Alnmouth WI, Meeting

View of clouds over Church Hill in Alnmouth.
Picture by Jane Coltman
View of clouds over Church Hill in Alnmouth. Picture by Jane Coltman

Gardener delights

There was a lot of buzz at the last meeting of Alnmouth WI, so with a full house Sue Ellis, our vice-president (Janis unable to join us), and Yvonne, in her usual place by her side, started the meeting welcoming all members, especially some visiting from WI groups in Lesbury, Warkworth, Felton and Amble.

As Sue had no wish to keep our speaker waiting for long, outstanding business was quickly gone through.

And as most of the information of up and coming events at Cresswell House were itemised in the WI newsletter, she suggested that we catch up during supper. Copies were on each table to go through and consider which are the most appealing events, among the many to choose from.

Yvonne did mention, however, that this year we won’t be doing our usual cake stall for Hindmarsh Hall at the Friary Day, which will be on Sunday, July 17, and instead will be running a tombola stall. She was asking, of course, for interesting items to fill the stall.

I think our members have the ‘white thumb’ from all the baking we have done celebrating the Queen’s birthday event, which was a great success, hence the change of track.

Sue then introduced Sean Murray, our patiently waiting speaker for the evening.

As most of us had seen him on TV receiving his award as the winner of the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge, we were really looking forward to meeting him in person and hearing his story of how it all happened.

He didn’t let us down as he was spellbinding in a very laid-back, casual way.

Sean was the son of an Ashington miner, and from a very young age loved growing things, including designing and redesigning his father’s garden where they lived in a council house at Newbiggin, much to his father’s neighbours’ interest.

He took up nursing very successfully as his first career, which lasted 35 years.

However, because of his love of, and talent for, gardening his daughter, backed by his wife, suggested entering The Chelsea Gardening Challenge after seeing a programme on television while on holiday at Center Parcs, which he did.

Sean was one of five applicants accepted after many interviews with the RHS judges, and it became the start of his second career at 53 after being accepted.

He did have some critics, being the only applicant without any qualifications, other than his natural gift of growing and design.

But by elimination, and almost becoming a nervous wreck in the process, he eventually won.

The brief for his Chelsea garden asked for by the RHS was for a ‘front garden with room for a car’.

Incorporating empty rusty baked bean tins into a sculpture, using coal, of course, and raiding skips and the tip, Sean used his imagination, intertwined with a beautiful assortment of flowers, to successfully come up with an amazing garden in keeping with the challenge.

He gave his talk without any notes whatsoever, and with great humour and knowledge – a delightful Geordie lad, who has done exceedingly well through his own endeavours.

Pam Muggleton thanked him on everyone’s behalf and wished him well with his new career in garden design, based in Ashington.

As it was a pooled supper, produced, of course by our own members, we all tucked into delicious savouries and sweets, and didn’t care about the calories, with much to talk about following our excellent evening.

Our birthday girl this month was Caroline Martin.

As there is no meeting in August, see you all in September.