Longshaw Kitchen Garden: Marsh Heritage Award

The Longshaw Kitchen Garden is a project run entirely by volunteers © National Trust / Peak District

The Longshaw Kitchen Garden is a project run entirely by volunteers

Question: What does Longshaw’s Kitchen Garden have in common with a stately home in Northumberland, a restored Victorian glasshouse in Norfolk and a cider-making project in Dorset?
Answer: A dedicated team of volunteers whose commitment has won them a national award!

Every year the Marsh Christian Trust and the National Trust present The Marsh Heritage Award for volunteer groups that have added value, made a difference and inspired others. The Awards are the brainchild of Brian Marsh OBE, chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust, who set up the charity in 1981 in order to recognise the “unsung heroes” working in conservation, science, the arts, heritage, literature and volunteering.

In December 2011 teams of volunteers across the country applied for the Marsh Heritage Award and a panel of judges then sifted through the applications to whittle them down to three winners. However, there were four, as Longshaw Kitchen Garden achieved joint 3rd place with Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, winning £250 to spend on the project.

The award ceremony took place on 21st July at Corfe Castle on the Purbeck Estate in Dorset, near to where the winning team of cider makers, The Old Volunteers, are based. It was a beautiful setting for the event, which was held in a marquee at the foot of the Castle. Representatives from each team of volunteers gave a short presentation to Brian Marsh of the Marsh Christian Trust, Sue Wilkinson, Director of Supporter Development, National Trust and other staff and volunteers from the winning properties. Volunteers Diane Gourley and Dave Bone joined me in an overview of the last 18 months in Longshaw’s Kitchen Garden, demonstrating how, with a lot of hard work and dedication, a neglected lawn could become an incredibly productive organic garden.

As proof of the pudding is in the eating, we’d taken along some goodies from the garden, including a selection of salad leaves and vegetables, together with blackcurrants and strawberries which went very well with the mini clotted cream scones provided by the catering team at Corfe. The Purbeck Team gave us a demo of their apple press and we sampled the resulting juice, which was delicious. We were also given a bottle or two of the winning cider to take home and share with the rest of the team.

Longshaw Kitchen Garden has a fantastic team of truly dedicated volunteers who have worked really hard over the last year and a half to make this project happen, so it was wonderful for our team to receive this award and gain national recognition of our achievement. We’re now planning what to do with our prize money, as we’d like to use it on a specific project, which we could develop over the winter – Longshaw’s gardeners are always on the go!

This year, despite the disappointing weather, we’ve had another bumper harvest and our new raised bed has produced exceptional crops of salad leaves and lettuce. The fruit has done particularly well with masses of strawberries and blackcurrants which Longshaw’s Catering Supervisor, Sue Dunster, used to create a delicious cheesecake recipe earlier in the summer. This autumn our apples are looking good too. All our produce is organic and used in Longshaw’s Tea Room so why not come along and sample it for yourself.