A Kitchen Garden Notes in December? “Have you gone crazy?” I hear you yell. Not at all but a kitchen garden photographed in December is perhaps surprising but one 1050ft above sea level in the Peak District is probably astonishing.
The Longshaw Estate was acquired by The National Trust in 1931. It is now known to walkers more for its acres of countryside than for its buildings and gardens. The Longshaw Lodge is in private hands but the National Trust owns the former Shooting Lodge and it is now the visitors' centre, shop and tea room. Behind this building lies the kitchen garden.
The Lodge was originally built in 1827 for the 5th Duke of Rutland to use when visiting his shooting estate. It was utilised during the Great War as an auxiliary hospital for injured soldiers to recuperate at.
Little is known of the history of the Lodge prior to the National Trust's acquisition . The current kitchen garden dates only from 2009 but there was clear evidence of a kitchen garden on this site prior to this time.
Obviously this is a walled garden so there was a deliberate building of this garden for some use. There were signs that a greenhouse and cold frame had also once been in place and positioned to maximise the sun. At the time the Lodge was built this property would not have been in full-time use so a kitchen garden probably wouldn't have been needed. However, once it was being used as a hospital there would have been a need for it.
There are no records what the kitchen garden looked like in 1914 or what was grown in it. With 60 patients at the Lodge this space would have been too small to grow any where enough food to feed them all. Gentle outdoor physical activity was seen as good therapy for injured soldiers. Even more so in a location with such clean air and stunning views. A world away from the trenches of France and Belgium.
Rationing is more commonly associated with the Second World War but in 1917 Germany started submarine attacks on merchant shipping and with it cutting off vital food supply lines. Growing food wherever possible became a necessity. Without records we may never know when the kitchen garden was originally built or for what purpose it served, especially in such an unpromising location.
Now the garden has been planted with hardy vegetables such as rhubarb chard, perpetual spinach, leeks and cavolo nero. They need to be hardy too as these photographs were taken after midday but there was still a heavy frost on the ground. Mustard seed has been grown as a green manure to be dug into the ground next spring.
Although there is no chance of any exotic fruit or vegetables being grown here the small herb garden is still doing well. Come the summer there is the promise of soft fruit with plots for strawberries and canes laid out. A small range of fruit trees adds an extra element. In the meantime wrap up warm, take a pew and admire the view.