• Garden
  • Vineyard
  • Bee Keeping
  • Other Activities

Our walled garden is both productive and ornamental. We have raised beds, including a permanent asparagus bed, that are used for growing vegetables, while the fruit cage protects soft fruit from birds. Greenhouses are used to propagate vegetables, flowers and herbs as well as for greenhouse crops such as peppers, aubergines and tomatoes. All our produce is available for our gardeners to take home.

The Cottage Garden is an attractive ornamental garden with the wildlife pond as its focus, while the Avenue leading to the Herb Garden combines the ornamental with the productive, having espaliered apples and pears and climbing roses trained along its length. The Herb Garden revolves around a central, seated area where scent from the garden can be enjoyed as we sit in the shade of the pleached Hornbeams around the outside.

Photograph of the gardensPhotograph of the gardensPhotograph of the gardens

Our Knot Garden has been laid out to a precise design and we have recently added a new seating area surrounded by trellis and some grassy mounds, one of which can be used to get an elevated view of the garden.

We continue to develop this wonderful space that we have, allowing gardeners the opportunity to bring their own ideas to bear.

Since the initial creation of the organisation, we refrained from using chemical fertilisers and pesticides as much as possible. Employing organic principles of horticulture and attempting to work in harmony with nature encourages an appreciation of our environment and our own place in it.

In April 1999 we secured a lease on five extra acres of farmland adjacent to the Walled Garden. This land has been used to create an organic vineyard - one of only a handful in the country. We have been through the organic registration process, which involved a period of 'conversion'. This was completed in 2004.

VineyardThe south-facing slope has been planted with Orion and Phoenix vines, white wine varieties of grape that have been specially selected for their suitability to cold climates and disease resistance.

A considerable amount of effort has been put into the establishment of the vineyard not least of which are the tonnes of stone that has been dug up and moved in the vineyard.

The vineyard is a really valuable source of activities for us. During the summer months the vines need to be tied-in to stop them blowing about and getting damaged. In the winter, when gardening activities can be limited, we do our main pruning in the vineyard and we can do any repairs that are needed to the wiring and supports.

October 2004 saw that monumental event that we had all been waiting for, our first harvest. Not a bumper one, 840kgs, but enough to make 750 bottles.

We have our wine made under contract, using the country's leading organic wine maker, Davenport Vineyards, based near Crowborough in East Sussex. More details about Davenport Vineyards can be found at www.davenportvineyards.co.uk

Click here for details of the wine that we have for sale.

Bee KeepingWe have up to ten working beehives at any one time. During the summer, as well as pollinating the garden, these produce honey for sale under our own label and provide us with the challenge and fascination of handling colonies of these intriguing insects. A number of our gardeners are regularly involved with managing our bees and in collecting and preparing the honey for sale.

We are members of the Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association and we have been pleased to host a number of the Associations meetings.

In common with other beekeepers in the UK recent years have been difficult. This is partly due to disease, partly due to the weather and partly due to the mysterious ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ that has affected bee populations in many countries.

We try to provide a wide range of activities and achieve this by inviting outside experts to come to Bridewell for the day to run activity sessions. Many of  these will be one-offs that can be repeated subject to interest and funds.

We are allowed to coppice hazel from the woods on the local estate and use this and willow to make structure and supports for use in the garden. Other craft sessions that we have run recently include rug making, felt making, pottery and besom making.

We try to run a number of trips during the year. Places that we have visited are Kew Gardens, Hidcote Manor, Garden Organic at Ryton and Batsford Arboretum.

We are also responsible for the maintenance of the wall round our garden. This involves getting to grips with different building techniques and the use of traditional materials like lime mortar.

We are regularly visited by other organisations that help people to move on to employment, education or voluntary work. Service users are able to discuss their needs during one of these visits.