The Gardening & Writing Residency was created in Spring 2015 to further develop the farm’s market gardens and landscape-based writing at White House Farm, the seasonal home of The Alde Valley Spring Festival.
The farm is a mixed arable and livestock farm – and part of the larger Great Glemham Farms partnership. It was awarded Regional Finalist in Natural England’s Future of Farming Awards in 2008 and Regional Winner in the 2012 RSPB Nature of Farming Awards. Great Glemham Farms was awarded the Suffolk FWAG Prize for Farm Conservation in 2012.
White House Farm and the Spring Festival are both managed using a Set of Sustainability Criteria, which place value upon ecological enrichment, knowledge sharing, dispersed economic gain and rural economic regeneration.
As part of this process, emphasis has been placed partly on the revival of market gardening at the farm. This was practiced during WWII as part of the nation’s Dig for Victory / Women’s Land Army planning. The farm’s market gardens are located on a small field called Holly Tree, which was taken out of arable production in 2006/7.
White House Farm has historic links to the creative arts and conservation through its past owners and occupants. These include Fidelity and Jock Cranbrook [Fidelity was a founder member of the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts whilst Jock Cranbrook was a founding member of The Suffolk Wildlife Trust], the librettist Eric Crozier and his wife the singer Nancy Evans. The parish of Great Glemham was also once the home of Suffolk’s gritty poet George Crabbe.
The inaugural Gardening & Writing Residency was awarded to Sam Starke in March / April 2015. Sam is a recent graduate of the University of East Anglia, with working interests in both permaculture and creative writing, alongside foraging and other rural traditions, including preserving and brewing.
The entries that follow in the Garden Blog are a record of Sam’s residency at White House Farm during April, May, June and July 2015. They follow the changes in the seasons and the breaking of new ground on the farm’s organic gardens – created in 2006/7 as a series of bare strip gardens on a Holly Tree field.
The land has been treated in several different ways, according to its soil conditions, aspect and shading. Field edges have been left as grassy headlands; a southern portion has been allocated for the drilling of enriched Wild Bird Seed mixes under a Higher Level Stewardships scheme; a run of sticky clay along the north west edge has been dug out to make an osier bed for basket-making and charcoal willow; loamy land has received an orchard of East Anglian apple trees; and a north headland has been hand-seeded with a wildflower mix : and these features, together with arable fallow, provide a geographical context for the seven 50m x 4m strip gardens.
Of the seven strips, some have been cultivated and then left fallow, while others have been seeded with grass and chicory, teasel or a green manure mix of borage and red clover. Across the lane is a smaller nursery garden with a poly tunnel. It is on this land and on these strips that Sam Starke has been working, creating a garden from the existing layout of cultivated, wild and fallow ground.
White House Farm