The Regeneration of Barcroft Hall gardens

For the past ten years Brian and Denise Herrick have created a continually evolving, environmental masterpiece at Barcroft Hall in South Petherton. Here they talk to Somerset Life about their achievements and plans for the future

For the past ten years Brian and Denise Herrick have created a continually evolving, environmental masterpiece at Barcroft Hall in South Petherton. Here they talk to Somerset Life about their achievements and plans for the future

The 85-acre estate at Barcroft Hall in South Petherton is a wonderfully integrated combination of formal gardens, wildlife areas, orchards, woodland and sustainable farmland. Owners Brian and Denise Herrick are absolutely focussed and committed to ecological projects. “We shall never understand our natural environment unless we see it, smell it and touch it,” Brian insists. Both have been brought up and lived in Somerset since a very early age and were educated at Wellington and Millfield schools. “We are serious Somerset supporters,” remarks Denise.

They bought Barcroft Hall ten years ago and started work immediately with the complete renovation of the house and farm buildings, working to the highest standards available, resulting in a country home that reflects a blend of understated luxury and farming functionality.

At the same time and over the ensuing years, the farm, formerly a derelict fruit farm, has been regenerated with the highest ecological standards available, with no fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides used. This has generated an amazing amount of wildlife which has flourished and increased every year. Kingfishers, waterfowl, badgers, deer, wildflowers and unusual fungi have arrived, and the collection of dragonflies and damselflies is stunning.

In addition, remarkable formal gardens and wildlife areas have been created with many ponds and lakes. Barcroft Hall has been included in Historic Gardens of Somerset by Timothy Mowl and Marion Mako, published this year and launched at Montacute.

Both Brian and Denise are avid gardeners and thrilled to have Barcroft Hall in this publication placed alongside the many famous gardens of significant historic importance in Somerset. The author states that the garden at Barcroft ‘is educational in intent and ecologically underpinned, and may prove in time to be one of the most significant and influential gardens in the county’.

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Brian and Denise see themselves technically as landowners, but more importantly as custodians of the countryside. With that status they believe in all the key ecological functions available and consider that all landowners should seriously respect them where practically possible, especially in such a wonderful county as Somerset.

They continue to put their business skills to good use in this delightful environment. Both ran an extremely successful IT company for 25 years, and were awarded the accolade of being one of the fastest-growing UK companies in 2001 by The Times.

“Our projects for 2011 are more than exciting,” Brian says enthusiastically. “This winter we are planting one of the only woods that will contain every British indigenous tree, so that later generations can view them all in one place. Support for this development is outstanding.”

After fully restoring the Barcroft Hall cider orchard with its nine apple varieties, it’s been a bumper year, with tons of apples being selected for Thatchers Gold cider. “We are so delighted with the result,” says Brian, “from a jungle to a cleared, well-prepared productive orchard has been hard work but fun! It’s an added bonus that local walkers who pass through the orchard on our footpaths adore the seasonal atmosphere.” A little bit of South Petherton will be in every glass!

Having supplied the famous River Cottage in Dorset with both quinces and medlars this year they were enthralled by the idea of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Land Share Project, enabling everyone to be able to grow and produce their own food. So next year will see an extremely comprehensive Barcroft Hall Family Gardens and Home Farm Scheme created with the help and integration of South Petherton villagers.

This scheme will convert three acres of derelict farmland and form areas of communal fruit growing, separate vegetable areas and a small home farm with a trading post. The key element here is what the owners call ‘vegetation education’, where they hope that the older generations teach the younger generations to grow quality food for all the family.

Other current projects are equally exciting and will provide much communal enjoyment.Together with advice from Clive Farrell, famous for his Ryewater Estate in Dorset and the many butterfly farms he owns all over the world and in the UK, Brian and Denise will be planting the largest area of wild flowers in Somerset to promote butterflies and other insects. This will be able to be viewed from the footpath network on the estate. Hopefully this will be organised for 2011, creating what Brian calls ‘a field of dreams’.

Footpaths continue to be high on the agenda for Barcroft Hall and with their determined efforts to ensure access for all they continue to provide a beautiful network of paths, and run the Mobility Awareness website promoting mobility-challenged friendly paths. So far they have invested heavily on public paths and privately maintain them weekly in season. They feel this is more important than ever after the recent County Hall cutbacks.

Enhanced by over four kilometres of newly planted natural hedging and over 2,000 trees planted, everyone is understandably very complimentary. “We have made many good friends with people who use our footpaths,” comments Brian. “We are really grateful for that.”

Barcroft Hall, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13 5DA. Gardens visits by personal invitation only and when special events are on:

The Historic Gardens of Somerset by Tim Mowl and Marion Mako is the latest in a series of county-by-county surveys of English gardens by these eminent writers on the English landscape.

Profusely illustrated, it is a lovely gift idea for all keen gardeners.

RRP �19.95

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