New lease of life

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 June 2014

Wells Cathedral provides an impressive backdrop

Wells Cathedral provides an impressive backdrop


As well as providing flowers and food for the palace café, this flourishing community garden in Wells offers gardeners the chance to learn new skills

Flowers are grown for the Bishops Palace restaurant and shopFlowers are grown for the Bishops Palace restaurant and shop

The Bishop’s Palace continues to build a sustainable way of life after introducing a mini apple orchard to its thriving Community Garden.

It is hoped the 10 apple trees, 
donated by The Shepton Mallet Cider Mill, will provide the palace café - The Bishop’s Table - with cider and dessert apples in a few years time.

Community Gardener Amanda Clay explains: “We’ve planted a number of different apple varieties, including Brown’s Apple, Red Falstaff, King of the Pippins and Discovery.

“Our volunteers will learn new skills in pruning as the trees grow and then eventually we can make our own cider and apple juice. Now it is all hands on deck as we make sure we look after this area - raking the manure, digging up weeds and making sure we keep any new weeds down. In autumn we will be sowing grass seed so by next year the area should look completely different again.”

Community Gardener Amanda Clay working on the herb bedsCommunity Gardener Amanda Clay working on the herb beds

The apple orchard is the latest development in the garden. A team of volunteers has built a keyhole garden, an African method of growing, and has dug a wildlife pond to accompany the many raised vegetable beds and flower gardens.

Formerly a derelict area of land, the community garden was transformed as part of the £4million development project at The Bishop’s Palace. The garden was built with a huge amount of volunteer support and offers people of all backgrounds the opportunity to develop new skills.

Work began in 2011 and today the community garden, with its large glass house, is an attractive addition to the 14 acres of picturesque, formal and wild gardens at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells. It sits next to the busy palace allotments and is overlooked by the impressive Wells Cathedral. On my visit the sweet peas are being planted in a graduation of colour from white to lavender and the arboretum has been sown with flowers. The broad beans, strawberries, raspberries and currants are growing and the restaurant is serving meals using the garden’s produce such as radishes, chard, mint, rosemary and lemon balm.

Formerly the kitchen garden, this area of The Bishop’s Palace had been abandoned for 10 years and left as a grassy field before work began to transform it.

Gardeners working here today follow organic principles and the ‘no dig’ method, Amanda explains.

“The no dig idea mimics the natural world so you put the organic matter on top of the soil and the worms come up and bring it down; you’re not disturbing the soil structure.

“It’s mostly no dig here. We had to dig part of the orchard area because we were trying to get the weeds out. But I think no dig works well with most things. In theory you should have fewer weeds because you are not disturbing the soil, so the seeds that are already in the soil are not being exposed to the light and germinating. You just remove the little weeds with a hoe when they come up.”

The gardeners working here are either individuals or community groups and Amanda welcomes enquiries from people who would like to get involved.

“Some people who come here have never gardened before, others have been gardening for 35 years. There is a huge mix of experience,” she says.

“It’s a great place to work, a nice sunny spot with a lovely view of the cathedral. I love seeing people growing things, learning and having fun!”

Anyone interested in volunteering can call 01749 988111.

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