Toby and Charlie Dimmock open the Harvest Festival at Forde Abbey
The crowds and the sun came out last weekend for TV gardener Toby Buckland’s first Garden & Harvest Festival at Forde Abbey, near Chard in Somerset. The ancient abbey played host to more than 4000 visitors who came to enjoy over 150 plant nurseries and artisan food and craft exhibitors, along with a host of expert speakers and demonstrators.
BBC Ground Force star, Charlie Dimmock, kicked off proceedings on Saturday by cutting a ribbon strung between two vintage tractors, then led the talks in Forde Abbey’s magnificent Great Hall, while Christine Walkden, of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time delighted the crowds on Sunday.
A host of local craftspeople came to the show to share their skills including Dorset scythe trainer Chris Riley and willow weaver Stefan Jennings, master wood turner Martin Symes and meadow-maker Paul Jupp of Meadow in my Garden, while Kevin Croucher of Thornhayes Nursery took visitors on daily tours of Forde Abbey’s champion and unusual trees.
Toby says, “It was a truly inspiring event thanks to the wonderful makers and growers who joined in to share their knowledge – a harvest of expertise – and combined with Forde Abbey’s beautiful borders, wildflowers and water made for a unique and marvellous weekend.”
Gardeners bought and carried away thousands of lovingly grown new plants and families enjoyed relaxing on the Lower Lawn while the children learnt circus skills from stilt-walkers, The Higher Beings, and made fairy houses from foraged shells and cones with Naturemakes in the Tea Tent. On the Top Lawn, the two-day programme of demonstrations in the Demo Tepee had a full house as visitors were shown a range of harvest skills from preserving veg, to making cider, and growing flowers and veg for everything from dying clothes, to cutting for the vase and cake decorating.
Toby’s Garden & Harvest Festival is returning to Forde Abbey on 15th and 16th September 2018 but if you can’t wait till then, you can join in the fun for his fifth spring Garden Festival at Powderham Castle, near Exeter in April 2018.