Brogdale Collections, based in Faversham, is a charity that focuses on the curation and protection of the National Fruit Collection. This extensive and really rather remarkable collection consists of over 3,500 different varieties of fruit – apples, pears, plums, cherries, bush fruit such as strawberries and blackberries, vines, cob nuts and more. It’s the world’s largest collection of fruit trees, plants and bushes, and it’s right here on our doorstep.
But more than the care of these fruits, Brogdale Collections is about education. During their open season (March to October) there are three guided tours every day, seven days a week, allowing visitors to find out more about the fruit, the cultivation of it, and what it is used for. And for schools and clubs, there are a range of unique education modules that combine science, literature and maths with information about the fruit.
Being a charity, fundraising is an important part of the Brogdale Collections’ work. Throughout the year there are a range of different festivals that take place, each one with a fruit related theme, but each one unique and fascinating. Upcoming festivals include Brogdale’s Easter events (pig racing, the chance to see – perhaps even cuddle – some newborn animals and Carlos the goat, who is something of a celebrity about the Brogdale farm estate), the Hanami Picnics (from April to May) during which the cherry blossom is celebrated and wonderfully fragrant strawberry fair in June. No matter which festival you choose to attend, there will be fruit tasting and talks giving a flavour of the reasons behind the Brogdale Collections themselves.
As well as the fruit, Brogdale Collections has a wonderful marketplace that you can visit and buy some beautiful gifts – and of course, some delicious fruit grown just a matter of a few metres away. The marketplace includes the Brogdale Fruit Shop where you can purchase absolutely fresh and totally seasonal fruit – there is nothing quite like it. It’s open from June until October, so make the most of it while you can. As well as fruit, there is a garden centre on site too. Called ‘Grow’, here you can buy fruit trees that are suitable for anything from gardens up to orchards, and you can glean plenty of useful advice from the experts on hand to help you. These fruit trees (as well as the other plants, herbs and perennials that are for sale in the garden centre) are of the highest quality since they are cultivated from the National Fruit Collection itself wherever possible.
Moving slightly (although not completely) away from fruit you’ll find Tiddly Pomme. Tiddly Pomme is the main stockist of the exceptional Brogdale pear and apple juices. All made from single varieties, this is pure and delicious fruit juice. And for those who want something stronger, there are local ciders and wines available too – and they come in all kinds of different varieties and flavours. Try cider straight from the barrel, real ales, English, European and New World wines, intriguing fruit wines and even liqueurs.
And, when you’re shopped out and you’ve explored everything the Brogdale Collections has to offer, why not take the weight off your feet and enjoy a light bite in the form of sumptuous homemade cakes at the Courtyard Café? Using fresh local produce, the menu includes all manner of delicacies including pies, cakes, sandwiches, and even a full Sunday roast as well as fine coffee and tea.