Diggers and Dibblers

The Forncett gardening club, Diggers and Dibblers, is at the heart of village activities. A popular and lively club, it offers a varied programme of specialist speakers and social activities. It was inaugurated in 2006 as a result of recommendations in the Village Plan. Everyone is welcome to meetings to listen to the talk (often accompanied by slides or beautiful plants) and to enjoy a cup of tea with our very friendly members. The club meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month in Forncett St. Mary Village Hall at 7.30 p.m.

For more information see our List of Events, Membership Details and Contact Details.

Forncett open gardens

Written by Administrator.

Forncett virtual open gardens weekend

On Sunday we had a virtual Open Gardens in Forncett via our Facebook page as the real event couldn’t be held. We had no idea how it would be received or indeed if members would post their photos on the D and D Facebook page. It was a real success and we are going to share a selection of the photos from members of the group and from the allotments who were going to start off the event. Thank you everyone for agreeing to share your photos on the Forncett website. Here’s to a live event next year!

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Any more gardens?

If any other Forncett gardeners would like their garden added here, please send photographs to me, Richard Ball, web manager, at .


Diggers & Dibblers visit the John Innes Centre, Norwich

Written by Ally Rae.

On a very warm afternoon in July an enthusiastic group of members of Diggers & Dibblers and their friends enjoyed a fascinating tour of the John Innes Centre (JIC) on the outskirts of Norwich. This world renowned research establishment has its roots at the end of the 19th century when John Innes set up a small horticultural institution in Merton (London) with a focus on fruit and flowers and how characteristics are passed on in plants. It has blossomed over the years bringing together on the Norwich site numerous related fields of plant research and now with a special interest in agricultural plants – wheat, barley, peas and brasicas.

John Innes visiting group

James Piercy, the Communications and Engagement Officer, lead us through several of the departments, where we plunged from the heat of July into the cool air conditioned Archive and Library with a wonderful display of exquisite historic plant illustrations, the deliciously chilly Germ Plasma Research Unit (‘seed store’) at 4-6℃, the heat of massive greenhouses growing on trial plants and the compact equipment- filled rooms of the Bio-imaging Department where the most up-to-date scanning electron microscope can produce extraordinarily detailed pictures of plant cells, bacteria and viruses. A fascinating detail was the ultra-fine brush made by glueing a single hair from an eye-brow to a stick so the slivers of plant samples could be lifted into the microscopes. I could write pages about all we saw and heard, but the JIC website does a much better job than I can.

John Innes Centre

Some of the highlights for me were getting a glimpse of the range of skills and areas of research covered by JIC and it’s associated organizations. Its ground-breaking work in plant breeding, genetic research and pathogens may help us with some of the challenges of climate change – developing drought and pest resistance – and in the search for new antibiotics, many of which are derived from soil-based bacteria. The levels of collaboration across the UK and the world were impressive as was the patience needed to develop new plant variants and nurture the generations of plants necessary to see if changes are successful and desirable.

The Seed Store

JIC has been a leader in plant genetics and genetic modification remains an area on which there are conflicting views. GM crops can’t be grown commercially under EU regulations. A surprise for me was to hear that the growing medium used by JIC is based on Irish peat. This provides important comparability with earlier growing trials. With changes in legislation coming into effect relatively soon the search for another medium is now on – and hopefully will benefit the wider horticultural community. It seems as if they need a new ‘John Innes compost’!

Brands carrying this name have nothing to do with JIC as the ‘recipes’ were given to the nation during the Second World War to help with the Dig for Victory campaign. Finally it was rather lovely to hear that John Innes concern for his employees' well-being has reached down the years and the staff are able to relax from their intense and demanding work on a site with some lovely green areas and a swimming pool. The visit was free and we are very grateful to James and his many colleagues who showed us so much of what they do. Thanks also to Roger Ranson for organizing the visit for us. We were delighted to make a donation to JICs work.

How Hill Gardens

Written by Margaret Hickman Smith.

What a treat we had in store with this month’s Digs and Dibs speaker Simon Partridge. As head of the How Hill trust he was the perfect person to show us with his excellent slides, knowledge and amusing talk the little known joys and wonder of the gardens at How Hill.

The house itself was built by Edward Boardman, originally as a summer house for himself, his wife and then his family but at the outbreak of WW1 he added to it and made it his permanent family home. The development of the house and gardens in its amazing position continued up until his death and when the family finally sold it the purchaser was Norfolk Education Committee. What foresight Sir Lincoln Ralphs, the chief education officer, had. Staff training and school visits took place there and when the How Hill trust took it over the work with school visits was certainly accelerated. The house provides a superb place for the children to stay and the grounds, Toad Hole Cottage and the new centre provide a wonderful base to study wildlife and the Norfolk broads.

how hill houseThe gardens surrounding the house are not always on public view because schools are in residence but the rest of the garden is open every day and is well worth a visit. At one time they were only open for a few weekends a year to see the azaleas and rhododendrons, which are spectacular, but now work has been done to make the gardens a place of all round interest. There is also a coffee shop!! Simon showed us slides of the restoration of one of the gardens near the house which promises to be really beautiful.

This talk was special for me as I took the children from Angel Road School and every year of my time as headteacher at Tacolneston School to How Hill. It is a place of real beauty and wonder and to my great delight Isobel, one of my pupils, came to Digs and Dibs to hear the talk. I would urge you all to visit this magical place on the Broads which was so eloquently spoken about by Simon.

Diggers and Dibblers' 'Gardeners Query Time'

Written by Christina Wakeford.

A keen audience for Diggers and Dibblers' 'Gardeners Query Time' absorbed a wealth of information and advice given by our experts for the evening.

(photos by Su Leavesley,
  click photo for slide show)

Our panellists were Charlotte Philcox, garden consultant and designer, broadcaster and teacher; Ben Potterton of Blacksmith's Nursery, with a string of horticultural and ecological titles to his credit, and Ian Roofe, gardener at East Ruston, and well known for his regular spot on Radio Norfolk's 'Garden Party'.

There was plenty of easy banter with witty interjections, (mainly sotto voce from Ben), as well as serious, in-depth discussion of people's gardening dilemmas, which ranged from Brian's invasive Carex taking over his lawn and Fiona's massive attack of ground elder, to lots of non-fruiting blueberries, plums and gooseberries and leaf dropping figs.

Lady Mole Catcher - Diggers & Dibblers July meeting

Written by Margaret Hickman Smith.

Louise Chapman, BA Hons burst on to the D and D meeting in a whirl of information and hilarity! Louise started her talk with information about how she began her extremely unusual job. From Garden design to finding a gap in the market for a lady mole catcher! She made a film about what and how she caught moles and suddenly she was front page of the Wall St journal followed by The Daily Mail, the Jeremy Vine show, ITV news, The Times and the Telegraph. Her fame then spread as she went from mole catching to Brisbane to be in charge of Pest control! But moles are everywhere so Louise came home and set up her business!!

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During the next part of the talk there was a great deal of hilarity and interaction! Lots of facts about moles were given to us so here are just a few! Moles are everywhere!! They eat 20 earthworms a day and if they are starving they come above the surface and die. In a population of 64 million people there will be 35 to 40 million moles! They have no natural predators as they are bitter to the taste. Traditional mole catchers were wealthy as catching moles was lucrative. Their breeding season is February to March, this year being early February. The female is in season for only 24 hours, governed by the soil temperature with the moles moving around during the mating season. Louise gave us a vivid description of courtship and mating.