Constantine Cornwall

Mark Harris of Potager Garden

January 2020

Mark Harris, who has been in charge of Potager Garden at High Cross for some 10 years, gave an inspiring, interesting and amusing talk.

The garden was started some 20 years ago by Dan Thomas, a gardener, and Peter Skerrett, an architect. They had visited what remained of High Cross Nurseries to arrange to use some greenhouse space and ended up buying the whole nursery. They could only work at weekends, because they both had jobs, but with the help of friends and family, set about transforming the overgrown nursery. They had little money but gradually cleared areas and started replanting them in a ‘small room’ philosophy.

Eventually, the Potager opened to the public on Sundays using a greenhouse for a small cafe. They have held candlelit evening events such as a tapas meal evening, a Japanese meal evening, a Christmas Roast. Day events have included ‘paint in the woods’ and ‘nature bugs’.

There is no master plan, but all the people working on the project know roughly the direction they want to go. Mark is their facilitator and is doing a most successful job.

Mark arrived in 2006, hoping to use space in a shed to build boats, and suc- ceeded creating a pleasing wooden sail craft. He gradually got involved with the gardening aspects of the project. He bought a tractor to help deal with lower growing vegetation and a chain saw to help remove taller plants and trees. Mark’s work became somewhat ‘The Good Life’ based.

Studios were created in greenhouses so that craft people could rent spaces to carry out their work, which helped the project become more financially viable. As more people have joined the project they have all shared skills.

The new cafe now has a relaxed atmosphere, serving vegetarian food, where possible grown on site. There are currently 2 potters working there, some of their pots are for sale with plants reared on site. There is a children’s group on Wednesday mornings as well as the following: Foraging courses, green woodworking courses, a bee study group, a variety of craft work in- cluding linocut art work, fine art, jewellery, furniture, metal work, print work. There is a dementia group which works in the garden.