Bloom judges tour the Visitor Centre’s gardens

East Midlands in Bloom judges were at the Visitor Centre to see how The RSPB has been supporting Edwinstowe’s bid to claim the region’s bloom crown this year.

Judges Stephen Dando and Audrey Leach were joined on Wednesday (3rd July) at the Visitor Centre by Edwinstowe in Bloom committee members Jo Aylwin and Carol Hallam as Assistant Warden Holly Hadfield explained the planting schemes, which include a Medieval herb garden.

From left: Assistant Warden Holly Hadfield with East Midlands in Bloom judges Stephen Dando and Audrey Leach, and Edwinstowe in Bloom committee members Jo Aylwin and Carol Hallam.

Our garden areas, located around the Visitor Centre building and amphitheatre area, as well as in our main car park, are purposely themed around the native species of this special woodland and the Medieval era, when the legends and ballads of Robin Hood and his outlaw band began to be told and enjoyed throughout the English countryside.

Our volunteer community has devoted time and energy to preparing, planting and weeding the beds, using soil taken from the lowland heath of Budby South Forest during ‘scrapes’ – created to provide vital habitat for the specialist invertebrates and ground-nesting birds of the heath.

This soil is itself a natural seedbank, free of pesticides and maintaining diversity with an abundance of native species which are loved by pollinating insects.

In each of the garden areas, we have aimed to create a wild, nature-friendly scheme balanced by complimentary border strimming, plant training and weeding.

So, added to the wonderful assortment in the soil, are species such as English bluebells, lesser celandine, snowdrops, cuckoo pint, wild strawberry and garlic mustard – all planted by our volunteers, including visiting local schools and college groups of young people with additional learning needs.

By installing new planters in the car park, we are also creating a floral journey for our visitors, guiding them from the point of their arrival, along Forest Corner to the Visitor Centre.

It then continues that journey into the forest, along the winding path that leads to our inviting amphitheatre space and the wall garden here.

In addition to wildflower species, we are creating a herb garden beside the café to demonstrate many of the vital medicinal plants in the Middle Ages, including chamomile, fennel, mint and thyme.

Holly shows the judges the planting scheme installed by the gardening work party.

Our volunteers are in the process of creating some brilliantly illustrated Medieval-style interpretation boards to connect the outlaw legends to herbs still used today, that our visitors can then touch and smell.

Interpretation boards created by volunteer Melissa.

Our bug hotels and log piles are purposely installed to provide invertebrates with shelter in conditions they will thrive in, as do the wooden sculptures in the stumpery which, as they age and weather, offer the ideal decaying wood habitat which saproxylic species depend upon for all or part of their life cycle.

It is not just insects either. Long-tailed tits have nested in the gorse grown around our sustainable drainage system (SUDs), while frogs have also spawned their young here too, in the shadow of our statue which immortalises the quarterstaff contest which forged the enduring friendship between Robin Hood and Little John.

We aim to inspire our visitors by the wonders of nature-friendly gardening so that they too might create their own space bursting with native species and enticing wildlife to colonise new and vital spaces for nature.

We are proud to be part of Edwinstowe in Bloom and are ‘rooting’ for the whole village to achieve blooming great success this year!