it is time for me to move on to pastures new. I leave you with a reprieve of the 2013 harvest celebrations (my 2013 collage, above), and thank you for following all my posts for various Malvern shows over the last two years. If you enjoy reading my show-related stories, why not follow one of my personal blogs - maybe "Grandma's Eco Gardening Notes" - which will lead you to other garden-related pages, and my blogs on travel and creative mixed-media art (amongst others). It's been good to have you with me since January 2013; maybe our online paths will cross again sometime.

On the way home ... but not quite the end of an era
Actually, I will still be visiting the Showground and writing my show-stories, but not in preview, and not during the actual Shows. Instead they will appear as time-capsules in the spaces in between. I cannot imagine ever forsaking the Hills. I could not; for they have in fact been a major part of my existence for the last fifteen years or more.

Friday, 12 September 2014

It's a Good Life ... don't miss it!

What could be more inviting? A day out at the Malvern Autumn Show
The lovely thing for me, as a journalist creating Ann's Malvern Jotter, is that snippets of information trickle in a topic at a time, and I have the pleasure of sifting and sorting them into a post that I hope you, the reader, will enjoy. A buzz of excitement every time I sit at the computer, open up the emails and image files that have been collecting  in my in-tray, and scrapbook-like reassemble them for your delight. Quite often the theme I had planned takes on a whole new meaning, and I re-jig my focus. Such has been the case this week, as information filtered through on "the good life". You could in fact spend the whole of both days in 'The Good Life Pavilion', listening to celebrity talks and discussions.

Roses to celebrate a musician's life
The Good Life Pavilion is situated at the top of Row 7 (top means facing the Hills), and close to the West Gate. It is also the location for three fascinating show gardens, each different in concept. Absorb their nuances, subtlety of planting, and the meaning behind each given title.    How, I thought, would designers Caspian Robertson & Daniela Krasnanova interpret their theme of 'Scattered Roses...'? Caspian explains: "The garden is a celebration to the life and music of Sir John Tavener, whose final work was 'Scatter Roses Over My Tears'."  It also takes inspiration from the wonderful variety and colour of the new 2015 David Austin Rose catalogue.  "In the centre of the garden sits a water feature, a representation of the creative energy from which a spiral path flows, a symbol of movement, growth and change.  As well as roses, herbs will strongly feature amongst the planting to contribute to the fragrant notes of the garden's aroma." But there's more to this garden than that ... I was intrigued and delved deep. Music. I do not usually link to outside websites in the Jotter, but am doing so now, for I hope you will agree that what I discovered gives a far deeper meaning to the garden. So poignant, and music therapy at its best. Please take a look, but remember to come back for the rest of  'The Good Life'. 

Not just for Autumn, but other seasons, too
And now the Autumn Show Gardens link with celebrity speakers and talks; and within the Pavilion, so you hardly need to move! Caroline Tatham is Course Director and Principal of the Cotswold Gardening School, is a qualified and experienced lecturer and also runs a busy garden design practice. (You may have seen her at the RHS Malvern Spring Show.) Of her Autumn Show garden, 'Brave New World of Beauty’, she says: “I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to have been invited to design and create a feature Garden, and also to speak about garden design and floristry. I am hoping to inspire and inform with a garden that evokes the three seasons of Spring, Winter and Autumn, using layers of contrasting planting. I want to convey the idea that the Autumn season represents a beginning and not an end in the garden - as a time to plant and plan for the coming growing season. Also I want to challenge the idea of putting the garden to bed and cutting down all perennials and eradicating weeds - but rather embrace wild flowers and leave perennials standing over the winter to be enjoyed for their frosty beauty and architectural seed heads.” 

Caroline will be appearing ‘on stage’ in the Good Life Theatre throughout the weekend: on Saturday (am) a Q&A session on her Show garden with Joe Swift;  then (pm) a threesome floral masterclass; Caroline, Joe, and Mark Diacono. She will be repeating the Q&A session on Sunday (pm) and also offering solo a Floral Masterclass.

Mark Diacono
Mark Diacono will no doubt be well-membered from previous shows as a young, ebullient and knowledgeable presenter; and he will need all his stamina over the two days to survive a punishing schedule! For the uninitiated, Mark’s website states, “I’m lucky enough to spend most of my time eating, growing, writing and talking about food. At my smallholding, Otter Farm, I grow unusual and forgotten food along with the best of the familiar.” His book, ‘Taste of the Unexpected’ won the Guild of Food Writers’ Food Book of the Year 2011 and is an absolute eye-opener. Just don’t miss at least one of his six appearances at the Show - check your Show Guide on arrival.

A typical Pennard Plant show garden
One specific to mention is ‘Good Life and Fine Edibles' - Mark Diacono and Chris Smith from Pennard Plants (Saturday), repeated on Sunday, additionally with ‘Exclusive Malvern Autumn Cocktails’ courtesy of Mark Diacono and Bottlegreen - a bit early in the morning maybe, but nobody has said anything about the cocktails being alcoholic! But who knows? ‘Fine Edibles’ and Chris Smith of Pennard Plants actually brings us to the third Autumn Show Garden in the Good Life Pavilion. The ‘Pennard Plants Garden' portrays “A meadow garden filled with an abundance of fruit trees, which includes a productive vegetable patch and a beautiful flower garden.” Their own story is fascinating; that aside, I am always drawn to their Malvern stands for their packets of Heritage and Heirloom Vegetable Seeds.

Gardeners of the future - it behoves us all to encourage their participation
As Shakespeare wrote, "the play's the thing ...." - for which read 'the Show's the thing'- and in two week's time we can all be enjoying the harvest atmosphere, the hills, and the seven show ground 'regions': Harvest, Food, Gardening, Shop, Nostalgia, Discovery, and Live Shows. Bring your children or grandchildren and introduce them to the excitement of harvest and everything that such activities conjure in your mind.

Just to remind you: Show opening times on both days are 9.00am to 6.00pm and there’s a free shuttle bus from Great Malvern rail station. There's also no charge for standard car parking.  Book your Show tickets online, or phone the ticket hotline (01684 584924). It's my final preview next week - so do bookmark this page.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Cookery to the fore - an experience not to be missed

The Wot's Cooking purpose-built Cookery Theatre
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. If you have never experienced a cookery demonstration organised and presented by the Wot’s Cooking team, then you have missed a truly memorable experience. For a start, husband and wife team Katie & Glyn Johnson have their own fully-equipped mobile demo kitchen: all mod cons and purpose-built to allow everyone in the audience to see and experience what is happening live, on stage. Whilst Katie ‘presents’, Glyn is  behind the scenes taking care of the ‘technicals’. Last Autumn, I was so captivated, I could have spent the entire Show watching and thinking food.

Presenter and compere,
Katie Johnson of Wot's Cooking
This year sees an even more eclectic programme - with the Wot’s Cooking theatre at the heart of the ‘Taste It’ section of the Show. Featuring a range of knowledgeable practising chefs (some appearing at Malvern for the first time), who could fail to be inspired by the delectable selection of specialties they will be showcasing?  You will need to check your Show Guide for exact times. Bookmark any of the following …

Watch bread being made in the Cookery Theatre, 
and then buy something fresh and tasty - 
there's such a selection from which to choose
Appearing twice on Saturday (27th) is Rob Swift of Swift’s Bakery from Clee Hill, whose family have been baking artisanal and speciality breads since 1863. Rob is fifth generation and passionate about the bread-making process and their wide range of finished products: white, wholemeal and brown, French, international, speciality, and a particularly tasty-sounding ‘healthy eating’ range. Rob’s demos are always fun, and afterwards you can visit their stall to stock up on whatever takes your fancy.

Liz Knight at last year's Show
Also twice on Saturday’s bill of fare is Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods. She uses ingredients plucked from her garden and local Herefordshire hedgerows. What a pleasure to discover that you don’t necessarily require expensive ingredients to create a feast when what you need is right there on your doorstep. Liz makes flavours and special seasonal treats, loving the taste of wild ingredients and the thrill of discovering new combinations of flavours - her products are a celebration of the best of the wild, adding a new, wildly irresistible dimension to home cooking.

Always popular - take your seats in good time, ladies and gentlemen
Whilst compiling this preview, I learned from Katie Johnson that Chris von Landkammer - head chef at The Elms in Worcester, is the most widely travelled chef that she has ever engaged to work with. Not in terms of Malvern to Worcester (a mere hop) but from as far afield as New Zealand. If the hotel website is anything to go by, you’ll be in for a treat, for he infuses many of their delectable dishes with touches of Asian cuisine garnered from his experience in the Far East.  Using the freshest of ingredients, and fruit, herbs and vegetables from The Elms’ extensive kitchen garden, he conjures up a daily smorgasbord of fabulous meals. What will he offer us in the Wot’s Cooking kitchen?

Calling all vegetarians - oh so tasty (pumpkins to the fore)
For the vegetarians amongst you, Lizzy Hughes of  Our Lizzy Cooking - a Malvern-based vegetarian cookery school - will be there to entertain you on both Saturday AND Sunday. She enjoys using a wide range of locally grown seasonal produce and loves exploring new ingredients whilst developing new recipes. She says, “Autumn is my favourite time of year. I especially love trying out different pumpkins and squash as they work so well in vegetarian dishes.” At the show she’ll be demonstrating a three course Autumnal feast will a warming Roasted Pumpkin and Chilli Soup, Squash and Spelt Risotto, Hubbard Squash and Fava Bean Casserole. (Lizzy also loves using fruit and will show the traditional Malvern Pudding using apples from her own tree.)

