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Nearly 500 years ago, Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, built a lavish new house at Thornbury in Gloucestershire that included in the grounds a vineyard, an orchard and a bee garden, ‘full of young grafftes, well laden with frute, many rooses, and other pleasures; and in the same orchard ar many goodley allyes to walk ynee openly’.

The concept of creating a garden that combines food production with pleasure, which in Britain can be dated as far back as the Romans, began to lose popularity in the 17th century, and has never been fully revived. Yet there is much to be said in favour of a garden exactly like Stafford’s. There would be the satisfaction of a substantial yield, including grapes, wine, fruit, honey and nuts. At the same time, one would be the owner of an enchanting place in which to stroll and relax, full of colour, perfume and the gentle murmur of bees.

Which is exactly what you’ll find on the eastern side of our fantasy estate, Dream Acres. The south-facing slope that falls away from the house contains a small vineyard, and, next to it, there’s an old-fashioned orchard, complete with traditional beehives. The sort of place, as William Lawson wrote in A New Orchard and Garden (1618), that ‘takes away the tediousnesse and heavie load of three or four score years’.

The orchard

Until Elizabethan times, the words orchard and garden were completely interchangeable. They even meant the same thing, as the word orchard derives from the Saxon ort yerd (plant yard), which, in turn, came from the Latin hortus, for garden. The orchard, then, has traditionally been as much a place of leisure as a source of food, and was valued on both counts.

When one thinks of orchards, one invariably thinks of apples (and, for those of us with a felonious past, of scrumping), but although the orchard of the medieval monastery would have been called the pomarium (apple place), it would have contained a huge variety of fruit trees, as well as flowers, paths, places to sit, water features and bees.

A few chickens

There is a long tradition of keeping chickens in an orchard. They control insect pests and do a bit of helpful weeding on the side. Plus, of course, there is the added benefit of eggs and if you’re as ruthless as I am something for the pot. Our favourite breeds are Marans, buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island reds and light Sussex.

* For more Dream Acres and to find out how to create your own Dream Acres please see our microsite which explains  how to create your perfect landscape, gardens and outdoor spaces

The bee garden

Imagine,if you will, a larder containing dozens of jars of your own, homemade honey. Cook with it, put it on your morning toast and afternoon scones, dribble a spoon of it into a hot drink (possibly with a dash of whisky, too) or, if you’re feeling generous, give it to friends.

And the joy of keeping your own bees doesn’t stop there. In summer, your garden will be much enhanced by the peaceful drone of bees at work. You’re likely to enjoy higher yields, too. Also, at a time when bees are struggling for survival, you’ll be helping to arrest the decline in their population. Looking after bees is much easier than many people realise, and, if you don’t fancy the sticky bits yourself, it usually isn’t difficult to find a local enthusiast to help.

A good place to make camp

Why not add a temporary structure to your orchard? There are dozens of beautiful and practical options, such as wigwams (much loved by children), Bedouin tents, Indian tents, gazebos and marquees. Try these suppliers: www.besotta.co.uk, www.rajtentclub.com and www.capitaltentindia.com

A pleasant seat

‘Seats of cammomile, Penny-royall, Daisies and Violets, are seemly and comfortable,’ advised William Lawson in 1618. The sort of seat he had in mind probably consisted of a raised wooden or stone bed turfed with grass and flowering herbs. A fine addition to any orchard, although not that seemly or comfortable when wet.

The vineyard

‘Self translate from here: “Praedium quod primum siet, si me rogabis, sic dicam…” ’ Marcus Cato’s On Agriculture was a favourite choice of our Latin master at school, so I happen to know that, if you had asked the Censor what the best kind of farm was, he would have replied that a vineyard comes first (vinea est prima, if memory serves), providing it bountifully produces wine of
a good quality. Which is more than possible here in Britain thanks to a rediscovery of our viticultural heritage.

Grapes have been grown successfully here since the 3rd century AD, bar a short hiatus between 1550 and 1700, when temperatures fell. Nor are they confined to the south. In the 19th century, the 3rd Marquess of Bute planted three acres of vines at Castell Coch, Wales, that still flourish today. At Dream Acres, our vineyard is planted on a south-facing slope.

Have you tried growing your own vines? Email countrylife_letters@ipcmedia.com

* For more Dream Acres and to find out how to create your own Dream Acres please see our microsite which explains  how to create your perfect landscape, gardens and outdoor spaces