Gardeners in Canterbury: 1000 years ago and today
A few years ago, whilst working on an ongoing garden maintenance project in the grounds of the Barton Mill Estate in Canterbury, we made an interesting discovery.
The job of the week was to cut down an area of pretty but invasive budleia as it had taken over a swathe of land just beyond the manicured grounds about 500 square meters. Complete removal was a big task that wasn’t feasible on the budget, so we (Matt!) just took it down to a foot or so high from its original height of fifteen-twenty feet. (I told you it was big).
Once it was down, it became clear that we had uncovered what could have been some kind of market garden or smallholding. There were pear trees, cherry trees, and so very many hops. Hatfuls, sackfuls, big bushel bagfuls as the song goes. Although that songs about apples but there were plenty of those there too.
Time for a history lesson. The housing development we were gardening, mowing, maintaining etc, had previously been a paper mill set on a small island on the river Stour on the East side of Canterbury. A bit more research uncovered the fact that the island was in fact man made, a fork of the Stour dug out as a kind of natural moat. A thousand years prior to our taking over gardening services at the mill, in its place had been a monastery. The monks grew their own produce, and brewed their own ale. Hence the hops.
So our little discovery uncovered a piece of history hidden for a thousand years, and to top it off, I brewed some ale and flavoured it with the very same hops the monks used all those years ago.
It wasn’t very nice. Oh well, we’re good gardeners, in Canterbury and the local area there are plenty of good brewers, but astonishingly not Kent Arboreal.