Fringe Box



Effingham Eye: Blooming on the Vine

Published on: 13 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 15 Mar, 2017

Our occasional column on the life and times of Guildford Borough’s easternmost village…

By Chris Dick

Blooming on the vine that is Effingham is what I consider to be one of its retail jewels, the Vineries Garden Centre. Mistaken by many, to be in Bookham, it is one of the best independent thriving garden centres I’ve ever visited.

The five-acre site used to sell vines up until the late 1800s and still sells them during the springtime. There have been surprisingly few changes of ownership since those early days. Of course the business has changed and evolved to meet the demands of its customers.

The Vineries Garden Centre and Nursery Entrance

The present owner and managing director Ian Weiland took over the business in 2007. Ian had worked for the previous owners since leaving school in 1976 and only took over on their retirement.

General manager Michelle Smith with managing director Ian Weiland

With an emphasis on homegrown plants, they grow a wide range of crops to sell through the garden centre.

One of the glasshouses full of healthy perennial wallflower – Erysium Bowles Mauve – plants

Ian says “We grow what we can here in Effingham and where possible we source the balance of products in the UK with a focus on local suppliers and producers.”

The core business focuses on providing a wide range of products including plants, fertilisers, chemicals, tools, compost, pots, seeds and wild bird food.

Vineries Cafe – a community hub for Effingham

For the past decade it has been undergoing a program of improvements. A new café with some comfortable seating has become the main daytime meeting place for Howard of Effingham School mothers and residents alike. The recently installed ceiling insulation and fans control the temperature throughout the seasons.

There are many regulars including the oldest paperboy in the village who has written a book on every racecourse in the country.

They have provided a small area in the café where dogs are permitted, although as a dog owner I would prefer that reversed to give a small area where unaccompanied humans are permitted.

But hats off to the Vineries as it’s a pleasure to have some refreshment, with your pet, without hearing the false news you get about health and safety rules that allegedly prevent dogs in cafés. The truth is that dogs are permitted in cafés if the café owner does not mind.

During my recent visit when I was able to meet Ian and Michelle I was surprised by some of their lesser-known facts:

They employ 45 members of staff with a further 40 associated with different outlets, including the Emporium, Elms skip hire, R&R Motor Repairs, garden furniture, barbecues and the in-house Bonsai concession. The later even attracts visitors from as far away as Penzance

Part of the Bonsai concession

The Vineries has 30 free-range chickens and are self-sufficient for eggs in the café during the summer laying season. Currently the chickens are indoors because of the bird flu concerns.

Staff care for Sebastapol curly feathered geese – one of which had bitten Michelle on the ankle two days previously.

They are specialists in growing Geraniums and are major sellers of miniature Tête-a-tête daffodils. And later in the year they have the largest supply of dry bulbs for spring flowering and sell over 140 varieties of tulips.

Michelle Smith with a Bocketts Farm lamb next to their Tête-a-tête daffodils

On top of this array of services and products they also assist the RSPCA by running a bird sanctuary for small birds such as those about to become homeless or where their owners can no longer look after them. These include budgerigars, canaries and rose bourkes. None of these are for sale although any results of breeding may be sold.

Roy Gill – Surrey’s oldest paper boy?

The oldest paperboy

I also caught up with Roy Gill, the oldest paperboy in the area and possibly in Surrey. Roy, who is now 78, works for local newsagents Sibleys. Roy has a love of horse racing and two years ago wrote a book entitled ‘From Epsom to Tralee, A Journey Round the Racecourses of the British Isles’ with a foreword by Frankie Dettori MBE.

Roy’s book – with a forward by Frankie Dettori

Roy’s passion began in 1955 when his father took him on his first visit to Epsom racecourse. As Roy puts it, his father Reginald was a milkman and part-time illegal bookie. Roy, who enjoys his regular visits to the Vineries café with a fellow racing enthusiast said, “They have nice staff, do a good cooked breakfast and it’s warm there. I’ve visited other cafes but the Vineries is the best”.

You can find the Vineries on the north side of Lower Road just east of the Howard of Effingham School. There is plenty of free parking and it’s a true Effingham community hub.

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Responses to Effingham Eye: Blooming on the Vine

  1. Penny Peters Reply

    May 25, 2021 at 11:29 pm

    What a fascinating article, full of facts about The Vineries I had no idea about. Went there yesterday for coffee, outside seating is a plus. Picked up some excellent bean plants, really healthy and great value. They are doing a great job.

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