2022 Summer/Autumn Update: A good year for apples, despite the summer drought

Not all years are equal and 2022 has certainly been a good year for apples and pears, at least here at The Garden House. Whether it was due to the relentless sunshine or just the natural variation between years, we are not sure, but with the rain after the long period of dry, the orchard crop has finished nicely. It has been great to be able to send fruit in all directions to grateful recipients.

We have sent apples to Godalming and Surrounding Villages Community Store, and St. Mark’s Foodbank in Godalming, Jigsaw in Cranleigh, and the Juicing Day at Rosamund Community Garden. The Growth Team from Surrey Choices picked apples for Hale Community Centre Fridge and Cupboard; The Harbour, St. Joseph’s Specialist Trust, and Lockwood Activity Centre volunteers picked apples, and any volunteers on the estate have been helping to munch through the harvest whenever they were within reach. Apples have also regularly been put on our mobile stall for passers by. We also sent cider apples to The Garden Cider Company for a return in cider next year. All very pleasing for all involved!

Less positive has been damage caused, we suspect, by foxes. With the hot weather, the low water level of the ponds have exposed more pond edge than usual. At the woodland pond, we found pieces bitten out of the EPDM liner, which was very frustrating, and obviously didn’t do much to help the levels go up when we finally received rain at the end of August and beginning of September – repair in progress and maybe large pebbles and turf might help to protect exposed pond liner, especially flappy bits in future…

The Barn Owl Box

We have been pleased to see 2 barn owls using a barn owl box that has been donated to us and hope that there have been young hatched in there this year. We have also seen baby coots on the big pond this year which makes for a fine sight if you get to see them before they hide in the reeds.

Jenny Greenland painting by the pond at The Garden House

It has been a busy timetable with groups this year and we have been glad to fit in some time for newcomers Unsted Park School; 1st Witley Beavers – pond dipping, and looking at possibilities with local artist Jenny Greenland.

The Workshop has completed a task for Godalming College, making ‘drama flats’ and we had a visit from Ian Coult from the Repair Cafe in Godalming, to name just a few happenings.

Very dry conditions 9th August 2022

According to the Met Office, “July 2022 was the driest July for England since 1935”. By August, we were struggling to keep some plants alive and the grass was tinder dry. Lots of watering, but no lawn mowing required!

Interestingly the combination of weeks of drought followed by heavy rain seemed to cause a couple of significant branch breakages. A couple of substantial branches fell randomly in September. Good for firewood, not so good for anything underneath – which has luckily only been squashed shrubbery.

The garden has been ticking over in the background. Volunteers have had the chance to take home cabbage, black kale, tomatoes and we finally managed to pick a few berries, such as strawberries, blueberries and greengages from our fruit cage after too many seasons of squirrel damage. Chicken wire is now over the whole frame (and door) to keep out the squirrels for which the original plastic netting was hopeless. Outdoor tomatoes ripened better than usual this year and no signs of blight, yet (5th Oct. 2022), and we have had good carrots and winter/early lettuce amongst other successes this year. The hot weather has helped to germinate 2 avocado pears and 2 orange trees in the polytunnel. We will see how they get on…

Thoughts on Climate Change

Thoughts on Climate Change – written by Andy Holdaway, Estate Manager at The Garden House

The evidence has piled up so high – climate change is a reality.  So what is my point?  What is really worth discussing is the seriousness  and the need for everyone to collectively try and steer our path to something better.  The more you look into the situation for yourself, the more you can understand just how important it is for us all to do what we can to reduce climate change and to help others to make a difference – not later, not when convenient, now.

4 years after its production, I recently watched Chasing Coral1  (available on Netflix, Youtube, etc.).  I hadn’t heard of it, but now that I have seen it, it really is a call to action, one of very many.

Coral death is just one casualty of climate change happening within the lifetimes of the current generation of humans on our planet.  It is one of the many ecosystems on which other life depends, but it is such a big part and though we are away from the sea at The Garden House, we need to understand the interconnectedness of everything on our planet.  

