Sowing seeds of sustainable island living

The 'Nunnington Four' ' Nigel, Nick, Mark and Gary - organic gardeners at the National Trust's Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire'And Nick Fraser, head gardener at Nunnington Hall, planting onions in the garden on the Farnes.

The 'Nunnington Four' ' Nigel, Nick, Mark and Gary - organic gardeners at the National Trust's Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire'And Nick Fraser, head gardener at Nunnington Hall, planting onions in the garden on the Farnes.

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ALLOTMENT plots that were last used by lighthouse keepers on the Farne Islands more than 100 years ago, are being put back into production thanks to a team of organic gardeners.

The walled garden plots on the islands of Brownsman and Inner Farne, situated off the coast from Seahouses, were last used between 1809 and 1909 by three lighthouse keepers and their families who lived in cottages on the islands.

It is thought that Grace Darling, who lived in the cottage on Brownsman until the age of 11, would have helped her father grow their own produce.

Today, the Farne Islands are inhabited by a team of 11 National Trust rangers between the months of March and December and for the first time in more than a century, the islands will once again grow produce for their hungry inhabitants.

David Steel, head ranger for the National Trust on the Farne Islands, said: “Life on the islands can be quite a challenge at times.

“Our nearest shop is a boat ride away and the weather often limits when we can make trips to the mainland.

“To be able to open the door and pick fresh produce when we need it is a fantastic prospect.”

About 12 organic garden volunteers from the Trust’s Nunnington Hall, in North Yorkshire, arrived on the Farne Islands last Tuesday and led by head gardener Nick Fraser, they dug the plots and planted an abundance of fruit and vegetables.

Nick said: “We had to choose carefully when deciding what to plant.

“Before we made the decision we tested the soil, researched what grows well in sea air and worked out what would best withstand the extreme weather the rangers can experience on the islands.

“This is a test year. We need to see how things survive and which plants cope.

“We plan to come back every year for a day or two to make improvements and it will be a number of years before the garden is established.”

Dwarf apple trees, blackberries, rhubarb, potatoes and onions are just a few of the items being planted.

They are also installing a water butt and building a compost bin thanks to funding from the National Trust’s internal Greener Gardens Fund.

To keep up to date with life on the Farne Islands follow head ranger David Steel’s blog at http://farnephoto.blopspot.com or follow him on Twitter: @NTSteely.