Conserving Nature at Michelham

Horticultural Visit Jul 2017_1

Michelham Priory is continually improving its plans for garden conservation. The Priory, as well as being a Scheduled Ancient Monument, conserved by the Sussex Archaeological Society, is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. The site is particularly diverse for wildlife and provides a multitude of nature habitats which the Priory does its best to enhance.

Head Gardener, James Neal, is thrilled at the site’s recent addition to the Natural England Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which comes under the Landscapes for Wild Pollinators and Farm Wildlife project. As part of the scheme, the Priory’s gardeners manage a number of areas as meadows during several periods of the year. This exciting project provides free tailored advice to farmers and landowners across Kent and Sussex on land management, to increase bee and other pollinator numbers, and to help maintain the spread of plant species.

Pollinators not only include bees, but also butterflies, moths, flower beetles, pollen wasps, ants, flies, hoverflies and also mosquitoes. They all play an essential role in our food production. One in every three mouthfuls of our food exists due to pollinators. Recent figures estimate that a massive 84% of EU crops and approximately 80% of our wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

The gardening team at Michelham Priory is also conscious of preserving the variety of plant species found at the Priory. In the orchard, for example, offers a wide variety of fruit from apples, pears, figs to damsons, greengages, plums and quinces. This fantastic harvest is often carried the short journey to the Priory’s café where it is transformed into seasonal dishes under the guidance of Head Chef Neil Bennett. The vegetable garden is a lush abundant larder. Enclosed by yew and box hedges it seems to operate as its own microclimate.

To help the Priory plan for the future, the Sussex Botanic Recording Society made a recent visit to the site. The Society assesses which species are in existence and compares this with previous recordings. Michelham Priory is proud to work with local schools through the Royal Horticultural Society gardening scheme for young gardeners.

The Priory offers seasonal 90-minute gardening tours with the Head Gardener. Previous tours include Behind the Scenes at Michelham Priory, covering seasonal jobs, taking cuttings, sowing seeds, dividing up plants and picking produce if available. Tours are followed by homemade soup and a roll in the Priory’s café, with potted up plants or vegetables to take home. Click here to find out more about Michelham Priory’s next garden tour.

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