Saving the apples of Prince Charles's eye

A corner of the Garden of England which is devoted to preserving thousands of fruit varieties is itself under threat.

BROGDALE, NEAR Faversham in Kent, home of the National Fruit Collections, is a place close to the hearts of keen fruit gardeners everywhere. This is partly because of the inherent fascination of the place, where 2,500 varieties of apples - including one dating from Roman times - at least 500 pears, and a myriad of plums and cherries, grow. It enjoys the best fruit-growing conditions possible in our climate, and is situated smack in the middle of what is left of the "fruit garden of England".

I suspect that the goodwill that Brogdale generates may also stem from sympathy engendered by the financial vicissitudes which have dogged it for more than 10 years, and have resulted, on several occasions, in its being saved from closure at the 11th hour.

First it was the Prince of Wales who rode to its rescue in 1990, when changes in government funding led to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) being forced to pull the financial plug on what had been an important fruit research station.

HRH stepped in and, together with the local council, Swale, provided a sufficient mortgage for the Brogdale Trust to be set up. It could then continue to cultivate the National Fruit Collections, with some help in running costs from Maff, and open to the public. (Maff owns the National Fruit Collections, but the Trust provides the home and the organisation for them to be visited.) This mortgage, it was agreed, would be paid off over 10 years, ending in 2000.

Unfortunately, not enough to date has been raised by public appeals to pay off the mortgage. The Trust has therefore been feverishly active for the last year in trying to secure Brogdale's long-term future.

It is possible that it has succeeded. The Trust was introduced by one of its Friends to a Kent firm of developers, Hillreed, which has bought the entire estate of 149 acres from the Duchy of Cornwall and Swale Borough Council and paid off the mortgage. The Trust is currently a tenant, but Hillreed has promised to give back 141 acres, provided it can build houses on the remaining eight acres, most of which is classified as "brown-field" land. It has promised also to provide a new visitors' centre, offices, a laboratory and various other facilities.

It remains to be seen whether Hillreed will get planning permission to establish a residential development of 89 houses in an area where such development would not normally be contemplated. The Trust hopes, however, that it will be considered as an "enabling development", deemed necessary for the continued viability of the Trust and to prevent dispersal of the National Fruit Collections.This application will be considered in the next three months. The consequences of failure would be serious for the Trust, for it would then have to raise enough money to buy back the land.

In a perfect world, no doubt, it would not be necessary for an organisation such as the Brogdale Trust to depend on such an arrangement to secure its future. But Hillreed's action has enormously boosted morale at Brogdale. As Jane Garrett, the chief executive, says: "Confidence has broken out."

Sponsorship deals are being made, and funds are now forthcoming for a number of educational projects. Education of the public is one of the Trust's main objectives, and one with which it has been highly successful in the decade since Brogdale opened to visitors. The Trust already has planning permission for a number of imaginative fruit gardens on the site, and intends to put in a bid for National Lottery money should Hillreed's application be successful. Having seen the plans for myself, I am rather hoping that the future's bright, the future's apple.

If you wish to support this scheme, write to Brogdale Horticultural Trust, Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ. The Trust is also offering a two-for-the-price-of-one ticket to 'Independent' readers, who bring a copy of this article with them, to see Brogdale during blossom time (Tickets, pounds 2.50, available from 20 March until the end of June, include a guided tour); e-mail: information@brogdale.org.uk or www.brogdale.org.uk

Ursula Buchan's latest book, 'Plants for All Seasons' is published by Mitchell Beazley (pounds 16.99)

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

    £550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

    Data Insight Manager - Marketing

    £32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

    Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

    £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

    .NET Developer

    £600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape