Usk and Wye Organic Gardeners Visit Primrose Earth
On Wednesday 30th June, we had a group visit to Primrose Farm and Earth Awareness Trust in Felindre. I had been looking forward to this for some time, having visited the farm several times last year, and each time being bowled over by the beauty and serenity of the place.
The tour started with Paul Benham, our host for the evening and owner of Primrose Farm, telling us how he began his journey, 25
years ago, of transforming 1½ acres of fields into the highly biodiverse landscape we see today. He showed us the many and varied uses of willow for screening, which was essential in the early days to fulfill his obligations to prevent the polytunnels from being seen from the road.
Further down the driveway, the low willow hedge that borders the Benham’s private garden is made of many different colours and textures, including the use of contorted willow – which we thought a wonderful idea, and one that I expect some of us will try in our own gardens. Paul then showed us the keyhole herb beds, the solar panels that provide hot water for the house and the B&B next door, and the clay bread oven.
Our next step on the tour was to the commercial side of the farm – the vegetable allotments. It never ceases to amaze me how productive this section of the farm is. The polytunnels are full of beans, courgettes, tomatoes, carrots, parsley, cucumbers and even melons, whereas the outside space is filled with every kind of salad you could imagine, with a fair crop of onions, garlic, leeks and peas. The site is bordered with fruit trees, and a wildlife pond with around 80 native pond plant species provides home for the ducks, which operate a regular slug patrol.
The tour next took us into the forest garden part of the Trust gardens. This was one of the earliest areas of the gardens to be developed, and is full of dozens of varieties of apple, with an understorey of summer and autumn raspberries, blackcurrants and jostaberries. In early spring, the floor is carpeted with wild garlic. After a brief stop to admire the composting loos, Paul explained the building of the many cob and earth structures on the site, and showed us more recreational uses of willow – this time in the form of mazes, of which there are at least two in the gardens.
Next on the tour was the Keder greenhouse (see http://www.kedergreenhouse.co.uk) and herb spiral made of bottles. Then around the corner was another stunning sight – a Celtic roundhouse, and then a tour into the sensory garden, smelling the Cytisus battandieri (pineapple broom) on the way, via the medicine man and peace gardens. We thanked Paul for a wonderful evening, just as the sun was setting.
For those who are interested, Primrose Earth Centre also provides volunteering opportunities, and other visits and courses. I can highly recommend the 2-course seasonal meals that Paul and Jan host from March through October, in which you also get a chance to tour the gardens with a much smaller group. See http://www.primroseearthcentre.co.uk for details.