We bought East Ruston Old Vicarage in 1973. It had been empty for the previous two years and there was no garden here at all, just three feet high tufted grass. At this time we were both living in London during the week to enable us to earn our livings. Each Friday evening we undertook the arduous journey from central London to East Ruston, returning to London the following Sunday evening or at the latest very early Monday morning. This we did for many years, but it allowed us the delight to be able to start gardening and this we did with great enthusiasm on an area of some two acres.

 

Over the years, starting in 1989, we have had the opportunity to purchase some of the former glebe land that had originally surrounded the Vicarage plus a bit more. This meant that shortly after the mid 1980’s when we came to live here permanently we could commence gardening on a larger scale. However at that time it was not our intention to make a larger and larger garden. When it began, the sub-division of our land was influenced by a black and white slide that somebody kindly gave us. It was taken in the 1960’s during the winter and clearly showed the former small field boundaries on the ground. It occurred to us then that because of the modern farming methods a huge amount of wildlife habitat had been lost. Hedges, ditches, banks and ponds all swept away and so armed with the ordnance survey map from the 1880’s decided to put back some of this valuable shelter.

 

And so began the life of the garden that we all enjoy today although at this time our idea was to create somewhere for us to walk our dogs without using the local farmer’s fields, how things have changed. It is important to note that the garden here is an oasis in a prairie landscape where farmers have made bigger fields for bigger yields. Within the garden there is a microclimate that allows us to grow many plants that might be tender in all but a few sheltered spots. This we have achieved by the planting of shelter belts mainly of Monterey Pine, Italian Alders and Eucalyptus.

 

Another factor that helps the garden is its maritime influence. The University of East Anglia department of

climatology published charts of weather statistics over the last fifty years. One chart shows clearly that on the Eastern coast of Norfolk and Suffolk to within three miles of the sea we experience the same mean amount of frost as Devon and Cornwall.

 

Over the years the garden has grown further and now total 32 acres. We promise that that is the end of the growth in area, however it will continue to, we hope, become more ‘finely tuned’. Each winter we endeavour to create new or to improve existing areas and as all of you know, a garden never stands still, it moves on, after all it is a living breathing being.

 

Visitors to our garden are many and we like seeing them all but, it is perhaps those that are uninvited that give us the greatest pleasure. I have already mentioned the Kingfishers but, other winter visitors are Pheasant, Partridge and an abundance

of Woodcock that love the soft layers of pine needles beneath our Monterey pines where their long bills can probe for food during cold and frosty weather. Large flocks of Long-tailed Tits and Goldfinches feeding on the seed heads brighten the dark days of winter too. The numbers of birds and small mammals that now co-habit with us is amazing; last year we had a pair of Goss Hawks nesting in the Woodland Garden where they successfully raised their young. The silent and somewhat ghostly Barn Owls regularly hunt for prey here and now that we have some owl boxes in situ, who knows, maybe they too will nest and raise their young. We even had a rather rare species of Bumble Bee using a bird box as home to their colony last year all of which are delightful. We now also have the Door Mouse which is becoming incredibly rare.