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Today I drove the many miles southward to Hanbury Hall – a National Trust property near Droitwich, just south of Birmingham.  I went to interview the Head Gardener for the sustainable food bulletin I edit as part of my volunteer role for the National Trust.

Hanbury Hall is possibly one of the prettiest Trust properties I’ve ever visited.  The formal gardens are immaculate and full of colour – lots of orange and purple. 

The house is very similar to my local Dunham Massey, but a little bit fancier and with more detail. 

They have an Orangery and a Mushroom House (where mushrooms were grown for the Vernon family back in the 1860’s), and a large orchard full of ancient apple varieties. 

But I was there to see the Walled Vegetable Garden.  Down the end of long walkway, surrounded by high Yew hedges (very Alice in Wonderland!) are two old wooden gates set into a high red-bricked wall.

Inside was an idyllic scene of a beautiful working kitchen garden.  There were chickens picking happily at the grass, neat row of vegetables – cabbages, Rainbow chard and lettuces to name but a few, bee hives and polytunnels (one bursting with a stunning display of colourful pumpkins and squashes).  Sorry – I didn’t take any pictures inside the garden!

Hanbury Hall’s vegetable garden not only supplies the tea rooms with a bounty of fresh produce, eggs and honey throughout the year, but visitors can buy vegetables direct from the garden – simply ask a gardener for a celeriac, and they will go and pull one up for you right before your eyes, or maybe you’re after ruby red forced rhubarb – they can pick that for you while you watch.

How cool is that?! 

After having a tour of the kitchen garden and doing my interview, I said goodbye to Neil, the Head Gardener and went for lunch in the tearoom. 

In the tearoom you are greeted by a counter full of cakes (like most National Trust tearooms), but here at Hanbury they are quite different – perhaps you are tempted by a slice of their rich and moist Chocolate Beetroot Cake (I certainly was!), or their Parsnip and Caraway Seed Cake, maybe it’s their Honey Cake or my favourite a Victoria Sponge?

What’s special about these cakes is they feature vegetables and ingredients from the Walled Garden – beetroot, parsnip, caraway seeds, honey, eggs, and homemade jam (made with their own fruits, of course).  I was also told their made courgette cake and even potato cake!  All sweet.

In addition to my slice of Chocolate Beetroot Cake (which I didn’t eat first, I promise!), I had a bowl of vegetable soup with vegetables from the kitchen garden, and an apple and blackcurrant juice from a local producer in Worcestershire.  The cake defeated me – I couldn’t manage the last mouthful – shameful, I know!

What a lovely visit and a delicious lunch, and a big thanks to the friendly staff at Hanbury Hall. 

If you’d like to visit Hanbury Hall you can find more details here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hanburyhall.

*Photos taken with camera phone – not looking too bad!

So on the way home from work, N and I met up at our allotment to dig up what seems like ten tons of potatoes.  They are happily stored away in an assortment of saved paper bags.  I took a wander round the allotments and took some snaps of the lovely plots that other people have – none of mine this time, it’s looking more like I’m cultivated weeds…

The nice man who owns the plot next to us is growing these beauties…

yellow squash

And another plot that is stunning and designed like a garden complete with lawn and benches has a fence that is partly covered in a vine.  In amongst that vine are these dark, glossy green squash…

green squash

There are purple beans…

purple beans

Giant cabbages…

cabbages

Yellow courgettes and their delicate flowers…

yellow courgette

Greenhouses overflowing with ripening tomatoes…

greenhouse tomatoes

…fattening cucumbers…

cucumbers

…and onions drying…

drying onions

There is corn as tall as me…

sweetcorn

Blackberries are turning in the brambles surrounding the allotments…

blackberries

Apple trees are groaning beneath the weight of their laden bows…

apple tree

There are pears plumping up…

pear tree

pears

And fat marrows discarded by the path…

marrows

One lucky plot owner has in one small space two types of apple and a plum tree at the back, all of which are sagging, heavy with fruit…

fruit trees

The final burst of sweetpeas are overshadowed by their neighbours…

sweetpeas

Mallows, hollyhocks and scrambling nasturtiums are taking over where the poppies were…

cottage flowers

And jolly sunflowers bob in the breeze…

sunflowers

My allotment offers up one final surprise of early summer – another crop of ruby red strawberries, sweet and juicy…

late summer strawberries

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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