The College has 3.5 acres of grounds, which serve as a vibrant living classroom, as well as providing food growing areas and habitats for biodiversity and human enjoyment. Horticultural areas comprise two kitchen gardens, an orchard, herb garden, four polytunnels, and forest gardens. There are also areas of woodland and meadow, ornamental flower beds, a large wildlife pond, a labyrinth and a sunken garden. There are also a flock of 20 Speckled Gold, Columbian Black Tail, Bovans Nera and Coucou Maran chickens resident at the College and four Indian runner ducks. The College has just taken on an additional 5.5 acre field, for an exciting and cutting edge experiment in Agroforestry. The new field will feature a sweet chestnut grove, where a flock of chickens will roam, a fruit ‘alley cropping’ system, forest garden and hazel coppice.
The College has managed the grounds since 2007, with the help of our horticulture students, volunteers and residential workgroups. The College’s philosophy is working with natural systems, not against, designing food growing areas appropriate for environments. The gardens are managed on organic principles, where natural biological functions are nurtured instead of relying on external inputs. The kitchen garden beds are ‘no dig’ and regular additions of the College’s compost encourage a rich soil ecosystem. The forest gardens, which are edible perennial planting schemes based on a woodland structure, contain nearly a hundred species, with edible or other uses. There are also areas of fruit trees, soft fruit and perennial vegetables in the gardensThe College composts all its food waste through a Ridan compost tumbler and there is a compost toilet currently being constructed for ‘humanure’. Most of the maintenance tasks are done by hand, e.g. scything long grass, which has allowed the College to reduce its machinery use.
Our gardens are as much about nurturing people as plants, and hundreds of students have found the contact with the land and soil to be a rich learning journey. Relevant courses include a six-month Apprenticeship, where students are immersed in the day to day operations of ecological food growing, a Postgraduate Programme in Ecological Food Systems, as well as short courses.
Jane is Lead Gardener and oversees the running of the gardens, instructing and guiding student groups and volunteers in garden tasks. Jane says: “I love working at the College with its emphasis on exploring and developing respectful relationships to each other, the planet and the food that sustains us.”