The abbey habit is growing, Isle of Wight County Press

The abbey habit is growing

By Richard Wright

Friday, May 3, 2013

 

The abbey habit is growing

Produce from Quarr Abbey. Picture by Matt Noyce.

GARDENINGIF EVER a project deserved to be blessed, it is Quarr Abbey’s gardening idea.

We all know gardening is a great therapy, both for mind and body, and if it creates wholesome veg and fruit and a few flowers to boot plus an income for charities, what could be better?

The community of monks and staff at Quarr have created an opportunity for Island community groups and charities to take on an area of Quarr land on which to grow produce.

It started small scale but it is now expanding with the idea of utilising the monastery land to create an Island growing 'hub’ where people can work together for a common goal, learn new skills and enjoy working and being outside.

They say necessity is the mother of invention and in this case it is a truism. Time was when there were enough vigorous monks to grow all they needed and manage a substantial estate but as numbers dwindled, to the point where they can be counted on both hands, something else had to be done.

The area of land made available to groups is dependent on what it can manage and is leased on an annual peppercorn rent

Land Usage Scheme participants work alongside head gardener Matt Noyce to devise a growing list of crops that is appropriate to the size, ability and the site too.

Quarr guarantees to buy all saleable produce from the groups at half of the price of a local nominated supermarket.

Quarr Abbey then sells the produce on to the wider community through the abbey’s farm shop, as well as produce being used in the abbey kitchen and the tea shop too.

Quarr has also teamed up with local businesses, such as the Priory Bay Hotel, to discuss supplying them with quality produce too.

Matt said: "Although Quarr Abbey has its own vegetable plot, we already have two allotment partners taking part in the scheme. Both John’s Club and Southern Housing’s Monday Group Quarr Abbey Project are current participants.

"These groups actively support development, education and social inclusion for their members. Despite the trials of last year’s fickle weather, all have done considerably well.

"There has been tremendous interest in Quarr Abbey’s farm shop with dozens of varieties of vegetables, soft fruits and plants being grown across the three plots."

That ranges from interesting and tasty heritage varieties of potatoes, beetroot, carrots and beans to garlic, chillies and salad crops.

The best bit is everyone has enjoyed growing the produce too.

Quarr Abbey is planning to expand the Land Usage Scheme to accommodate more allotment partners and is welcoming any groups to contact Matt to show their interest.

Another community project that is ongoing at Quarr Abbey is the volunteer programme.

Aiming at giving volunteers a chance to play a valuable role at the monastery, there are positions available in the gardens and estate and in other areas of the abbey and tea shop too.

Ideally the abbey would like people to commit to at least one day a week but more time would be greatly appreciated.

• For more details, e-mail admin@quarr.org or phone 01983 882420 ext 203.

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