‘An estimated 25 percent of all marine life, including over 4,000 species of fish, are dependent on coral reefs at some point in their life cycle.’2  

With diminishing fish stocks from unsustainable fishing practices and more recently unexplained massive loss of crustaceans such as crabs3, what happens in the sea ultimately comes back to impact our lives on land.  I think what really hit home about the film Chasing Coral was the impact that a couple of degrees of warming has on particular living organisms.  The way corals live exposes it to the warming of the sea – like us being warmed by 2 degrees, imagine being warmed internally from 37 to 39 degrees – we wouldn’t last long in a state of perpetual fever.  That is the situation for coral in seas being warmed by two degrees.  It can’t cope and an ecosystem dies – that’s all the creatures that rely on that coral going with it.

Couple this temperature rise with a decrease in ocean pH level and the situation gets worse.  Much has been written about the ‘acidification of our oceans’4.  Greater levels of atmospheric CO2 combines with H2O to form more carbonic acid in the seas, and marine organisms find it increasingly harder to build their shells and coral formations of calcium carbonate.  Beyond the devastation of lost coral reefs, which really is devastating when you see it, there is also the loss of the carbon sink function, which would lock carbon into the sea environment, and the loss of food chains on which we have come to rely.

We might as well continue and say that the oceans are the major sink for the heat created in the atmosphere as well as a sink for CO2, so it is not good that with an increase in sea temperature comes a reduction in the ability of the oceans to absorb CO25 – and there is concern for the oceans releasing rather than absorbing CO26.

Looking at the last few hundred years, the impact humans have had on Earth is so rapid when compared to the the millions of years that Earth has existed and evolved.  Our ‘business as usual’ thinking is often so vastly at odds with natural ecosystems that we need to see how all the little impacts of our actions add up, and really do what we can to fit with nature rather than clash with it.

It is a mistake to underestimate the effect that our individual choices make, because these are what add up to create the whole impact and each person making choices knocks on to what others do – the things we buy, the way we travel, the food we eat, the way we manage land and (try to manage) nature, etc.  We can’t help but notice what others are doing and if we are seen to be doing something, others will see that as a guide to their choices.

“Oh look, they are cycling to school, we could cycle to school.” (‘Sometimes’ is better than no times)

More cyclists equals more perceived need for cycling infrastructure and greater understanding of cyclists needs, leading to more cyclists and less pollution – just one example of individuals’ choices leading to progress for others.

More understanding of some farmers practices being bad for the environment and choosing food grown in a better way equals more demand for better grown food.  Farmers who carry out poor practices will be forced to farm differently for economic reasons, if for no other reason.

Are we buying products from clear felled rainforest – teak, palm oil, soya, cattle meat?  Looking in to where products and food really come from and the impact that they have is very valuable.  If the origin is not known, it is probably best to expect the worst and look for alternatives with green credentials and an ethos of caring (not to be compared with ‘greenwash’).

I recently heard that if all farmers changed the way that they farmed and stopped deep ploughing this could have a massive impact on the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere – just one of the many solutions.  Supporting farmers who are making changes to greatly reduce carbon release is just one of the things that we can do.  I feel that it is our duty to ask about these things that we don’t necessarily know about – who is doing the good stuff?  It always seems that when there are enough voices on a subject things change.  I feel very aware that I should speak up more for what I believe in, hence this piece of writing.  I hope it helps.

Supporting energy providers working towards renewable energy equals more demand and progress towards getting away from fossil fuels.  Greater understanding of the full carbon requirements of nuclear fuel is also worth understanding and consideration for the management of the radioactive waste and risk, both now and in the hundreds and thousands of years ahead, compared to the lower risks and adaptability of much renewable technology.  The Garden House currently uses Ecotricity7 for its energy to try and support best practice in energy production.

It frustrates me that those in charge of our country don’t seem to work to create the best environment for us to live in for the health of us, the planet and all of the other wonderful life on it.  Please aim higher!  Letting everyone know how important looking after our planet is to us cannot be underestimated, whether through voting, daily conversations, conversations with decision makers, representatives, social media, direct messaging, letters or other ways which constructively and healthily inform decision.  Isn’t it better to spend some more of our hard earned money on looking after the planet and ultimately our mental and physical health than going out with a bigger bank balance?

