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)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

    Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003