03 Nov New beginnings…
Imagine stumbling into a forgotten garden, where everything appears almost exactly as it was 100 years ago. This is Brent Eleigh Hall, Suffolk. After weeks of waking up in the night worrying about manure, rabbit proofing and Himalayan Balsam, my first day as Head Gardener of Brent Eleigh finally arrived. After sorting out office space I headed out into the garden and began tending the figs – these have been shaped into wonderful espaliers and fan themselves almost the full height and breadth of one wall. Despite the November weather bird song filled the air and surprise, surprise I found a wild primrose in flower, within the protection of this wall the microclimate is already hinting at spring.
The soil is rich and crumbly, a dark chocolate loam and the beds slope gently downwards to a central path. Already there are such scrummy things as artichokes, asparagus, apples, strawberries, raspberries, pears, leeks, vines and a peach house. Victorian glasshouses await renovation and antique tools lie on their sides. Seemingly a million miles away (but in actuality around seventy) is Novikov, a cutting edge restaurant with a brave and unusual vision; to bring the love and care of a traditional Victorian kitchen garden right into its modern kitchens. To taste something of the past in a setting of the future.
Everything is in place. All that is needed is us. The project begins.