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The English Apple Man


8th Jun 2012 - The English Apple Man visits Tom Hart Dyke's World Garden.

After the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, its time to settle back into a normal routine.

My Granny always used to say; "after the Lord Mayors Show comes The Dustcart" and after the splendour of last weekend's Jubilee Celebrations, today with what can only be described as "March Winds" buffeting us from all directions, the ground is littered with leaves, branches and anything else caught up in the wind.


Our orchards seem to be in for a pasting this season, frost, drought, torrential rain, hail, cold weather at blossom time; we thought we had the lot, but it goes on!


Crop prospects are currently on a downward spiral.


On Wednesday The English Apple Man joined the Rural Business Development and Advancement Group for a visit to LULLINGSTONE CASTLE home of Tom Hart Dyke's World Garden.

Lullingstone Castle

This visit was one of a series of visits arranged by Pat Crawford - Hadlow College Press Officer as just one of many events organised by the Rural Business Development and Advancement Group; an initiative which first saw the light of day as Fresh Start Programme.


Pat Crawford - Hadlow College Press OfficerWay back in 2005 the government of the day was responsible for setting up a programme they called 'Fresh Start'. Recognising that the farming industry was running short on new entrants, Fresh Start was structured to encourage the return of some of the people who had left the industry when it was going through bad times. Hadlow College opened the first 'Academy' - government word - that helped people to acquire new skills and update existing ones.


Now a new programme has been constructed and is open to everyone who is involved or who has an interest in the rural sector and its many business arms and support services.


Twice monthly evening meetings are held and programmes, devised to fulfil members' needs, include visits to farms, horticultural establishments and diverse rural businesses. 'In house' meetings include presentations concerned with setting up a business, business plans, structures and procedures, health and safety regulations, insurance and finance. There is no membership fee involved and other subjects will be added by request throughout the year.


For more information contact; PAT CRAWFORD at Hadlow College; by email to or by phone at 07771 635684.



The side view of Luddingstone Castle showing the oldest circa '1300' section of the Castle

I am sure many of my readers are familiar with Tom Hart Dyke and his "World Garden" at Lullingstone Castle, near Eynsford in Kent. My first encounter with Tom was one Wednesday afternoon when he addressed my wife's local WI at Robertsbridge in East Sussex. Tom's story of his capture and incarceration in the Columbian jungle by a 'paramilitary' group armed with Kalashnikov rifles is enough excitement for most adventurous young men, but from this frightening experience deep in the jungle Tom created a dream which he materialised into his World Garden seven years ago.


It is difficult to do justice to Tom's World Garden in a few paragraphs, but I will try to at least summarise his endeavors. With all the continents laid out within the confines of an historic walled garden, and each containing plants from their respective regions of the world, all of which Tom has painstakingly collected on his many trips abroad. His enthusiasm knows no bounds; hence Columbia; his capture on 16th March 2,000 (his sister's birthday) along with his companion Paul Winder while seeking plants for his collection back home at Lullingstone.


The story of Tom and Paul's frightening adventure was told in "The CLOUD GARDEN" first published in 2003. It is an incredible story!


After a brief; well actually, Tom does'nt do brief; overview of his family tenure of Lullingstone; "I make a casual observation that they have been in residence for 500 years, and nonchalantly, Tom corrects me; "well actually 650 years, we came here in 1361" WOW, that is serious history!


The Castle; a small section of the original, built in the late '1300's is visible, while the main part of the building is from The Tudor period and the facade is Victorian.


The Gatehouse was a prototype for Hampton Court Palace. At the height of Lullingstone's place in history, the estate extended to 12,500 acres and stretched North as far as the Dartford Crossing and West to where Canary Wharf stands today.


Where the Golf Course stands today a Medieval Deer Park entertained the nobility, and in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle the Norman Church of St. Botolphs stands.


In the grounds, close to The Castle and near the Gatehouse stands the Norman Church of St. Botolph.


St.Botolph's church at Lullingstone in Kent is a remarkable building which has benefitted from being situated in a secluded part of Kent although it is still not far from London or the M.25 motorway. It has several unique features such as an ornate Flemish rood screen and a wall-mounted Queen Anne period 'cabinet' font. Lullingstone may also have the longest Christian history in Britain as the nearby excavated Roman villa contains a Roman Christian chapel which dates from around 380 AD. The present church contains Roman bricks probably robbed from the villa during the Norman period.

St.Botolph's Church in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle


The church has also benefitted from a close association with Lullingstone Castle. So close, in fact, that the church actually sits on the front lawn of the castle and must be reached through the castle gatehouse. Its local nickname is "The Church On The Lawn".


The present church sits on Norman foundations but the dedication to St.Botolph (active in Kent and East Anglia 654 to 670AD) may indicate that the Norman church simply replaced an earlier Saxon one. The present walls are all thought to be early 14th century (Decorated Period) but the church has had some noteable later additions.


There is so much history attached to Tom's family; The Hart Dyke family are descended from Edward III; that it can become quite adsorbing, there seems no end to the family associations. Another fascinating fact; According to British Sports and Sportsmen (London), Sir William Hart Dyke was 'one of the best amateur rackets players of his day' and in 1860, he took the championship at the former headquarters of rackets, the 'Prince's Club', from a professional player in single-handed games.


In 1873, four years before the first Wimbledon tennis match, a famous lawn tennis match was played at Lullingstone Castle, involving Sir William, John Heathcote and Julian Marshall. Sir William and John Heathcote went on to help frame the 'first real code of rules' in 1875 as members of a sub-committee of the Marylebone Cricket Club.


A more recent family history involves Tom's paternal grandmother; Lady Zoe Hart Dyke who established Lullingstone Silk Farm in the early 1930's and was the country's first such farm. A childhood passion became a flourishing business, producing silk for Queen Elizabeth's (the late Queen Mother) coronation robes in 1937, for the current Queen's wedding dress in 1947 and for the robes in her subsequent coronation in 1953.


The World Garden.

Touring the World Garden with Tom, we listen incredulously to his accounts of so many plants and his adventures collecting them. He has traveled far and wide in his quest to furnish each continent in his World Garden. As Tom points out, 80% of all our plants have been brought back from 'foreign lands' by equally enthusiastic collectors over the past few centuries.


Tom Hart Dyke 'entertaining' visitors in the World GardenA view across The World Garden towards St.Botolph's


A view of the World GardenAn imaginative statue in the World Garden


New for 2012 at Lullingstone is the "Moroccan Garden" which links to The "Hot & Sticky' house. The stories Tom has to tell about the acquisition of many plants in the cactus collection is fascinating in itself. One very tall Cactus is over 100 years old and after it was donated to Lullingstone, Tom had the precarious job of moving it from its donor site, to the Hot & Sticky house.


The Hot & Sticky Cactus HouseThe new Moroccan Garden


The Moroccan Garden was opened this season and Tom has drawn on his fertile imagination to decorate the Garden in an empathetic Moroccan style. There is so much to see and so much history to discover at Lullingstone, that the only way to do it justice, is to make a personal visit.


Another addition within the walls of the World Garden is a miniature version, cleverly contained within a raised brick garden and again matching each continent with miniature plants indigenous to the continent.


The miniature World Garden at Lullingstone Castle.




Tom Hart Dyke is an incredible young man, with his unbridled enthusiasm, consummate knowledge of plant life, and a family history to match the most colourful in the land, one can easily believe he will more than make his mark among his illustrious ancestors.


Hopefully by next weekend we may be enjoying better weather. X fingers!


Take care


The English Apple Man