“ Brogdale Farm / near Faversham / Kent / England „
Brogdale Farm is the home to The National Fruit Collection - one of the largest fruit collections in the world, now managed by The University of Reading - and a significant Kentish visitors' attraction in its own right. Brogdale is located near Faversham about a mile from J6 of M2. It's well signposted from all the major routes. I am not aware of public transport access.
The collection itself is pretty amazing - including over 3,500 named Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry and Cob Nut varieties and can be visited either as a self-guided (with a paper leaflet) or guided (by a human being) walk. It think that if you are planning to spend time and money visiting the orchards, it's worth paying for the guided walk as it really brings the place to life in its whole amazing variety, including history of the cultivars - some date to the medieval times!
Walking round a giant orchard is not perhaps everybody's idea of an exciting and fun day out, but it's actually quite an interesting place, obviously more so for those more interested in horticulture. If you come at the right time, you will be also able to actually taste (in fact, you could probably stuff yourself to the brim, I have not noticed the guide rationing fruit or trying to prevent the children from picking what seemed like but probably wasn't the 100th plum of the day) with the fruit straight from the trees. The walk takes about an hour, and includes the highlights of the collection appropriate to the season.
It's amazing to see the sheer variety of cultivars that exist, particularly huge number of apple types. The last time we visited was in August, so the apples were not really in season yet (but the plums were -see above), but just starting to ripen and when walking around I recognised some trees that my grandmother had in her orchard in Poland thirty years ago - and that I had never seen anywhere else since.
Nowadays the supermarkets have a huge share of all food purchased, including fruit and vegetables, and they offer fairly uniform, economically most profitable varieties with the longest shelf life and most predictable results, often grown on the other side of the world. The National Fruit Collection does a sterling job of protecting and preserving the incredible variety of fruit which is a result of hundreds if not thousands years of human work: go and see for yourself that there is a world beyond Granny Smith, Cox and Pink Lady!
In addition to the orchard tours, Brogdale offers a host of other facilities - part of the more recent developments included extending the "shopping as leisure activity" aspect which I personally dislike, but many people find very enjoyable. They have a tea room with home made produce, a gift/craft shop which also sells some of the local fruit, a mini railway (which was closed on our last visit, but apparently is open for rides at weekends & most bank holidays), "the Market Place" (the new shopping area mentioned above, with craft and fancy food shops), meeting / function rooms and educational facilities, garden shop with trees, bushes and other plantable things.
They also organise periodic orchard food festivals devoted to a particular kind of fruit (strawberry, apple, plum etc.) - check the website for details.
Open 7 days a week 10.00 am - 5.00pm daily (4th November - 26th March 10.00am- 4.30pm).
Guided walk prices:
£3.00 Children (under 16)
Self-guided walk prices:
£2.00 Children (under 16)
This is one of the largest fruit collections in the world and includes over 3,500 named Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry, Bush fruit, Vine and Cob Nut cultivars.