Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Succulent in Newent

The George Hotel in Newent today was amazing value: only £2 for a pint of beer, plus a two-course lunch for £5. How different from pubs in the Cotswolds (hardly 15 miles distant). Though succulent wasn't perhaps the first word that sprang to mind to describe the meal, it fitted well the splendid Yellow Book garden we visited this afternoon.

I hadn't come across the Land Settlement Association before. During the 1930s, 21 estates of smallholdings were created by the Association - with government funding - for unemployed men, some of whom were coal miners. Prophetically, you might now say, the scheme was promoted by those who believed that post-industrial society in the UK meant a permanent “surplus” of men from heavy engineering occupations, shipyard workers and engineers as well as coal miners. The only alternative to long-term unemployment and perhaps social unrest was thought to be a return to the land.

John and his wife Linda came as tenants in the 1970s, growing three-quarters of an acre of tomatoes hydroponically under glass. When the LSA scheme was wound up in 1982, they were able to purchase their holding, subsequently (with retirement) turning it from a market to a pleasure garden.

The result is "Schofields": just a mile from the Newent bypass, but down a narrow lane, it's not open except by appointment, and really only for groups. It was kind of John to spare us two non-experts so much of his time, as he and Linda certainly have full hands: their two and a half acres of woodland, underplanted with hellebore and daffodil, must be best in the Spring, but the three-quarters of an acre round the house was a mass of colour. Best of all, one of the vast tomato houses (1000 square metres) is full of cacti and similar exotica, a mini Eden Centre in West Gloucestershire.

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