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A spotlight on Fairlight Hall

A spotlight on Fairlight Hall

Can you grow green fingers? (part two)

HOT’s Chris Cormack has been to the first of the gardening lectures at Fairlight Hall and is fuelled with a new mission to make his garden (his kitchen window garden) edible again as per the next lesson:  The edible garden.

On Tuesday 12 May Fairlight Hall held the first of its Lunch and Lecture series on Grow Your Own Cut Flowers. The talk and tour were well received and Peter Godwin, the head gardener, shone out as a man who knew what he was talking about. Although still looking young and vigorous as a perennial mare’s tail, tanned as he was from our recent good weather, the tan of a workman, his career had obviously spanned a huge variety of hands-on gardening roles, from managing large estates, through lecturing on cut flowers at a North Wales college, to having to keep cut flowers in tiptop condition as manager of the 24-hour florist on the QE2.

Hurrah for gardening!

Hurrah for gardening!

I can’t wait for the next lecture on The edible garden, because it is obvious that Peter Godwin’s real passion is producing food with taste – the Fairlight kitchen garden had things like garlic chives and at least eight varieties of mint, and yes, there was even one specially for choc-chip mint ice cream – rub it and hold it to your nose and there was a distinct chocolatey aroma!

What really impressed me is that, although Peter can theoretically work with plentiful resources, his lecture was geared towards labour and money-saving tricks; the leftovers of a Lidl lemonade bottle could serve as a preservative for cut flowers just as well as a purpose-made branded sachet; or a Milton sterilising tablet might serve to sterilise your vases, buckets and other receptacles before filling them with cut flowers.

plenty of bees - must be good!

Plenty of bees – must be good!

As a small businessman myself (ultra-small!), I admired the way Peter championed the cause of the small ‘artisan’ grower against the monoculture multi-national growers in the multi-billion turnover cut-flower industry; small and local is best (isn’t that always the case!? – see here and here). And buying local offsets the 50% import bill which the cut flower industry incurs. Also there was good advice on where to get good organic garden compost and mulch.

£35 might seem like a lot of money for a lecture and lunch, but in that glorious May weather I could only think of it as money well spent in good company and with wonderful fresh food from the estate, expertly prepared by chef and house manager Claire Ilett- a fandabbydocious idea for a birthday present for your loved one! It was also very interesting to have a guided tour of the estate gardens from such a knowledgeable man – go every month and you will see how cleverly the gardens are planned and prepared for the different seasons.

all sorts of things available in the shop

All sorts of things available in the shop.

I was interested and glad to hear that it has been a good year for bees and that the estate’s bees had already produced as much honey as they would normally in a whole year. The incidence of heavy bee swarms, derided recently in the media as a pesky nuisance, is rather a sign of vigour and renewal to be welcomed. The estate honey is on sale in the shop at what I regarded as a very reasonable price – something important for you allergenic sufferers to consider. There are also some yummy looking preserves and pickles on sale and a very comprehensive variety of seeds for quite rare varieties not so easily available elsewhere.

It is also important to note that the proceeds of these lecture events go to one of Sarah Kowitz’s pet charities, namely WorkingRite. WorkingRite helps 16-19 year olds who need support to make their way into sustained employment, apprenticeships or purposeful learning. Many important skills can only be learnt working side-by-side with an experienced adult – on the job, where it counts. The charity places young people with local businesses for  up to six months. The trainees learn in a proper workplace, receive one-to-one mentoring, earn a weekly allowance and are given the chance to prove themselves in the real world of work. As many as 80% of the approximately 350 young people who complete the programme each year progress to a job, apprenticeship or purposeful learning.

Laura Watson, one of the beneficiaries of the scheme, said she initially wanted to do a design course at Rye College, but her maths let her down. By taking up a WorkingRite placement with Primesigns she reckoned she learnt more while being paid and was about to progress to a full apprenticeship which she felt would lead to a full-time position. She had even reached a higher level in maths.

Peter Godwin is also heavily involved in the estate’s outreach work and the preparation of apprentices in horticulture. It seems he is visiting local schools every other week with advice and encouragement in gardening – a fruit and veg and raised bed project at Hastings Academy, a tree-planting extravaganza at Sandown primary.

Sarah Kowitz gave us all the red carpet treatment – a red carpet was rolled out to show us the way to the bathroom facilities! Thank you, Sarah, for an interesting day out and thank you, Peter, for sharing your expertise.

Lunch and a Lecture 2015: A series of garden talks at the Fairlight Hall recital room, Fairlight Hall, Martineau Lane, Hastings TN35 5DR. £35 per person, to include a light lunch, a lecture and private garden tour with head gardener Peter Godwin. Buy tickets.

See also Can you grow green fingers? (part one)

Would you like to join a small friendly team, helping to look after the amazing gardens and learning as you work? Try volunteering.

HIPCC Prizewinners’ Recital Series: Summer Recital July 5 @ 3-7pm. £20.

Specialist and Continental Plant Fair 2015 September 19-20.

Lunch and Lectures at Fairlight Hall

Lunch and Lectures at Fairlight Hall

Posted 16:28 Wednesday, May 27, 2015 In: Green Times

Also in: Green Times

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