September has been another very busy month for us at Black Shed. The cooler weather has been a blessing for both plants, Helen, Ilenia, Tabitha and myself. The first rains brought a surge of fresh growth, having cut our hardworking plants back hard to save them from the heat. We saw a second flush of Delphiniums, Veronicas, Lysimachias, Mallows and Scabious, all very welcome as we kept up our demanding schedule of weddings and events. The dahlias have just gone crazy and we have had so many thousands of blooms that we have run Pick Your Own weekends for the whole month. Then the self sown seedlings started germinating… The next couple of years will be not only very colourful but possibly quite random as thousands of eager seedlings jostle for position amongst our neat and well ordered beds
I’ve been writing these Sherborne Times articles for over a year now and although the deadlines are often challenging in the midst of all the activity on the farm, I’m still delighted to be contributing to this excellent magazine. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have visited Black Shed and said how much they enjoy reading the articles and how pleased they are to learn of all the creative endeavours that are happening in this glorious part of the world.
I have a strong sense that Sherborne is on the up at the moment and we are very lucky to have a magazine of the quality of the Sherborne Times to highlight the wealth of talent and enterprise that are happening all around us on a daily basis. There’s a real sense of connection building at the moment in the area and it’s very welcome. It first manifested itself for me at the packed public meeting to discuss the possibility of the town being gifted a world class art gallery. Suddenly being aware of just how many people in this town and surrounding area care and understand about the arts and the very positive role they can play in the reinvigoration and inspiration of a whole area, was truly thrilling.
I’m really excited about the Paddock Project at the moment, it’s an astonishing gift to the town. It will breathe a great deal of life, energy and hopefully generate visitors and income into this beautiful town, whose High Street is suffering from a radical change in consumer spending habits and, in contrast to the altruism of the Paddock Project donation, landlords demanding unaffordable rents and ridiculous crushing business rates. There’s a really active community amongst the independent shopkeepers in this town, we’re determined to do the best for this town and knowing that the Paddock Project is moving forwards is music to our ears.
People’s habits have changing quite surprisingly alongside the rise in internet shopping. The rise in the importance of ‘the destination’ has been quite startling and it’s been a big part of thinking behind our idea of creating our flower farm. Who would have thought that sleepy Bruton would be host to the extraordinary Hauser and Wirth gallery, that amazing world class Piet Oudolf garden and all the spin off benefits of a thriving high street full of interesting independent shops, pubs and restaurants. Tisbury, the gentile hub of the Chalke Valleys, suddenly became a focus for all manner of contemporary arts as Messums took over the spectacular huge tithe barn, creating yet another world class art space within a few miles of us.
Now maybe it’s Sherborne’s turn? We certainly start with one or two advantages and some very good reasons to visit the town. Our incredible ancient Abbey and the wealth of historic architecture that surround it, our unique and picturesque Cheap Street with it’s views over the Castle Estate’s beautiful woodlands, shopkeepers fighting the trends to offer something different from all those identikit towns, not one but two historic castles and their wonderful grounds, Mike Burkes’ first class garden centre, some great pubs and restaurants, why Sherborne even has its own cut flower farm…
Add all this together and it’s difficult not to see a positive future for our rather special town. Bring it on.
©Paul Stickland This article was first published in The Sherborne Times October 2018