Eric's green fingers

ERIC Cattermole has his father to thank for fostering his lifelong interest in gardening.But the retired building company owner doesn't necessarily use all the good advice his dad imparted.

ERIC Cattermole has his father to thank for fostering his lifelong interest in gardening.

But the retired building company owner doesn't necessarily use all the good advice his dad imparted.

"My father used to say the best way to see if it was time for sowing seed was to take your trousers down and sit on the earth – if it was warm enough to sit on, it was warm enough to sow," says Eric with a wry smile.

"It's not something I do though. I always say, if the weeds are starting to grow, it's time to sow. It works for me."


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And it certainly does. For green-fingered Eric has won both best garden and best allotment titles in the Felixstowe in Flower awards for the second year running.

The glittering cups are reward for hundreds of hours' work each year on his allotment – which produces enough fruit and veg to feed him and his wife Jean, and their whole family, every year – and his garden, which is a blaze of colour.

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But Eric, a carpenter by trade and a master builder, began his horticultural passion as a five year old, helping his dad on his allotment at Broadway, Norwich Road, Ipswich.

"My dad gave me a bucket and told me to pick up all the stones and said we would make a path with them!" he recalled.

His father, manager of a co-op grocery store, eventually let him have half an allotment, on which he grew his first plants.

It was a passion which gripped him, and continued when he married and moved to Felixstowe 40 years ago.

His garden in Colneis Road is filled with thousands of plants, and his allotment just a few yards away in Ferry Road is packed each summer with every vegetable you can name – peas, runner beans, tomatoes, onions, spinach, sprouts, cabbages, red beet, lettuce, swede, cauliflowers, plus fruit.

"It is hard work, but I love it – especially the allotment, somewhere to get away to, my own space," says Eric, who has stainless steel replacement joints in both knees.

"My allotment is 20 rods and I spent about two hours a day on it. You see people start allotments, sow, come back once or twice and disappear – then they wonder why nothing grows. There is no magic – you have to work at it."

Like every gardener, Eric has tried and trusted methods, and a few secret ones of his own, but experience is the biggest factor – doing it year after year.

All his flowers are grown from seed or from cuttings, and that gives him great pleasure.

The Felixstowe in Flower judges this year assessed 28 entries in a variety of classes, in addition to the schools' entries and allotments.

Entrants ranged from retired people to the very young – with some of the youngest the children of Old Felixstowe Nursery, winners of the nursery class.

The nursery had a colourful display, which its 50 youngsters, aged from two-and-a-half to four, helped with every step of the way – from planting seed and watching it germinate in the sun on the classroom window ledge, to putting the plants in pots, and caring for them.

panel:

FELIXSTOWE IN FLOWER 2002

Small private garden: 1 Mrs S Hazelwood; 2 Mrs J Morley. Best container (private): 1 (joint) Mr E Cattermole and Mr A Barker. Commercial with garden: 1 Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club; 2 Orwell Hotel. Commercial without garden: 1 Dock Basin; 2 Messrs G Rodwell. Large private garden: 1 Mr E Cattermole; 2 Mr A Barker. Residential Home: 1 Rowland House; 2 Mill Lane Nursing Home. Best container (commercial): 1 Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club; 2 Rowland House. Hotel and Guest House: 1 Orwell Hotel. Public House: 1 (joint) Owl and Pussycat and Falcon Inn. Allotments: 1 Mr E Cattermole; 2 Mr and Mrs K Filby. Cowpasture Allotments: 1 Mr and Mrs K Filby. Schools' Gro-Bag Competition: 1 Langer Primary; 2 (joint) Causton Junior, Maidstone Infants, and Grange Primary. Nursery School: 1 Old Felixstowe; 2 Felixstowe Nursery. Schools' environmental project: 1 Langer Primary. Tallest sunflower: 1 Brooke Flower; 2 Old Felixstowe Nursery.

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