Thursday 6 September 2018

Swanley Grange

As you walk down to the magnificent ruins of Fountains Abbey you pass by Swanley Grange. Before the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII it was one of the wealthiest monasteries in the country. This was made possible by the estate become as self-sufficient as possible and selling any surplus.
Swanley Grange was one of the three granges that directly served the monastery. Around the grange the sheep provided valuable wool.
The fleeces were dried and then dyed using natural materials which had been grown in the vegetable garden.
Once the fleeces had been prepared they were then spun into wool that could be sold or made into textiles.
In the vegetable garden the plot is filled with heritage varieties to give an authentic touch. A mulberry tree stands proudly at the front.
Some plots had already been cleared. After such hard work a rest is need and turf seats provide a natural perch.
Not everything is grown to be eaten. Green manure plants can be dug back into the ground as fertiliser .
Borage has been used for centuries as both a culinary herb and as a herbal medicine.
There were no signs of the summer heat or the difficult conditions that kitchen gardeners have faced this year. The onions are huge and look ready to be lifted and dried.
The produce that is grown in the garden is available to the visitors but these days it is for donations to fund the upkeep rather than to enrich the abbot.
Outside of the garden there are bee hives. This ancient practice of attracting bees in order to collect their honey is still popular today. Despite the main building of the estate being partially destroyed nearly 500 years ago it looks like the bees will have safe place to come for many more years.

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