Clovelly Court Gardens. Lucy Halliday, Head Gardener

July. Another week of extremes!

Our rain dancing finally came to fruition this weekend past – to such an alarming extent that no one could have been prepared. Looking back at our rain gauge records we literally had three months of rain in the last three days…to the decimal.

Although I’m overjoyed about the rain, the wind was rather catastrophic. I’ve spent most of the weekend holding down plants as they were being lifted right out of the soil. Hopefully we have not lost anything major. Many crops took a beating as they have not yet had a chance to get used to such vigorous weather this season.

Before the rain arrived

We had reached the point of spending most of the week watering. The productivity of the crops was beginning to slow down seriously in response to the level of drought. Simultaneously we were experiencing a very positive surge of interest in the garden produce. It has been a great week for visitors’ and villagers’ feedback on flavour. The Red Lion has also been enthusiastically championing local food with a beautifully presented starter, showcasing the first of our heritage tomatoes.

Glasshouses produce

Aubergines and melons are nearing harvestable size. We continue to gain ground in our war on the pesky red spider mite. We have stepped up against this pest by bringing in an extra wave of beneficial insects as biological control. They are better adapted to the very hot, dry weather.

In the apricot house, we are undertaking some very considerable summer pruning. This may appear quite drastic at first, but one of the two mature fan trained trees has very much lost its way. The restorative pruning commenced will allow it once again to form a true fan shape – as best as a tree of advanced years can. This will take several years, but will combat its unbalanced growth and disease issues and ultimately prolong the life of the tree.

Further pruning

There will be much more head-scratching as the summer pruning season progresses. The team are learning ‘decision fatigue’, which just means you are giving it the proper amount of thought and attention. We are pruning the trees underlying biology in mind, not just its superficial aesthetic value for this season. Training fruit trees as a strategic game is more about manipulating the trees hormones. This will give the maximum yield and ornamental value in a restricted vertical space. It is a fascinating part of the work in this garden.

Developing the skills of the team

This has continued in the propagation of some of the tender perennials, such as Gazanias and Hedichiums. There is much more of this work to do and so build up a stock of interesting plants for sale from next year onward. We’ve also been able to offer growing advice to many interested villagers and visitors again this week. A garden is a wonderful place to learn. I, in turn have been learning on my visits to deliver produce to the Red Lion kitchen. They continue to enthuse me with the inventive use of the gardens produce. Long may this spirit of engagement continue.

Woolsery Agricultural show

On July 30, 2018 it is held on the field below the Estate house. Summer in North Devon would not be complete without a visit to this ever popular show. A fun-filled day packed with a programme of activities. Classes include crafts, cattle and sheep, together with horse and pony competitions. There will be a Dairy Marquee with displays such as yoghurt and ice cream making and the chance for children to “milk a cow” along with competitions. You’ll find bustling trade stalls offering locally made crafts and food with fairground rides and a bouncy castle for the children. There’ll also be a family dog show, a display of hounds, the Young Farmers’ “It’s a knockout” and to finish the day, a parade of vintage farm machinery.

It’s a great summer day out for all the family!

In aid of local charities.

A separate admission charge applies

Clovelly Court Gardens. Lucy Halliday, Head Gardener

July. SW in Bloom

Wow! What a week. A huge amount of preparation went into this past week, culminating in the visit on Friday from the Britain in Bloom regional judges along with the BBC 2 film crew. I am so proud how well the gardens team and Clovelly Community Gardening Group pulled together. And how phenomenally hard everyone worked. It is an honour to be part of such a team.

Paths were painstakingly weeded, beds hoed, turf edges put straight. Weeds were carefully removed from the borders and deadheads were snipped off. All this besides the daily tasks of harvesting, pruning and training. Extra watering was required to keep the garden surviving this drought.

It was certain pressure, but I took the decision to put the summer fruit pruning on hold for a week. We are now enjoying making the garden something ship-shape as we would like to have it all the time.

Judges feedback

The judges feedback was very positive. It was a pleasure to show around two such knowledgeable and pleasant people. They were very complimentary about our organic, minimal tillage approach; our wide diversity of heritage and organic varieties; our efforts to involve the community and the quality of our produce, despite the difficulties this season.

