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The Forest Garden

The top of the site is slowly turning into a forest garden. An edible garden of Eden which the late Robert Hart describes as "a tiny imitation of a natural forest designed to achieve the utmost ecomony of space and labour. Like a natural woodland is has three layers of vegetation: trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Once established it requires minimal work and provides fruit, nuts, salads, herbs and other useful plants and fungi."

So in our forest garden we have apples, pears, cherries, plums, damsons, mulberries, hazels and walnuts, with fruit bushes in the middle and over 50 different perennial crops making up the bottom layer. Not just the usual herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme but weird and wonderful plants that you wouldn't find in the shops like daffodil garlic or yellow asphodel with its beautiful sweet tasting yellow flowers.

Part of our ethos is to look to new foods that might be useful in the future _ as well as protecting plants from our past.

As Ken Fern points out in his book `Plants For A Future' "There are well over 20,000 known species of edible plants in the world, plus many more that have yet to be documented, and more than 5,000 of these can be grown outdoors in Britain. I wonder how many of them you have ever eaten?"

Nowadays fewer than 20 species of plants supply about 90% of all our plant foods. Isn't it dangerous to rely on so few plants? What would happen for example if all our wheat crops were destroyed by disease?

However, its not just new food crops that are being ignored, older varieties of vegetables are being lost every year, and so there's one part of the site that always gets people talking...

The Outlawed Vegetable Garden

In the UK alone 97% of the vegetable varieties available in 1903 were no longer available just eighty years later. Does it matter? Well, the UK's largest organic gardening organisation, the Henry Doubleday Research Association thinks so, and have set up the Heritage Seed Library. As one of their gardeners pointed out "genetic erosion is a mass extinction every bit as important as the loss of species from tropical rainforests."

Every year seed companies decide that it is not worth their while or is too expensive to register certain seeds. That means they aren't put on the National Seed List and so they can't be sold. Plants that may have characteristics that might be useful in the future would be lost if it were not for the amazing work of the

   

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