Fish - a refreshing change?
Tom Court of Sticky Fig Catering will be appearing twice on Sunday (28th). Established in 2013, their services have grown to include event catering, from intimate dinners to large celebrations, to weddings and parties in the privacy of home. Their aim is to provide the best quality food and service at all events, creating memorable experiences for guests. Sticky Fig is committed to sourcing the best local and sustainable produce from local suppliers whist being mindful of budget. There are bound to be plenty of useful tips from this midlands-based chef who is used to cooking for clients or with them in their home kitchen.

From seed to plate: metres rather than food miles
Andy Link - the award winning head chef, gardener and bee keeper at The Riverside Inn, Amestery (a rural Herefordshire restaurant) - aims to create a true hub for local seasonal produce, showcasing the best the area has to offer. As part of this the chefs have developed over an acre of land to create traditional and experimental vegetable, fruit and herb gardens - which even include their own bee hive. These working kitchen gardens are an essential part of their facilities, offering chefs the opportunity to experiment with different ingredients and plant types, whilst introducing new flavours alongside a great level of freshness, The result?  Some dishes travel only metres, not miles.  Andy says that during the Malvern Autumn Show, he will be “discussing the sustainable way in which the restaurant uses this seed-to-plate approach to create a few seasonal, home grown plates of food using only ingredients from the restaurant grounds."

Oh the shame of it!
 Even journalists have to eat!
Watching food demos is hungry work, or at least one craves food afterwards, or at any time of the day. There are plenty of refreshments on offer around the Showground, clearly marked on the map that accompanies your Showguide. As these are all conveniently located, there’s no excuse for not stopping for a bite and a cuppa – indeed, your visit may well benefit from so doing when you arrive, allowing you time to glance through the Show Guide and formulate a plan of what you most want to do; Cookery Theatre timetable included. Familiarisation can save time and possible frustration, allowing you to pack far more into your day out.

All images are copyright - with thanks to all the photographers who have co-operated with me to produce this cookery preview.

Just to remind you: Show opening times on both days are 9.00am to 6.00pm and there’s a free shuttle bus from Great Malvern rail station. There's also no charge for standard car parking.  Book your Show tickets online, or phone the ticket hotline (01684 584924). More next week - so do bookmark this page.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lights, Camera, Action - well almost!

Action! Shifting timber (or how it's done now)
Image courtesy Stuart Purfield
Cute little dog (image
courtesy Stuart Purfield)
It’s all too easy to regard the Malvern Autumn Show as being devoted solely to gardening and harvest. But it isn’t. Although those aspects are certainly the main focus, there is so much else going on - in fact if you visit for only one day, you will be hard pressed to cram in all that is on offer. You will need to be selective.

Jumping multi-coloured sheep - it's true ... (or was in 2013)
There’s always a hum of activity in the ‘Experience - Live Shows’ area of the Showground, with a number of small parade rings where you will be able to enjoy all manner of activities. Maybe not the same as pictured here (these images were taken at the 2013 Show) but comparable with the fun I have observed and enjoyed at past Shows. Can you imagine a flock of sheep in coats of many colours jumping over hurdles? Dogs and horses, yes, but sheep? (Or it could have been runner ducks whose upright stance is both comical and endearing.)

Somewhat more traditional - but just as entertaining 
Dogs, supposedly man’s best friend (when well-trained), will be much in evidence. It is fascinating to watch intelligent breeds traditionally used by farmers to herd sheep - enjoy their antics as they are put through their paces. Indeed there is all-day entertainment in the Activity Arena featuring dog agility, and gundog displays. 

What little girl hasn't dreamt of riding - or racing with - a pony?
Indeed, if you and your children / grandchildren love animals, don’t miss the daily animal parades in the Teme Arena and the fur and feathers of the Poultry and Rabbit Marquees! This year the Poultry Show has been upgraded to a Championship Show by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. There are usually horses as well - and there are always knowledgeable owners and trainers on hand to answer questions and point you in the right direction to discover more.

Horseshoes or wrought iron garden ornaments - working with metal is a skill
as old as the hills, and still much in demand today
Horses need horseshoes and making them is an age-old craft which is much the same today as it was centuries ago when the horse was a beast of burden, in peace-time or in war. Farriery is just as much in evidence today (maybe at this year’s show), but smiths also work decoratively in iron - a wrought iron gate, or decorative garden ornament. 

An army of men to plank a tree trunk, with ease and precision
Staggering to see close at hand (within the ‘Nostalgia’ element of the Show), and quite amazing: old and modern machinery used past and present for farm and forestry activities. We are probably all too used to going down to our local friendly D-I-Y store for the odd plank of wood, or decking for the patio, little realising how such timber is transformed from tree to felled trunk to a packaged product. In days gone by, planking would all have been done by hand, often using a pitsaw - one man above ground, the other standing beneath in a pit with the log midway on trestles; extremely hard work.

Cider harvest with mobile facilities for
pressing (it could be straight out of a
Thomas Hardy novel). Image courtesy
Stuart Purfield
Whatever your interest in times past, check out the fabulous vintage vehicles on display including a collection of old commercial vehicles and steam engines, plus threshing and cider machines. Also back in the past, to trigger memories: historic lawn mowers - remember struggling to push those across the lawn? - and caravans that had all the style but few mod-cons. In the ‘Country Pursuits Marquee’ you can discover wood turning, stick making, spinning and other age-old delights at the very heart of the Show. Some of Britain's most traditional rural activities, skills and pastimes that have survived the years - truly a case of Relive and Revive.

Just to remind you: Show opening times on both days are 9.00am to 6.00pm and there’s a free shuttle bus from Great Malvern rail station. There's also no charge for standard car parking.  Book your Show tickets online, or phone the ticket hotline (01684 584924). More next week - so do bookmark this page. (All images are reproduced by kind permission of Ray Quinton, unless credited otherwise.)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Fruitful Experience

Strange? Not really: think about it in relation to the enjoyment
obtained from visiting the Malvern Autumn Show
Have you ever, when planning a garden, or re-thinking a plot, likened it to creating a patchwork quilt? A sewing together of seams, a melding of materials, a blending of colours, a loom-weaving of ideas into something which becomes whole-cloth. It’s much the same with staging the Malvern Autumn Show. If you were to see the Showground right now, you would observe a wide-open grid of gigantic grassy rectangles bound together by ‘streets’ and ‘rows’, interspersed with exhibition halls, buildings and permanent gardens. That’s the framework, a living land-map into which will be jigsawed five major ‘components’, each focussing on a different Autumn fruitful experience. ‘Grow’, ‘Harvest’ and ‘Taste’ all interlink - whilst ‘Relive’ (nostalgia) and ‘Experience’ will provide just as much inspiration for the months ahead, be it in garden, home or the great outdoors. The whole Showground will be jam-packed with inspiration and shopping experiences, the like of which it is hard to find brought together in one location.

Lubera 'Redlove' apples - Swiss-bred and available to UK buyers
It’s a fruitful experience for me, too. How I love to visualise that familiar blank framework (overlooked by the enigmatic Malvern Hills) and within my blogposts draw together disparate threads of information that come my way. How good it was this last week to hear from a new exhibitor who is inviting you to visit their stand and taste the forbidden fruit (my words, not theirs). Rich, red, tasty, juicy, luscious, appletastic apples!!! The ‘Lubera’ show team is very excited  to be promoting their beautiful apple range and specifically their ‘Redlove' family. So why not pop along and say hello and hear all about apple breeding and 'hot off the press news' of new varieties to come. You will also get the chance to partake in fruit testing and tasting. I already grow various varieties produced by Lubera, and believe me, they really are something. (Where:  Stand WH83, Garden Sundries Pavilion - meanwhile take a preview of their fruit-breeding programme.)

An appreciative audience in the Good Life Pavilion theatre
(image courtesy Stuart Purfield)
Further fruitful experiences continue throughout the Show, with visitors flocking to the theatre in The Good Life Pavilion.  Meeting well-known TV personalities ‘live’ is always a thrill and this September will be no exception as television gardener, Monty Don, is to head up the celebrity guest list, and will be at the Show on Sunday. Renowned as a writer and presenter, he is best known for fronting the team of experts behind the popular weekly gardening programme, BBC Gardeners' World. 

Monty Don
He will join fellow gardeners Joe Swift and Mark Diacono; and will be talking to Joe live on stage in the event's Good Life Pavilion, about all things gardening. He has presented gardening and travel programmes for over twenty years and became the lead presenter for the BBC flagship programme Gardeners' World  between 2003 and 2008, and then again from 2011 when he began hosting Gardeners' World from his home in Herefordshire. And that’s not all: Monty is a committed organic gardener and President of the Soil Association. He has worked with schools, and groups of drug addicts, to build respect and reward from working with the natural world, and has a strong belief in the importance of communities working together through an understanding and love of the land. He says: "The real importance of gardening  is the empowerment that it gives people, however small or seemingly insignificant their gardens might be. It is surprising how liberating it is, if you can grow anything  at all -  and there is as much pleasure in a snowdrop as in a successful career.” 

Forgive the thesaurus, but reflect on how much you could gain
from an inspirational day at the Malvern Autumn Show
Words of wisdom indeed - don’t miss the opportunity to hear him, and other celebrities; but do check the Show website for times of appearance. In fact visit it regularly for updates on all that is happening, and many more fruitful experiences to come.