Judge, Jon Wheatley, highlighted the suitability of our approach to ‘dust mulching’, crop watering and turf care during the tricky hot weather. Plus our work to convert pest and disease management in the gardens to organic methods. It was fantastic to see both judges tuck into one of our juicy cucumbers!


As for other news it’s been wonderful to see lots of produce leaving the gardens with happy visitors and villagers this week. We have had masses of courgettes and climbing beans flying off our stall. Basil and currants are ever popular. As the very first tomatoes ripen, we gear up to spend more and more time harvesting and caring for the delicious crops. It feels as though the positive atmosphere we are aiming to create around the gardens is spreading. It has been a pleasure to help answer the many horticultural questions of locals who have come to seek advice for their gardens. I am very hopeful that the garden can again find its feet – and with time, a new place in the Clovelly community and a really strong standard of horticulture. This week has certainly been one to celebrate the achievements of the past four months.
Here’s to the next four and the National Bloom judging on the 6th!

Clovelly Maritime Festival

On the 14th July 2018, the day will be full of fun and packed with a programme of all sorts of activities and entertainment for all ages.

There will be another Clovelly Cup Rally with the North Devon Yacht Club! They will be racing outside the harbour across the bay. It will be an amazing sight to see, with the boats surrounding the harbour and setting off around the race course. Bideford Sea Cadets will also be joining us in the harbour with information on their club and how to become a sea cadet.

Throughout the day there will be live music, street entertainment, activities and games for the whole family, including building your own miniature boats with The Plough, Arts & Crafts, making a mermaid crown or pirate hat with Mary & Jayne, Mermaid storytelling ‘Tales from the sea’, Captain Coconut, Punch & Judy, plus face painting & henna tattoos, “Have a go on a gig” with the Clovelly Gig team and a variety of stalls selling food and event-themed arts & crafts.
It is definitely a day to remember!

Free entry for under 16’s who come in maritime-themed fancy dress costumes! Standard admission charges include all entertainment.

Clovelly Court Gardens. Lucy Halliday, Head Gardener

End of June

The last week in June was very hot and dry, but the produce in Clovelly Court gardens started to roll in with a wonderful flavour.


We spent another afternoon that week with the BBC filming for the Britain in Bloom coverage. It was good to have our garden changes and progress highlighted after just a couple of months.

Start of July

This week was full of so much beautiful sunshine again. Dry weather does present challenges, especially for vegetable and fruit crops, but it is certainly great hoeing weather!

Under glass, we train the melons, cucumbers and tomatoes every few days as they really respond to warmth. The cucumbers are gearing up although need to be shaded when the heat is too much. On the other hand, the fruit cage currants respond wonderfully well to heat.
As the produce is now increasing, weekly deliveries are sent to the stall at the Visitor Centre.
Alongside all the harvesting, annual flowers are planted to augment the ecosystem and colour in the gardens. We’ve also been sowing the last crop of the year to plant out; three varieties of kale to over winter. There is also a continuous succession of basil and lettuce seedlings to keep their tender leaves in place.
And, of course, watering continues. Some recently planted baby brassicas were sadly lost in just two days of searing heat. So the rest of the crops have been potted and fleeced to raise them a bit further before unleashing them into the current dry soil conditions.


Visitors who felt able to brave the heat of the afternoons this week asked interesting questions and gave us many kind compliments. We also enjoyed pointing out the stunningly clear sea views from Clovelly Court terraces.

Red Lion Hotel

It is always a huge pleasure to have our produce met with such enthusiasm and skills by the Red Lion chefs. Working responsively and creatively with the changing seasons to provide the best garden produce for food is certainly very appealing to the guests.

Britain in Bloom

Undaunted in their enthusiasm, volunteer hours have been merrily given by the team again this week in support of the Britain in Bloom effort.


Panoptic came to film the gardens in action and an interested Channel 4 researcher came to view Clovelly Court Gardens this week.

Hence, each season brings new learning curves and this one certainly has a lot to teach us. However, it’s hard to complain about when the sun is shining!

Clovelly Maritime Festival

Sunday 21st July 2024

Watch the exciting Clovelly Cup yacht rally against a backdrop of live music, street entertainment, activities and games for the whole family. Join us for a day full of fun, all in aid of The Mission to Seafarers.