Bringing Gardens to the Railways – by Karen Ashton

The 8th and 9th of September marked the seventh annual gala of the friends of the Kirklees Light Railway.  The gala is organised and run by the volunteers and I usually go along for the weekend to take photographs of the event.

Last year the theme was festival engines and as a bit of fun we included a garden train, comprising of the box van being done up like a garden shed, complete with its own Alan Titchmarsh, and a wagon full of plants.  Like all events there is always a budget and the majority of the one for the gala is taken up by the cost of transporting the visiting engines to the gala, so needless to say there wasn’t really much, if anything, for the garden train.  Most of the plants were either grown from seed, or cuttings from my own garden, with one or two plants being purchased at discounted prices.  The mock up garden shed was kitted out with items borrowed from my own garden.

Planting Up The Wagon

The Garden Train

Throughout the year the plants were cared for at home and with some amount of planning I tried to hold back or speed up their flowering as necessary for them to be looking their best for the weekend of the gala.  I was beginning to gain an insight of what it must be like to be involved in designing a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show.  With only weeks to go I laid out the plants as I envisaged them looking in the wagon and hoped that they would survive all that the train and weather would throw at them.

It was decided in the months before the event that the best way to plan the wagon was to plant everything in plant pots and if possible group certain plants together so that they sat side by side.  All the pots would then sit on a temporary shelf built inside the wagon, this way there would be the least amount of disturbance to the plants and also meant that the wagon could be put together quickly and later emptied at the end of the weekend.  The day before the gala all the plants had to be transported to the railway and the frame was built to sit inside the wagon for the plants to sit on.

In the autumn prior to the gala I obtained permission from the railway to create a garden at Shelley Station.  When the idea for running a garden train at the gala was first conceived, it was also decided that the plants used in the train would be used to start the garden.  The initial task back in October 2010 was to dig off the turf and rough dig the whole area.   This was then left for the winter weather to break down the soil.  Nothing much changed then until the end of the 2011 gala.  Before the garden train made its final departure back to Clayton West it was emptied of all its plants and it was then a race against time for me to get them all planted before the “Shelley or Bust” train arrived about an hour later.  They were all planted in the nick of time, as the last of the plants went in, I could hear the whistling of the engines as they left the tunnel and I even had a few spare moments to get in position and take a couple of photographs of the train arriving at Shelley.

Digging over the bed at Shelley Station

Bed in April 2012

During the last year I have been on occasion to tend to the garden and notably other people have also contributed by keeping the edging tidy and also introducing the odd plant or two.  The plants used in the garden were chosen for their ability to withstand the open aspect, are low maintenance and do not look out of place in an area surrounded by countryside.

One year on and the plants are already starting to bulk up and it is looking like the garden will need to be extended next year.  I am already gathering plants that will be at home there and the process of digging the turf off and letting the winter weather help out will begin again.

Bed in July 2012

Shelley or Bust

This post was compiled by Karen Ashton, Client Manager at Balance Accountants.

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