Author: Holly Rackham

The Melon Ground Sessions

As we dare to peer over the lockdown horizon into May we thought we’d offer something musical that is safe and rather special. 

We’re not encouraging singing outdoors until we know it’s absolutely safe but in the meantime we’re planning some outdoor instrumental events with some of the best players in The Midlands. All hosted by the irrepressible guitarist extraordinaire Vo Fletcher.

The music will range across all genres – we kid you not, from standards that you know and love to inspirational improvisations as our musicians get the first chance for over a year to do what they all love – playing with other people. 

We’ll settle down in the gorgeous Melon Ground with numbers limited to just 50 so that we can all be close to the performers but safely distanced from each other seated at tables. Speaking of tables there’ll be a selection of wines, beers and soft drinks with some excellent artisan pies to snack on if you’re peckish. 

Music will commence at 7pm but you’re welcome to arrive from 6pm if you’d like a stroll around our gorgeous gardens whilst you’re here. We’ll aim to finish around 9m. In the event of inclement weather we’ll set up under our stretch tent on the archery lawn where we can all stay dry whilst still being outdoors. 

Entry is £12 and pre-booking is essential click here to buy your tickets


Here’s the schedule of players:

May 27th Vo will be joined by Violinist Ric Sanders

June 10th Vo will be joined by Pianist Phil Bond

June 24th Vo will be joined by guitarist and oud player Sam Slater



Learn more about the musicians joining us here:


Vo Fletcher

In a long and varied career Vocalist/Guitarist Vo Fletcher has played, recorded and toured with: Nigel Kennedy, Fairport Convention, the Ric Sanders Group, Rik Mayall, Tuxedo Bay, Touch & Go, The Albion Morris Band, Catherine Howe and Brent Ford & The Nylons to name but a few. He used to be a presenter on Channel 5 but he’s alright now. 


Ric Sanders

Ric was born and brought up in Birmingham. He joined Fairport Convention in 1985. 

The violin was Ric’s first love and he took up the instrument as a youngster. His first professional engagement was in 1972, touring Europe with Stomu Yamashta’s Red Buddah Theatre. 

During the mid-1970s Ric was in demand as a jazz soloist and worked with, among others, Michael Garrick, Johnny Patrick and legendary jazz pianist Jaques Dieval. In the late 1970s, Ric pursued both his folk and jazz interests as a member of, respectively, The Albion Band and Soft Machine. He toured and recorded with both bands. With The Albion Band, Ric performed at the National Theatre.

In 1980, Ric and Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge formed Second Vision. They recorded an album and toured extensively. Ric next teamed up with guitarist Vo Fletcher in music education projects: the duo supported a Musicians Union initiative in schools and recorded for BBC television. 

Since 1985, Ric has played full-time with Fairport Convention but has continued to take an active interest in jazz and other musical forms. He has collaborated with June Tabor, Andrew Cronshaw and Martin Simpson among others and also recorded solo albums and a violin tuitional introduced by Jools Holland. His session credits include Roy Harper, Jethro Tull, Strawbs, Pentangle, Gerry Rafferty, Loudon Wainwright III, Robert Plant, The Fureys, and Ashley Hutchings among many others. 

As well as Fairport Convention, Ric has his own trio, The Ric Sanders Trio, with Vo Fletcher and Mike Gregory. The group performs a wide repertoire of jazz and good time blues


Phil Bond

Phil Bond, born in Worcester playing professionally since the age of 18. Worked with Del Shannon, Henry Lowther, Fish, Dana arBras, Fairports, Dylan Project, Syrian musicians, Irish musicians and SGB. Resident musician/composer at Liverpool Children’s Theatre.

Written music for the BBC, Art exhibitions and much more. 

Has been ‘pianist for hire’. Slept on couches, worked ships, busked around Europe, played 5star hotels and played in most European capitals. Always writing and playing, based in Birmingham most of his life, lived and worked all over the planet. 


Sam Slater

Sam is a musician, composer and producer, playing guitars and the Arabic Oud for a number of eclectic jazz, world and roots music projects, alongside long-standing touring and writing with the critically acclaimed gypsy jazz, flamenco and contemporary classical instrumental band TG Collective, and Anglo-Polish singer songwriter Katy Carr.  He has performed worldwide, from the mountains of Bulgaria and castles of Spain, to the many festivals and concert halls of the UK, and car parks of southern Serbia!

Sam also directs the jazz-inspired Birmingham record label and artist development indie, Stoney Lane Records, and live producers/programmers Mubu Music.

He has played on live sessions from BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends to Poland’s Trójka Radio, with his music featured on television from NBC and ESPN to the BBC, ITV and CBeebies!  In 2020, he won Best Crime/Investigative Track from the American PMA Mark Awards for his co-composed string quartet, A Curious Voyage.


Fun and Frolics in the Gardens this August!


Gardening Tips for May

Gardener’s Tips for May

It is now time to give your borders some attention. All the sunshine and showers means the garden should now be at its vibrant best. Remove any faded spring bedding at the end of the month, it’s served you well but it’s time for a change and old bedding can be put in the compost bin to go back on the garden next year as mulch.

Once the risk of frost has passed (what do you think?), plant out summer bedding and ensure it is kept well watered so it can establish.

Ensure any perennial weeds are swiftly removed and hoe off any annual weeds , don’t let them get the chance to flower and seed as this will greatly increase your workload. Tie in any shoots of climbing  plants in your border. Plants like clematis are easier to manage when offshoots are short and young, if you allow them to get too long it’s almost impossible to prise them away from other plants they get tangled up in without snapping.

Hanging baskets

If you want hanging baskets plant them up now and allow them to establish for a few weeks in a frost free space make sure that when you put them out you keep them well watered, pick off the dead flowers and give them a liquid fertiliser feed every few weeks this should keep your hanging baskets flowering throughout the summer. 

Veggy times

You can start to harvest rhubarb this month, twist the stem at the base of the plant but ensure you leave a few stems on each crown.

Don’t strip it bare as the plant needs to be able to feed its own crown.  Continuing with this  theme on the vegetable plot, if you have asparagus ensure that you stop cutting to leave some spears to grow at the end of the month. They produce a lovely ferny foliage which is

needed by the asparagus crown to capture sunlight to replenish its crown for next year. Potatoes that were planted in April  (oh yes they were!) can now be earthed up, by drawing up mounds of soil up around the plant this will help the potatoes create more tubers from the buried stems and increase your crop.

You may have been mowing for a few months now, but it’s time to establish a regular routine. Mowing weekly will ensure you get a denser turf. A denser turf means a better looking lawn and less opportunity for weeds to establish – No don’t be tempted to do it too often because your ‘just want to get out there!’  

For further tips follow the link to view the RHS Gardening Tips for #nationalgardeningweek