The new year began, as always, with our AGM, at which last year's Officers were all voted back for another stint of hard labour, but what can be a rather "flat" meeting was anything but.
The Chairman's and Secretary's reports on last year's activities reminded us how busy the year had been, whilst our Treasurer's balance sheet proved to be still in the black (but only just) so subscriptions were reluctantly increased to cover the spiralling cost of our monthly speakers.
We then learnt that our entry into the "Keep Wales Tidy" competition, although unsuccessful in monetary terms, had at least won a certificate of merit which was proudly displayed to all.
Also it was announced that we had managed to raise £70 towards the Village Hall Improvement Fund, which delighted everyone.
Suggestions then came thick and fast for topics, speakers and competitions so 1997 should prove to be an interesting year and even more varied than last. February's speaker is from Usk College talking on "Labour Saving Gardening" (a subject dear to all our hearts) and then in March, Mr Peter Scourse from The Lydart will be telling us about the Hawk Rescue Centre, so if you're interested, join us on the third Friday in each month in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm and you will be made most welcome.
Since the last edition of "Parish News" we have enjoyed the visits of two speakers dealing with such very different topics.
The lecturer from Gwent Tertiary College was a person after our own hearts and we listened with joy as we were told "don't bother to cut that down - it'll have rotted by next Summer" and "leave that patch of weeds - the butterflies like them". If this is part of a labour saving garden, we were all for it.
Then the month of May brought a talk by Peter Scourse on the work done by himself and his wife at the Hawk Rescue Centre at Penallt. Birds of all kinds are looked after there before being released to fend for themselves again. It is work which Mr and Mrs Scourse have done for many years.
We were fascinated to learn that they have not been able to take a holiday together for about thirty years because one of them has to be there to "mind the shop" - what dedication!
The third Friday in May saw us making our way to Veddw House at Devauden where we were able to wander around and marvel at the amount of work already put into the 10 year old garden and even more so at the future plans.
Unfortunately the evening was very damp and drizzly and we had hardly got home before the thunderstorm broke and it seems to have been raining ever since, but not we hope in June when we visit a garden at Pen-y-Clawd.
Also in June is the County VPA Show at Usk College when ten Gwent villages compete in fruit, flower, vegetable, cooking and craft sections and great is the rivalry as you can imagine.
Tintern has slowly climbed the results ladder from ninth to fourth place last year so we're hoping to be able to report great doings in the next quarterly issue.
During all the rain we had in June, we visited Mrs Rainforth's garden at "The Graig" Pen-y-Clawd. All day we expected to have to cancel as the showers got heavier but in the end eleven members braved the weather to make the trip.
Mrs Rainforth welcomed us as the rain lifted and we were able to wander around her garden in the dry. She is a nonagenarian looking after a very large garden with only help on the lawns and for some big jobs.
The garden held many trees, lawns, large flower beds, fruit and vegetables, a bog garden and a stunning view down the valley.
If you missed the visit and want to get a look, Mrs Rainforth is holding a sale of plants and bric-a-brac in aid of "Save the Children" on Sunday September 28 between 11.00am and 3.00pm. Refreshments will be available.
To find "The Graig" pass through Mitchell Troy towards Raglan, ignore the first notice for Pen-y-Clawd, go under the A40 and turn left at the second notice for Pen-y-Clawd. The Graig is then less than a mile on the right.
On the following day in June, the County Show was held at Usk. Nine VPAs exhibited at the show. We had 10 exhibitors from Tintern with 53 entries.
I counted 11 firsts, 11 seconds and 7 thirds for Tintern. This gave us a total of 202 points which only got us into fifth place. Shirenewton came top with 133 entries and 350 points.
Every entry gains a point, so next year we could do with more entries, particularly as it seems that every other Tintern entry picks up a prize and more points.
We did have one big consolation. Tintern won the Mrs Williams Cup. Brian Young's vegetables did the trick here, particularly as we got a first in the "Collection of Five Vegetables" category.
Tintern has the marmalade market all sewn up. We came away with first, second and third in that category.
It's an interesting show to visit, it's not just the VPAs exhibiting. We were only a small part of all the activities on display.
For us the Summer months mean evening meanders around local gardens come rain or come shine, this year culminating in a visit to Wendy and Alan Boast at Rose Cottage over the water in Brockweir. The weather was a bit "iffy" but this didn't matter, as to us this was a "new" garden and needed exploring to the full. There was plenty to see and exclaim about around the house and then a short walk down the lane brought us to their allotment where fruit and vegetables abounded.
Back at the cottage, over some light refreshments, we discussed the arrangements for the Show, twisted a few arms to get entries for a county- wide competition and finally gave Wendy a vote of thanks for hosting a delightful garden party.
The Annual Show, which as usual was held on the second Saturday in August, dawned bright and sunny and stayed that way throughout the day. Luckily the Hall with all the windows open wide, stayed relatively cool so that both exhibits and exhibitors didn't flag too much.
The number of entries in each class was above average and made a colourful display for the visitors to see - and how nice it was to meet plenty of Tintern folk, wandering around the tables and enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit.
One of our judges, Mr Roy Haviland, opened the Show and presented the cups and if you have a feeling of deja vu when you read the next paragraph, you'd be quite correct.
Mr Brian Young won the cups for Flower and Vegetable classes with Mr Doug Pickering winning the runners-up cup and Mrs Jean Bathgate won the cup for the cookery section.
Of the Best in Show awards, one went to Mrs Kay Heron for a succulent and the other to Mrs Jean Bathgate for cheese straws.
All in all, a very successful day and we now look forward with aching limbs and bent backs to the shorter days and longer evenings when we can relax and plan for the next growing season.
September's meeting is on Friday 19th when a speaker from Usk College will talk to us about "A Wild Garden".
Having said at the end of the Autumn report that we were looking forward to a speaker from Usk College talking on "The Wild Garden", it was we who were wild and not our gardens, as the speaker failed to put in an appearance. Then, just to prove that lightning can strike twice in the same place, our speaker for the following month rang the day before our meeting with his apologies.
However, working on the principle "it's not what you know but who you know", we prevailed upon Alan Boast to step into the breach. He gave a fascinating talk on Venetian artists, illustrated with slides of some of the architecture of Venice as well as the works of art and we were so grateful to him for giving us such a treat.
Also during the past few months, all the County VPAs have met to hold a Harvest Festival (this year at St. Nicholas' Church, Trelleck) as well as the AGM (at Usk College). The former was well attended and over £100 was raised for the St. Briavel's Centre by auctioning garden produce after the supper held in the Church Hall.
The AGM always generates considerable interest as, after the business meeting, the results of the Spring and Summer garden competitions are announced. Rivalry is fierce between the ten or so competing villages but we normally do well as was proved by Stan and Jean Mitchely achieving third place in "The Spring Garden" and Brian Young also gaining a third place for "A Row of Carrots". Congratulations and thanks to them and to all who entered because it does mean such a lot of hard work.
With confidence (?) I can say that the topic at our next meeting is "Rambling through the Seasons" to be followed in December by our usual "squash" of a party.
It hardly seems possible that yet another year has gone by but it's once again time to give best wishes to all for a joyful Christmas and the hope of even better gardening in the New Year.