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The Working Beer Garden By Simon Grist

These days, the design of pub beer gardens has become rather formulaic: Bench tables, a covered area, perhaps a bar-bque, plus plant-life to bring as much colour as possible. Simple, right?

On closer inspection, those colourful plants and flowers have been cleverly interspersed with a virtual market garden of fruit and veg! Those aren’t red flowers as the context and a fleeting glance might suggest, they are chillies. In fact there are no less than 11 varieties of chilli growing in the pub garden. There are also tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, leeks, artichokes, corn-cobs, olives, squash, gherkins and something called rainbow chard that I must confess to being ignorant of. Then there are herbs such as coriander, thyme and mint, not to mention lemon and quince trees. It all comes down to the garden being a working beer garden, not just a visual one.

Incredible Edible But it is easy to overlook how much effort publicans put into beer garden design. Take Hattie Gutzman and Ian Manson of the Hope and Anchor in Wokingham, our 2012 Branch Pub of the Year runner-up. At first glance theirs might look pretty typical, but look a little closer and a vision behind the design becomes apparent. The pub was originally built using timbers from a dismantled ship, so one section of the garden has been given a nautical theme as a mark of respect to the pub’s history. Pebbles give a feeling of a beach, alongside grasses that are more often found on sand dunes, with a ship’s anchor in the corner to reinforce the message. There is a small vegetable patch, which gives away that Ian and Hattie like to grow their own produce, and various seedlings in pots surround the bar-b-que. But the beds and borders are all filled with the typical colourful plants and flowers that you would expect to find in a traditional British beer garden Or are they?

Issue 40, Autumn 2015

In fact, the concept of working unlikely pieces of land is becoming increasingly popular in our area at the moment. A lady called Victoria Stanborough has setup a branch of Incredible Edible in Wokingham. Incredible Edible are a voluntary organisation who run projects to create fruit and vegetable gardens on previously unutilised land areas with the aim to give away the produce grown to the neediest and worthiest members of the local community. So far, they have planted fruit trees on land near the bowling alley,setup a fruit and vegetable garden for elderly residents of Alderman Willey Close and involved local children in various projects on a section of Elms Field. The children’s activities include setting-up a “bug house” and growing herbs in old wellington boots.

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Mad Cow Issue 40  

Issue 40 of the Mad Cow - Magazine of the Berkshire South-East ("BSE") branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale)