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Crab Apple Corner Opening, 30.06.2021

Date posted: Wednesday 30th June 2021

Crab Apple Corner was ‘officially’ opened with the installation of a sign and the customary cutting of a ribbon on Wednesday 30th June.

The date was significant, and the opening ceremony chosen to fall on the exact date of the Centenary of the RPA, 100 years after the Royal Warrant was signed on 30th June 1921.

A team of three committee members (Jenny Bourne, Bob McIntyre and Gill Hiley) had worked on the corner space for over a year, starting with the help of Ruth Walker in choosing and planting a replacement for the crab apple tree which had died and had to be cut down. A Crab Apple, ‘John Downie’, was selected and was planted in October 2020.

Bob enjoys digging so much that he has dug over most of the corner area, firstly for an enormous hole to give the new tree the best possible chance to grow as large as the original one which we had enjoyed for 43 years since its planting for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. Then he dug a bedding area for plants and flowers, holes for the supports for the bench, a front border with the original stones re-laid and interspersed with lavender and other perennials and finally a hole for the sign post.

Bob also created a birdbath and refurbished the bench, using recycled wood for both.

Our aim was to create a welcoming area close to the entrance where the tracks fork and everyone coming into the site can either stop and sit down to reflect, chat to other plotholders, or just appreciate the beauty of its natural space in passing. Even our fox has visited to see how we were getting on!

Jenny planted up the bedding area with a variety of annuals and perennials attractive to bees and other pollinators. It’s already looking very good and will mature to give a show of colour and texture throughout the seasons.

Nick Baylis created the waving brick paviour edging to the border, defining the bed and giving it a visual connection to Jenny’s ‘Pollinator Patch’ near the entrance gate.

We needed a name for our new communal space, and plotholders were invited to offer their suggestions, with a final shortlist being voted for on the RPA Forum, giving us ‘Crab Apple Corner’.

We then needed to put this name on a sign that could be installed on the corner, and youngsters were invited to enter a competition, sending us drawings or paintings of their interpretations of the features and character of the space. We received five glorious entries, all worthy of being made into an attractive sign, but a winner was needed, and the sign was produced ready for the opening.

Molly Baxendale Rook, age 4 (two paintings); Julian Maczko, age 6; Ernie Hunt, age 9; and Florrie Hunt, age 11 entered their work and three of them were there on Wednesday to hear the announcement and be presented with their trophies and prizes. All the entries were so colourful and well-designed that they all deserved a prize. Julian and Ernie received ‘Well Done’ trophies, Florrie received a ‘Well-Done’ trophy and a prize as runner-up, and Molly won for her painting of the tree with butterflies, a bee and a rabbit enjoying the space below a rainbow (we hope it doesn’t encourage rabbit visitors though!). Congratulations to Molly and to all the competition entrants.
Jenny introduced the event with a brief background to the project and those who helped out, before drawing attention to the young designers’ paintings. The announcements of the prizes were made in reverse order, with guest presenter Yasmin Allen performing the Oscar’s-style opening of the runner-up and winner envelopes and presenting the trophies. Yasmin is the Project leader of the RPA’s allotment garden entry, which can be seen at the Hampton Court Garden Festival this week,

David Harnden, Chairman, then talked briefly about the space and the RPA and the time around 1990 when many plots were empty, comparing it to today’s contrasting situation of all plots being full and 70 people on the waiting list, before handing over to Susan Saunders, long-time plotholder, historian of the site, previous Chair and Secretary on the Management Committee, and still on that committee. Susan talked about the evolution of the site, when it was originally created on a smaller area in 1918 to give work and food to local men returning from fighting in the First World War and their families, and citing the other event which affected them – the ‘Flu epidemic which took an enormous number of lives in 1918. 103 years later, we have an understanding of how difficult that period must have been. Susan then ceremoniously cut the gold ribbon across the entrance to the space, to applause – and a race to sit on the bench and pose for a photo!

It was a warm, very cheerful and positive occasion, with people being careful to observe safe distancing and some very happy children!

There are a few more bits of work to be done, but the essentials are in place, so please enjoy it, whether just looking or sitting on the bench with a flask of tea.

We hope it gives everyone pleasure for the years to come.

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