Mostyn Kitchen Garden: a living, growing foodie delight
There is something very appealing about the old-fashioned fruit & veg shop, produce neatly arranged, great blocks of colour, six types of British apples in autumn, squashes of all sizes and colours, bananas hanging on butchers hooks, not a plastic wrap in sight.
Mostyn Kitchen Garden is the living, growing version of this foodie delight. Row upon row of healthy vegetables and fruit bushes laden with jewel like berries. Phil Handley is the Horticulturalist who manages this wonderful space. 2.5 acres of fertile soil, bordered by 12 feet high brick walls creating a micro climate in which everything thrives. Once a Police Officer, Phil trained in Organic Horticulture at, what was, Northop Horticultural College and soon found himself the guardian of Mostyn Hall’s Victorian Walled Garden.
The Victorians knew a thing or two about growing their own food. All self respecting landed families of which the Mostyn’s were right up there, had their own kitchen garden producing everything the family needed for their daily living plus many exotic fruits grown to impress their wealthy visitors. Home grown pineapples were the ultimate table centre piece. The high walls, some of which had cavities inside which fires were lit during the winter months to keep delicate plants alive during North Wales winters, and the greenhouses enabled year round growing with enough food for the family, guests and the many Estate workers.
Back in the day, an army of 52 gardeners worked within these walls but now Phil relies on volunteers to help with the daily tasks of planting, weeding and harvesting. As Phil explained, ‘the garden is run as a social enterprise for the benefit of people across the community and we work with groups with physical and mental health special needs. The value of gardening as therapy is well known and the opportunity to garden in this amazing environment is something our volunteers really look forward to and enjoy.’
Many varieties of fruit and vegetables are grown. Some are sold to local people but most are used in the Mostyn Kitchen Garden range of preserves and sauces. Phil’s wife Debbie is responsible for the production kitchen. Speaking while stirring the latest batch of Spicy Tomato Chutney, Debbie says ‘all of our jams, chutneys, pickles and sauces are produced in small batches in our own kitchen without any artificial colours, preservatives or flavourings. Our high fruit content products have amazing flavour and quality because we use our own produce, picked when they are ripe and in the best condition. We sell through local farm shops and delis and love going to our Local Food Festivals where people can taste and buy our products.’
Located adjacent to Mostyn Hall in Holywell, the garden and its community work is supported by Lord Mostyn and the Mostyn Estate. It is rarely open to the general public and the Taste North East Wales event on Sunday 6 October is a unique opportunity to see beyond the walls of this Victorian walled garden, to hear from Phil about the day to day working of the garden, glean a few useful gardening tips and enjoy afternoon tea including jams made with fruit from the garden. As an added bonus dog loving Phil & Debbie are passing on all proceeds from the afternoon to Almost Home Dog Rescue in Nercwys. Book your ticket for only £10 here.