Brightening Norfolk’s fields - and people’s lives

When Belmont Nurseries opened one of their tulip fields last year, over 5,000 people flocked to see the flowers. Plans are now underway to repeat the event which raises crucial funds for a vital local charity

With their dazzling colours and beautiful buds, tulips are truly stunning springtime flowers, and when Norfolk’s fields burst into bloom it’s an incredible sight to behold. Terrington St Clement-based Belmont Nurseries is the only commercial grower of tulips in the UK, and every year their fields create vibrant views that can rival the most spectacular in Holland. 

“Last year we worked with The Norfolk Hospice Tapping House to open a field near King’s Lynn to the public,” says Mark Eves, a director and farmer at Belmont Nurseries. “The tickets disappeared almost as soon as they were released, and we collected over £21,000. Tulips for Tapping has really taken off, and we’re hoping to raise even more this spring.” 

Mark decided to launch the event in 2021 after speaking with Lindsey Atkin, the Community and Corporate Fundraising manager at The Norfolk Hospice.

“We do it all for them because they’re an amazing charity,” says Mark. “Most people only associate the hospice with end-of-life care, but they do so much more than that.”

Located in Hillington, The Norfolk Hospice helps people suffering from chronic and life limiting illnesses and provides crucial support to their families and carers. 

“We want to help people live as well as they possibly can for as long as they possibly can,” says Lindsey Atkin. “Supporting patients and their families is at the heart of everything we do.”

The hospice provides a wide range of crucial services including rehabilitative day therapy, in which patients can take up new hobbies, learn to cope with their symptoms, and join peer support groups. The compassionate charity also helps people come to terms with their diagnosis, offers their loved ones emotional support, and has an Inpatient Unit and Hospice at Home service to provide quality care based on individual needs. 

Last year, The Norfolk Hospice helped over 1,100 patients and their families, and delivered outstanding care and support to the local community.

“The Tulips for Tapping event was brilliant for us,” says Lindsey. “Not only did it raise much-needed funding, but it also enabled us to gain new volunteers and raise awareness of what we do.”

Growing top quality tulips is a long process, and I’m glad something good now comes from the first flowers that bloom in the fields

And Mark is thrilled to see that something special comes of his fabulous flowers. Though the colourful tulips look magnificent in the fields, they’re grown as a bulb crop, so not a single one of the flowers is sold.

“The bulbs spend a year growing in the field to ensure they’re strong enough to produce good quality flowers that are going to last,” he explains. “After they’ve bloomed and been admired, our de-header removes the tops from the tulips and they’re used as compost. Initially we want the bulbs, not the flowers themselves.” When the heads have been removed, the bulbs are harvested, dried, stored and sorted by size. 

The smaller ones will be replanted in the fields the following year to make them grow stronger, whereas the bigger bulbs are placed in trays of water to allow their roots to develop. The trays are transferred to cold stores which are kept at 7°C - the optimum rooting temperature. 

Whilst nestled in the cold stores the bulbs grow longer roots and develop small shoots, and after about three weeks they’re brought into a large glasshouse, which is heated to 17°C.

“We always try to do our bit for the environment so we warm the glasshouse using overhead water pipes that are heated by burning recycled wood chips,” says Mark. “At the start of the year, Lindsey and her team collected people’s old Christmas trees in exchange for donations. They gathered about 500, all of which have been turned into wood chips to help grow the tulips.” 

In the warm glasshouse the bulbs assume spring has arrived, and after about three weeks grow into stunning high quality flowers. They’re then taken to the pack house where the bulbs are removed to be recycled as compost. The tulips pass through a remarkable machine that x-rays their heads and sorts them into bunches of similar sized flowers, and they’re finally packed and sent to supermarkets across the country to be bought, gifted and enjoyed.

“It’s not hard work, but it is constant work,” says Mark. “Growing top quality tulips is a long process, and I’m glad something good now comes from the first flowers that bloom in the fields.” 

Mark and Lindsey are currently working on organising Tulips For Tapping again this spring, so make sure you look out for online updates.

“We can’t predict when the flowers will bloom so can’t set exact dates for the event, though it should take place in late April or early May,” says Lindsey “You can keep checking our website for information. We’d love to see you there, although please remember you must have a ticket to attend.”

To get a glimpse of Mark’s tremendous tulips and support the inspirational work of The Norfolk Hospice this spring, visit www.norfolktulips.co.uk and www.norfolkhospice.org.uk Please be aware there is no disabled access as the field is on uneven ground, and dogs and drones are not allowed. 

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