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Digital Subscriptions > Kitchen Garden Magazine > 267 - December 2019 > WHERE THERE’S MUCK THERE’S MAGIC


Hundreds of years of manure have helped create a growing oasis on Exmoor. Gardening writer Steve Neal visited this delightful farm garden to discover more
Grandsons Leo and Ben check the rabbit-proof fence

Exmoor has always done countless shades of green pretty well and the setting of Higher Ranscombe Farm is no exception. It’s at the eastern end of the national park, tucked in under Grabbist Hill with Minehead over the other side.The steep sides of the combe are covered in mature trees. Facing the other way there’s a collage of fields, as though someone has been carefully gluing bits of material and card, and beyond these you can see the village of Timberscombe. Birdsong interrogates the silence. From a wall opposite the house a spring gushes out, the same one that supplies the house’s drinking water and waters the vegetable plot. You suspect it’s been like this for a long time.

“Whenever I come to this, I stick the spade in and reap the benefits of the hard work of centuries,” says Rob Reed, who was born in the house.The thatched house with its bulky cob walls first appears on a map of 1701 but it’s older than that. And there has always been a vegetable garden. The soil, sandy and loamy and free-draining, has the local reddish tinge but here in the vegetable garden the colour is more muted. Four hundred years of cows and their manure have done their copious business, and successive custodians of the plot have ensured that it is well dug in. Rob’s grandfather dug it before him and his own father could sometimes be heard digging at nine o’clock on a summer night, after a day’s work with his dairy herd.The supply of well-rotted manure has been constant, even though the dairy cattle have been replaced by beef, and with plenty of horses in the village you’re never that far from a manure pit or pile. The result is a micro-soil, peculiar to the farm.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Welcome to Kitchen Garden Magazine! In this issue: SPUD LOVE ✪ Gardening expert Rob Smith has some great top tips for growing tasty spuds. EDIBLE EDGES ✪ Ben Vanheems encourages us to use walls and fences to pack in more produce. SUCCEED WITH CAULIFLOWERS ✪ KG editor Steve Ott reveals his top tips for cracking curds And much more!