Make sure you look out for a new book now on sale at Dronfield Hall Barn – “Grandma’s Garden” by author Dave Darwent.

If you enjoyed the late Cynthia Ramsden’s books, “Garden Tales” and “A Garden in My Life”, this publication is for you!

Sumptuously illustrated throughout, “Grandma’s Garden” combines a factual documentation of the evolution of a garden from farmer’s field, to 1920’s new build housing, to modern day established suburbia. The book is a social history of the only family to have lived in the property since it was built, and therefore the sole creators and maintainers of the garden, and includes a number of original recipes devised by the author, the current gardener, or the author’s grandmother.

Dave is a Principal Learning Technologist and leads the PGCert in Digital Teaching and Learning at Sheffield Hallam University. He enjoys an eclectic range of activities and interests, particularly baking and developing new and less usual cake recipes – such as Brussels Sprout and Avocado Cake, gardening, restoring pre-war domestic electrical appliances to working order, walking and running. He recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions:

Who, or what, were your influences for writing the book?

My two primary influences were wishing to document the history of this garden, which must be almost unique in being a modest, suburban, garden attached to a  pre-war semi, which has remained in the same family for almost 100 years, and responding to encouragement from Cynthia Ramsden, whose own books were inspirational and whose personal enthusiasm for this garden were both highly influential.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Initially, when the garden first started to open for the NGS (National Garden Scheme), I produced some small leaflets for visitors to take, listing the collection of roses (many planted in the 1930’s), the main features of the garden, and the steps I take to be ‘green’, or environmentally responsible in gardening. Over the first two years of opening many visitors asked if they could have the recipes for some of the cakes served on open days, so I put together a small booklet of my cake recipes. Both the leaflets and the recipe booklet proved popular and these, alongside the influences above, became the original idea for the book.

Will there be a sequel?

Although a sequel isn’t currently being written, I do have ideas for a slightly more substantial recipe book and/or for a book purely about the plants in the garden. These will have to wait until my Doctorate is completed though!

And finally, what do you like about Dronfield Hall Barn?

It’s hard to imagine that such a quiet and peaceful place is a matter of feet from a huge supermarket car park and a bustling high street, and only a few hundred yards from the mainline railway to London. It’s a wonderful place to visit for excellent cake and a coffee away from the hurley-burley of modern life. The barn also provides a wonderful community service and during the Covid pandemic this became even more important as they helped people in the area with groceries and provided a point of human contact. I’m pleased that the Barn can profit from sales of the book.

Look for “Grandma’s Garden” on your next visit to the Barn – the book is available for £10.  Alternatively, you can order it from our shop page by clicking here.