Wells Voice November 2022

Photos Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo   

My love's an arbutus

By the waters of Lene 

It doesn't seem quite the thing to have strawberries so late in the year, but they are still available all along the Cheddar Valley. And, oddly, in the garden. Arbutus unedo or Strawberry Tree makes a handsome ornamental addition in the garden, evergreen with clusters of white flowers coinciding with attractive red fruits which are edible according to your taste. Whether a lady love, however 'slender and shapely ', would be flattered at the comparison is open to debate. Poets and songwriters do tend to get carried away.

Decades ago, when the strawberry season was confined to a few weeks in high summer, I remember singing about a Strawberry Fair along with a hundred other short-trousered lads, crammed together beneath the gas-mantles in a room filled with double desks and inkwells. We were a pretty scruffy lot, grazed knees and knuckles, scuffed shoes and ink-stained fingers. The headmaster took charge of things, a man who loved his music and we humoured him. Singing these incomprehensible songs was better than arithmetic. So... we belted out 'Ri-fol Ri-fol Fol-de-riddle-li-do' with dutiful gusto and total bemusement. We cried 'Cherry Ripe', we blew away the morning dew, urged someone to drink only with their eyes and what the wraggle taggle gypsies were up to remained forever a mystery. Romantic poets have much to answer for. In fairness, though, what these ditties generally had in common was a connection with the natural world. And that remains, especially in our gardens. One extra word.  Mrs English in a fur coat was the pianist. Every morning she would summon the school to assemble by thumping out 'English Country Gardens' on the old upright piano behind the blackboard. An abiding memory.

We are fortunate to have in Wells one of the West Country's finest gardens open to visit all the year round. That, of course, is the Bishop's Palace Garden. James Cross, the Head Gardener with his team of staff and volunteers, has transformed the 12 acres into a pleasure ground for everyone. We are delighted to welcome James to our next meeting to give us a talk on Thursday 10th November at 7.30 pm in Wells Town Hall

Members £1 visitors £3 everyone welcome. Details 01749 673244. There will be refreshments and it will be a chance for us all and folk new to the area to hear a bit about the past and future of this splendid place.  Pip