Gardeners Shoot to Town Hall for Third Henley Seed Swap

The third annual Henley Seed Swap on Saturday (26 February) was one for gardeners of all varieties, offering a bountiful selection of seeds in exchange for donations to the Heritage Seed Library. The event, organised by Greener Henley, Henley Allotments, and Henley in Bloom, was held in the Town Hall, and attracted over 40 green-fingered patrons keen to exchange their unwanted seeds. Donations from the swap totalled £173.50, which will go to supporting the Heritage Seed Library’s work in conserving rare varieties of vegetable.

The Henley Seed Swap continues to grow with each passing year, having attracted a crop of gardeners in both 2019 and 2020. Though the swap was unable to take place in 2021 due to the pandemic, its thriving return on Saturday saw the Town Hall tables surrounded by people eager to sift through the piles of seed packets. Whilst delving through the bounty of seeds on offer, the gardeners could also exchange ideas and advice on growing. Caroline Hopkins, who attended the swap, said, “It was a wonderful event, sharing ideas, seeds and being sustainable.”

One table was dedicated to rare vegetable seeds donated by the Heritage Seed Library, whose aim is to preserve and continue varieties that might otherwise be lost. The unusual seeds on offer each came with details of their history and advice for growing. The description for a type pea, called Table Talk, read: ‘our donor was given this by a Yorkshire relative in 1940 and has been growing it ever since!’

Amongst the vegetables, flowers and herbs was a table just for tree saplings. Patrons could choose from Rowan, Silver Birch, Crab Apple and Hazel tree saplings — all specifically chosen to be suitable for even small gardens. Patrick Fleming, from Greener Henley, said, “What we don’t want to do is have people planting stuff that’s not going to thrive, and it’s going to be in the wrong place and it’s going to be too big.” The Hazel trees in question were all harvested from Patrick’s own garden. He explained, “Last year, a third of the trees that [Greener Henley] had were actually found trees. They were either given to us or we found them in the garden. I want to encourage that, because they’re locally grown and that’s the best thing to do.”

As part of their tree planting project, Greener Henley have received funding from Henley Town Council’s Climate Working Group and from South Oxfordshire District Council through Stefan Gawrysiak. This will hopefully allow them to meet their target of planting 1,000 new trees in the area this year, beating the previous record of 750.

Dave McEwan, who helped to organise the Seed Swap on behalf of Greener Henley, said, “We’re really pleased to get it going again and encourage people to grow their own, to save seeds, and to share them. It’s partly about keeping varieties going and encouraging people to garden, and it’s a bit of fun. You can try out things that you perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise thought of trying. And it’s just nice to get together again with people.”

Dave thanked the seed swappers for their generous donations, which raised £173.50 for the Heritage Seed Library. In the spirit of sharing, the surplus seeds from the event will be passed onto fellow seed swapper Jessica Philbrick, who has organised a Seed Swap on 12th March at Heath & Watkins Hardware Store in Sonning Common.