Where possible, within our means, choosing products and services which genuinely support our champions of good practice seems a better focus than those pushing the best prices for the sake of profit or self interest.   

Having a 5 year old son has been a good reason for me to read The Lorax8, a very effective story about the perceived need for things driving the depletion of resources, but I would have done well to have read it at some point, anyway.  Dr. Seuss, you clearly make your point!

The kind of people involved in projects like The Garden House often seem to be quite like minded in concern for our planet and its many environments, so I hope we can act as something of a hub for local people involved to share knowledge on the good practices out there and the good actions that we can support.  Thank you to those who have helped me to learn more.

As a sustainable land project, The Garden House is a place where you can learn about good practice for reducing climate change.  We are happy to help people learn about food growing, learn the value of ‘dead hedging’9 instead of burning garden waste, composting instead of creating methane producing food waste, planting and growing trees to absorb carbon, no-dig growing – reducing carbon loss from soil, building soil carbon content and holding onto carbon in soil – I would like to add biochar/charcoal to our soil for this purpose of locking carbon in.  Our casual exchanges have included discussing holidays in the UK, reducing the need to fly, reduced meat consumption, healthy diets and ways to enjoy the experience – little nuggets of knowledge and experience coming together, helping build our collective reduction in damaging climate change.  We have unfortunately also had conversations on the subject of adapting to climate change.  

We are supporting the growing of good, sustainable practice.  

With a solutions focused approach, I wish you, “Good luck, Everyone”, and please help to spread your knowledge of ways to a sustainable future.

Andy Holdaway, 15th December, 2021

Note from Andrew and Caroline 

When we developed our plans for The Garden House almost ten years ago, we set out to create a model environment through sustainable use of the land and buildings, adding value to the community, enhancing knowledge and understanding, promoting well-being, and leaving a legacy for the next generation.  Whilst these were only words at that time, the infrastructure and environment we have been able to put in place, and continue to develop, has underpinned this thinking.  And the energy and knowledge that Andy has invested in the project has brought to life many of the key elements outlined in our Vision.  He has achieved this in collaboration with the local community.  The steps we are taking seem tiny in a global context but, as Andy emphasises, our individual contributions and knowledge sharing can be powerful tools in the fight against Climate Change.

1 Chasing Coral – A film by Exposure Labs

2 https://www.epa.gov/coral-reefs/basic-information-about-coral-reefs

3 Apocalyptic: dead crabs litter beaches in north-east England – The Guardian, 29.10.21



5 https://www.carbonbrief.org/new-study-suggests-oceans-are-losing-the-ability-to-absorb-carbon-dioxide

6 https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-cautions-ocean-risks-losing-its-ability-absorb-carbon-exacerbating-global-warming

7 Ecotricity – green energy supplier


Free Carbon Footprint Calculator available on the Ecotricity website – see how you are doing! – A bit crude, but doesn’t take long and might help.


8 The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_hedge

Please feel free to share these thoughts where you think it might be useful.

Wondering what our Shed/Workshop sessions are about?

Patrick Abrahams gives a great little talk on men’s sheds which should give you an idea of what our community workshop is all about. We welcome both men and women!

Our shed/workshop now runs on Tuesday afternoons between 13:00 and 16:00. We are looking for local people who might like to join us. Please contact us in the first instance. We would be very grateful if you are able to pass on this information to those who may be interested. Many thanks!

More info on our workshop

Pollinate – Sharing Experience

Having worked in the areas of sustainable living, organic gardening, small scale organic farming, sustainable land management, community and social projects, and dabbling in rural crafts, I have been thinking about the scope for crossover between projects and individuals and the value of skills and knowledge sharing.  Pollinate is the result of this.

The idea is to network and collaborate for mutual benefit – assisting other people and
projects, whilst learning from others; sharing skills, knowledge and experience.

I will focus on local connections in the Surrey and surrounding areas, but will travel further as appropriate.

If you would like to link on this, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Andy Holdaway, at:


07557 554261