No Dig On Tour!

I’ve been working away for a week or so on Charles’ speaking tour. We had a fantastic time meeting keen gardeners across northern England and parts of Scotland, sharing ideas and enthusiasm for no dig methods. Some people were local to the talks, others had driven for several hours to hear Charles speak. It was wonderful exploring some spectacular locations and beautiful wild countryside. 

Charles receives many requests to speak in the north of England and Scotland, but the sheer distance from our homes in Somerset makes it very difficult to accept. So, it was decided to go on a Northern Tour! All of the talks were booked months ago and squeezed into 8 days of travelling. Charles’ car was packed with books so I had to fit everything I needed for 8 days into a tiny ‘cabin baggage’ sized suitcase – plus a big coat and boots.

My main jobs were to share the driving, organise some of the accommodation and run the book stall at each event. I’m born and bred(ish, we moved about a lot) Yorkshire, with family from all over northern England, so I was especially looking forward to touching base with my roots.

Before we left, I gave the polytunnel a good watering. I have been surprised to find Blue Butterfly pea Clitorea Ternatea regrowing, presumably from the roots of last year’s plants. It is a heat loving plant which grows in the tropics, but appears to be surviving the cold nights for now. I made it a tent from fleece though, just in case. I have also chosen the lettuce plant that will be saved for this winter’s seed – shown here with a bamboo stake so that no one will accidentally pick the leaves.

Outside – signs of spring include the first Hellebore flowers. Remember the smashed up fence? It has been repaired now thankfully. I asked the workmen to please leave me the damaged fence posts, which I will use elsewhere in the garden, totally forgetting that they had been cemented in. I can saw off the timber part and use that, but now have 2 bucket sized lumps of concrete to do something with. As I can hardly move them, it will need to be close to where they were placed! I am thinking of some kind of seat structure.

At Homeacres, we picked salad for the last delivery for two weeks. It is amazing how much we can get from outside. Here, across Charles’ 3 strip trial beds we harvested £50 worth salad leaves from these small beds. They were planted as transplants late, Oct 26th and were not planned – the plants were spare and the space was free. After picking, they are covered with mesh over cloche hoops to keeps rabbits & bad weather off. The chervil is also protected from rabbits with enviromesh in another part of the garden.

When all was safely watered, harvested and covered, we set off early on Monday 29th for Loughborough (Talk #1) and then near to York overnight, before heading to York for 2 talks on the 30th then onto Durham. Unfortunately Charles had come down with a throat bug which made his voice hoarse just before we left, but he persevered with the help of special throat lozenges and plenty of fluids. We didn’t want to let anyone down – the venues had all sold out!

In Durham, we stayed in an Airbnb close to Leadgates, where my grandad grew up. It was a mining and steel industry community then; my grandad himself was a miner before he moved to Bradford (W.Yorkshire) in search of work, where my dad and his siblings (and later my siblings and myself) were born. Although the family links to Co. Durham are strong, I had never been before. Durham Cathedral is ancient and stunning, well worth a visit. We arrived shortly before closing so couldn’t see the whole of the building but did enjoy listening to the choir practice for Evensong in an almost empty cathedral, saw the grave of the Venerable Bede and a monument to the miners of Durham.

Unfortunately Charles was feeling very poorly the next morning. We were heading to Edinburgh but I wanted to see the old church Our Blessed Lady and St Joseph, known as ‘Brooms’, where my grandad had gone to school in the convent. Poor Charles, bundled up in many layers against the cold, was left for a while parked next to the graveyard (I am such a thoughtful person!) whilst I went exploring. I sent some photos to my dad and Uncle Brendan when I was there – I wonder what my grandad would have thought if he had known as a lad that one day his granddaughter would be communicating from the graveyard via a tiny device to one of his sons in Thailand and another in Ireland?

The church was locked so I couldn’t see inside, but Uncle Brendan sent me this information about it. I enjoyed the old graveyard, so mysterious and overgrown, the enormous trees perhaps protecting the present day congregation from the biting cold winds. Several of the trees must have grown up through ancient graves as crosses had been placed within them.

As Charles was too unwell to drive, I drove us towards Scotland through some of the most spectacular countryside I have seen (no photos as I was driving!) After several hours we reached the Scottish border, with England on one side…

and Scotland on the other.

