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A Winsford woman's gardening ambitions are helped by a landshare scheme

PUBLISHED: 09:27 10 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:23 20 February 2013

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go...Melissa and her boys Nathan and Elijah with the Huntley sisters, Felicity and Charlotte taking a ride

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go...Melissa and her boys Nathan and Elijah with the Huntley sisters, Felicity and Charlotte taking a ride

Where does Winsford resident Melissa Buzzard's garden grow? Some distance from home - in the grounds of an elegant hotel near Oakmere WORDS BY STUART ROBERTSON<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

From Scranton, Pennsylvania to the heart of Cheshire, Melissa Buzzard has had quite a journey.

Melissa moved to England seven years ago with her husband, Martin, firstly to Oxfordshire but in 2010 they transferred to Winsford so that Martin could be closer to work in Runcorn.

But as a keen gardener eager to grow her own produce, Melissas small plot was limiting and a lengthy waiting list for allotments in Winsford meant that her gardening ambitions seemed thwarted.

Melissa dug up both her front and back gardens and replaced them with vegetable patches. But this still did not give her the space she wanted. Step in Mark Huntley, manager of Nunsmere Hall hotel and the Landshare scheme.

The Landshare scheme was launched by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on his TV programme, River Cottage. Essentially it connects those who have land to spare with those who want land for cultivating food.

This suited both Melissa and Marks needs. Mark was made aware of Landshare by Thomas Lewis, a local beekeeper who works on the hotels grounds near Oakmere.

Nunsmere Hall makes good use of its resources. Thomas keeps five hives of bees that produce the honey which is served at breakfast. If visitors like the honey, they can buy some.

When he heard about Landshare, Mark set about offering land from Nunsmeres kitchen gardens on the schemes website, www.landshare.net. When he made enquiries to the council, Mark discovered that the waiting list in Winsford for allotments was around 12 years.

Melissa recounts the frustrating wait she endured for land on those very allotments. In three years I moved up only seven places on the allotment waiting list, from 39th to 32nd she recalls.

Her patience did not last and she signed up to Landshare. When she saw the Nunsmere kitchen garden on offer, she snapped it up.

Melissas enthusiasm for growing your own is infectious: It is great and so much cheaper to grow your own vegetables than to go to the supermarket, she said.

An added bonus, she says, is that it also provides fun for her children, six-year-old Elijah and four-year-old Nathan. They help in the garden and love working in the vast surroundings of the hotel. They are regularly joined by Marks children, eight-year-old Charlotte and Felicity, five.

Mark said: We produced a lot of our own food on the site but before Landshare we were never going to be able to produce enough to be self sufficient, he adds.

The variety of produce being grown now is impressive. Melissa - and her helpers - are nurturing onions, apples, raspberries, blackberries, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli and peas. Any surplus foods can be sold back to the hotel.

A dozen hens have found a home in Nunsmeres tranquil surroundings. Melissa helped rescue the battery-farmed poultry through the website of the British Hen Welfare Trust. She has named each hen and they roam freely within their roomy enclosure.

There is something homely about chickens, says Melissa. They look after themselves and are full of personality. The hens also provide the hotel with a regular supply of eggs.

As a huge fan of River Cottage, Melissa is now looking forward to attending a Get Growing family weekend on the site of the television programme in Devon.

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