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Diary of a well dressing virgin


Monday 10th April – monthly meeting of The Cliff Inn Horticultural Society– we have been asked by the Crich Well Dressing committee whether we would like to do a well dressing for July this year. It turns out that Betty helped do one last year and as long as it is kept simple then we should be okay. Ten members volunteer to help out and Geraldine offers her garage as a workspace, providing the Wednesday night line dancers would be able to shimmy their way around the frame. Discussions held on what materials we might use and where to get them from.

Thursday 8th June – Six of us go to the Wesleyan chapel where Sandra gives all the groups a demonstration of “how to create a well dressing”. There seems to involve a lot of wet clay being thrown around to start with followed by doing things with seeds, flower petals or anything else that comes to hand. It sounds like a script for ‘Allo ‘Allo. Seems all very straightforward on the tray that Sandra used but might be a bit more tricky with a full size frame. We leave, the proud owners of a wooden frame, three heavy bags of clay, a kiddies paddling pool, plasterer’s float, some sweetcorn and a big bag of fir cones.

Monday 12th June – monthly meeting and Betty has come with the design that someone has kindly drawn for us showing St Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners, standing in his garden. A rota is agreed and we are all set to start on the 29th June.

Thursday 29th June – the kiddies paddling pool is set up, filled with water and the wooden frame immersed in it to soak. Betty separates the clay into chunks and puts them in buckets to soak as well.

Sunday 2nd July – we have two grandchildren here for the weekend so we take them down to Geraldine’s garage and they join up her two grandchildren to have, what seems to be, a clay throwing contest - a lot like a mud pie fight. Surprisingly, most of the clay ended up in the wooden frame and not too much on the kids, the table, the floor or the rest of us. Betty and I smoothed it out as best we could but it would have been better if there was a plasterer around.

Monday 3rd July – back in the garage to prick out the detail of the drawing on to the clay but disaster looms as the clay seems to be too wet and the tracing paper sticks to it. So it’s out with the hairdryers. Fortunately, Sandra turns up and, when it’s dried a bit, gets us to lay the paper drawing on to the clay and use pins to prick out the outline of the drawing on to the clay. We go home with a sense of achievement.

Tuesday - Friday – now it’s a case of adding all the detail. I’m doing the lettering at the top which is picked out using cloves so at least my hands don’t smell of clay. Various members come and do their bit and gradually the picture takes shape. Betty and Geraldine disappear at regular intervals to raid the plants in their gardens.

Friday morning – the last bits are added and we are ready for weekend. My last bit is a bird which starts out as a robin but gets to look more like a parrot in the end.

Saturday 8th July – we load the frame into the boot of a car and it is carefully taken down to The Market Place and set by the troughs. Over 100 people turn out for the blessing, to hear the two choirs and see the clog dancers, a good village event. Then we take our well dressing up to The Cliff Inn and we all give a sigh of relief. It has been an enjoyable week with us all trying something we hadn’t done before or really knew anything about. Here’s to next year.