Thanet Gazette 2012 – Local Farmer, Will Friend is planning to open up his Farm and Nursery at East Northdown along similar lines to TV hit show River Cottage where old and young alike can ‘get their hands dirty’ and learn about growing produce …
Mr Friend has been running his farm, nursery and farm shop for 25 years this year. He is a the leading local expert on all things ‘green’ : to do with plants, farming and the countryside. The area also has large communities from Cypress , Italy, Iran and Turkey who all come to the farm to keep in touch with their rural roots. William specialises in Mediterranean plants, Thanet’s mild dry climate is the best in Britain for growing figs, vines, apricots, walnuts, bay trees and quinces (a key ingredient of Persian cookery). “The Romans felt at home in Thanet 2000 years ago and brought their plants with them. We grow pomegranates and olives too, but the seasons are too short for them to bear fruit”
“We have a resource here at the farm which is not being made the most of.” He said: “We are in talks with a charitable trust who specialise in training young adults with learning difficulties in employment and general life skills. The Trust already runs centres around the country, and are looking for a suitable site in Kent. We have plenty of space here where they can grow fruit and vegetables, help keeping up the gardens and grounds, and take over the running of the farm shop and tea room , so visitors can enjoy home grown produce and home cooking. We also have the business centre with a huge range of different crafts and skills on site to draw on. We are building up a network of people who will hopefully operates a range of other complimentary activities.
William is the grandson of former Northdown House owner James Irvine Hatfeild Friend-who was know as ‘Irvine’ , or by his WWI rank of ‘Captain Friend’ . During the 20’s and 30’s a visit to ‘Friend’s Farm’, and a ride in a horse drawn wagon, was the highlight of the school year for countless Margate children. Then, as now, many children in Thanet simply do not get the chance to get into the countryside. Mr Friend, who also has a working livestock farm in the midlands says : “I think it’s incredibly important in today’s climate for everyone to stay in touch with their ‘organic side’ and understand about produce and how it is grown and cared for. Growing things is something everyone can take pride in, and keeping close to nature is an essential part of being human”
The passion for farming is something that runs deep in the Friend family. His two brothers are dairy farmers(and one’s also a vet), one sister has a fish farm and another has an allotment in Clapham! Louise’s family are farmers outside Cambridge
The Farmyard, business centre and nursery are to the east of Northdown Park , with the farmland running either side of Reading Street Road and Northdown Hill.
Local Resident’s Views
KATHERINE HILL 29, from Margate is mum to Maisie 7. She said “I think it’s great and it gives children something different to do.Maisie has been to a farm in Wales with her dad Darren. It is important for Maisie top learn where her food comes from.There is a lot of flats in Margate and it gives children an opportunity to see how a farm works.”
ELAINE LOVE 41, is mum of Kristen who goes to Salmestone school. She said “I think it is a brilliant idea and something positive for the kids to do. You can’t take them to the park because there are too many big kids there. I like the idea that it is educational because Kristen is part of the gardening club at school where he learns about planting. It could also lead to jobs in farming as children develop an interest in the subject.”
Since this 2012 Article above ,
East Northdown Business Centre
, operating since 1997,now has has its own post code , CT9 3FF
, resolving past issues over misdirection of traffic down the East Northdown Lane. The East Northdown Garden Centre
, operating since 1992 , likewise has its own postcode for the public/retail sales areas – CT10 3BN
. Block E, in the business centre now provides space for another 10 small businesses .
Taddy’s Barn Cafe is thriving under the new management of Dan Curtis, as a front of house venue for visitors to the nursery and Gardens . Louise has been trying to keep pace with mail order and delivery enquiries , during ‘Lockdown’. William’s vision is similar to that at the Israeli biblical Oasis of Ein Gedi. There, the whole Ein Gedi kibbutz is laid out as a botanical garden with a unique collection of dessert and tropical plants from across the world, planted around the whole settlement , providing both a unique living and working environment for the residents, as well as a tourist attraction for visitors, in a legendary natural setting .
At East Northdown, a series of planning permissions gained since 2013 are in place, and their implementation is underway, to carry the development of the site forward to the next stage – a second access onto George Hill Road, for the retail area – ‘Tomlin’s Yard’, with two new blocks of buildings Tomlin B and Tomlin E , adding to the three long existing blocks ,A,C and D built in 2,000, and blocks D and F in the business centre area . The buildings will be of a uniform design , giving a network of well spaced low level buildings , clad in green to blend in with the garden plantings , with sturdy steel doors and frames to stand up to coastal storms
On ‘Friend’s corner’ . South of George Hill Road , we have planted more wild flower meadows on former arable land in an agri-environmental scheme, Many trees that cannot be accommodated in the garden areas in the urban part of the site, are being grown in the nursery area to the south side of George Hill Road. A second irrigation system is to be set up to relocate some growing areas into this area , with the approval of two more greenhouses and service sheds for our own use and use by other land based businesses . South East Motor Cycle Training SEMT , are celebrating their move here from Westwood Ind. Est , over 4 year ago, so they can continue to provide safety training for motorcyclists – particularly helping many of Thanet’s young people to have affordable independant transport to get to work safely . . Southern Landscape Services carryout the grounds maintenance for local housing associations , and their greenwaste is composted for return to the farm land, to raise soil organic matter levels (and provide carbon capture). Whereas Antony Cox is providing seasoned logs as sustainable ‘bio’ wood fuel .
Let us know your proposals , so we can try and accommodate your dream project, around our mixed use nursery or business centre site and work together, with our existing community of businesses and groups, to get Thanet’s economy, small businesses and charities back up and running after this corona virus lockdown is behind us !