After stopping briefly to take these photos, we set off again for Edinburgh – again, through spectacular countryside. Charles was sadly to unwell to do anything but sleep once we arrived (he slept that night for 15 hours) after enjoying a wee dram kindly left for us by the hotel. I went out to explore for a while. The views from Edinburgh Castle as the night fell were spectacular.

The next morning, I woke up with the bug – not what we needed. We still had several more venues to visit, so soldiered on. I did as much driving as I could so that Charles could rest as he needed to be able to speak! I deeply missed my herbs and potions, it is strange being ill so far from home. We visited Aberdeen and Glasgow, before driving to Manchester where I had a lovely evening with my uncle and cousins – Charles joining us after his talk. Then to Lytham St Annes for the last talk of the tour, before driving home on 6th February.

Unfortunately the lurgy has really gone onto my chest now. I can’t talk much above a whisper and cough a lot. Drinking lots of healing brews and resting as much as possible is helping and fortunately I can now walk about and do things but sadly not gardening yet – being outside in the cold air sets off painful coughing. I am hopeful I will be better very soon.

Not long now until sowing starts for the new season!



18 thoughts on “No Dig On Tour!”

  1. Lovely piece of writing, Stephanie. I always enjoy reading your blog and of course the inspiring photos. Have been a devoted fan of Charles for many years and bless him everyday especially when I harvest all the goodies from my no dig allotment (even now in this inclement weather!) Hopefully you are both well on the way to full recovery. Warm wishes, Liza

  2. Sorry to hear you both got the bug. I hope it didn’t spoil your Northern experience too much! You must come again when the weather is warmer – but not easy to do for the dedicated gardener! It’s been even colder this week and we’re off to Scottish Highlands tomorrow… Liz

  3. Such a shame you and Charles have both been so poorly, especially so far from home! I really admire your dedication and commitment and do hope that you are both feeling increasingly better now and benefiting from being back home and with access to all your wonderful natural remedies.

  4. Steph,
    I’m highly impressed that Charles managed to speak for his entire tour. He sounded as though things might be difficult when he kickstarted his talk for us in Loughborough. I’m so pleased that you did come, as I had been nagging at least three local garden groups to invite you and Charles as part of the Northern Tour. I love my No dig Dibber and was very glad to be able to get it. Thanks for bringing it. I can imagine the car was exceedingly full

    I’m planning to come and see you both again for the Southwell talk later this year. I already have my ticket, as no doubt it will be sold out too.

    I hope you can either find a website that has photos of any churches you might bot have been able to get into. A bit of a search may find local villages/parishes/towns with genealogy groups who may be able to help with not just photos but family information as well. They, like you and Charlesm are very generous with sharing information. For which I am very garteful.

    My best wishes to you both.


    Impressed with those Blue Butterfly peas. Off to see if I can find some seeds.

    1. Thank you Suella. We found some very good lozenges for Charles’ throat which helped some, especially before speaking.

      My Uncle Brendan is top genealogist of the family – it helps that my family name Hafferty isn’t very common. He recently found out that it is likely to be an Anglicised form of the Gaelic O hAbhartaigh!

  5. Thank you Stephanie for such a lovely read . So very sorry you and Charles have felt so poorly. Hope you feel better soon . My husband has just got back from skiing with the same thing . His cough is terrible , have you got any herbal suggestions please . Xxx

    1. Oh no! I hope he feels better soon. It’s best to seek advice from a trained medical professional 🙂

      Drinking lots of fluids is very helpful – I make a brew with ginger, lemon, turmeric, sage. rosemary, garlic and thyme, lots of thyme and garlic! It tastes fairly dreadful but has really helped my throat. My elderberry cordial is fantastic but a bit strong for sipping all day! Charles very much enjoyed a hot malt whisky with ginger wine and lemon (or two!) in Scotland.

  6. Well it was medicinal wasn’t it 😉. Thanks Stephanie will try the sage , ginger , garlic etc . Hope you feel better soon xxxx

  7. Hope you are feeling better now both of you. We were very very ill with it after Christmas, and mum was in hospital. I didn’t leave the house for six weeks. All back to normal now, but can’t believe how Ill we’ve been. Love your hints and tips. I’m just trying to make those little paper pots using herb jars. Such a simple idea. Thanks for sharing. All the best. Karen

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