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HLF Timeline

1880s Mereworth is centre of fruit and hop growing

1890s – 1970s Local people as crop pickers

1894 Bernard Champion plants first strawberry crops for Champion Bros at Barons Place Farm

1894 – 1915 More land taken on at West Peckham, East Peckham, & Mereworth

1900s - 1910 Fruit picked early in the morning taken to Covent Garden Market by horse-drawn spring vans for sale the same day

1914 – 1918 Great War. Farm stables used to rehabilitate shell-shocked horses from the Front.

1915 Bernard Champion Chairman of Kent NFU

1920s-1930s Red core root rot and virus diseases appear: virus-free stocks and resistant varieties become important

1928 Bernard Champion again Chairman of Kent NFU

1928 Partnership of Bernard & Horace Champion dissolved, some land sold

1943 Mereworth wins prize for wartime strawberry jam-making effort organised by Kitty Champion

1949 Bernard’s grandson Hugh Lowe joins as farm pupil aged 15, earning 37/6d a week (5p/hour)

1950s Strawberries off to the London markets

1950s Early varieties grown under glass, then plastic, cloches

1954 Hugh takes over the farm and increases soft fruit production

1954 Meteor from West Malling Airfield crashes in strawberry field at Latters Farm, sadly killing one picker and the crew

1960s – 1980s Blackcurrants grown, generally picked by hand for Robertson’s jam

1960s – 1970s PYO site operated.

1970s First double-decker bus used to collect pickers from local towns & villages

1970s The first ’60 day’ plantings, using cold stored Bogota plants

1970s Mechanical harvesting for blackcurrants introduced

1970s – 1990s Redcurrants grown

1972 Kentish Garden Ltd founded as grower-owned marketing co-operative; Don Goodwin as Chairman, Hugh Lowe as Secretary.

1974 First supply to supermarkets

1974 Children’s Act stops the centuries-old practice of providing a free child-minding service on the field for pickers’ children.

1977 Mobile blackcurrant harvester used

1980s The first everbearers are planted extending the season beyond August

1980s – 1990s Vegetables grown for Macks & GMS Ltd (beans & courgettes)

1980s First harvest workers from former Soviet Union block countries arrive via the SAWS scheme

1980s We join the local Weald Granary grain marketing co-operative

1980s First plastic punnets used

1982 – 1987 Hugh Lowe serves as Chairman of Kentish Garden Ltd

1987 Hugh bought back Court Lodge Farm, West Peckham and renamed the farm Two Gates

1988 Last apple orchards grubbed.

1988 HOPS set up by National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs

1989 Last pear orchard grubbed

1990 Family partnership incorporated as ‘Hugh Lowe Farms Ltd’

1990s We acquire our own honey bee hives

Early 1990s raised beds and polytunnels are introduced; reservoirs built at Peckham Place

1991 Improved accommodation built for seasonal workers

1992 Start exclusive supply to FMC, official caterers to Wimbledon

1993 First substrate production of strawberries

"Darling Buds of May", starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, filmed on the farm

1996 Marion Regan takes over running the farm from her father Hugh Lowe

1997 Tradition started for seasonal Big Bash at Barons Place for all seasonal workers and full time staff

2000s Glasshouse production of raspberries begins at Hadlow

2003 Current packhouse built

2004 Many new countries join EU – open borders

2005 First Driscoll’s Jubilee strawberries grown for the premium market

2005 New reservoir constructed at West Peckham

2006 Hugh Lowe Farms mans the berry stall at Mereworth Village fete

2006 Strawberry harvesting rigs trialled

2007 – 2010 Marion Regan is Chairman of Berry Gardens Ltd, successor to Kentish Garden.

2007 First strawberries grown on table tops

2008 Zero plastic to landfill achieved

2008 Hugh Lowe Farms website developed

2008, 09 Polytunnels put up at Mereworth Primary School & Grange Park Schools so pupils can learn about growing

2010 - 2012 Humber glasshouse site in Yorkshire used for growing early and late strawberries

2011 Farm enters Entry Level Stewardship

2011 100 species of farmland birds recorded on farm by RSPB

2012 Planted first berry crops at Wested Farm

2012 We sweep the board of soft fruit classes at the National Cherry & Soft Fruit Show at Kent County Show

2012 Develop farm in Tasmania in partnership with Australian growers– Burlington Berries

2013 New reservoirs constructed at Mereworth

  • 1880s
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  • 1920s
  • 1930s
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  • 1950s
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  • 1990s
  • 2000
  • 2010
  • 2020
  • Royal Sovereign
  • Climax
  • Cambridge favourite
  • Elsanta
  • Vibrant
  • Sir Joseph Paxton
  • Huxley
  • Ostara
  • Everest
  • Driscolls Jubilee
  • Redgauntlet
  • Hapil, Domanil
  • Driscolls varieties
  • Malling Jewel
  • Malling Jewel
  • Driscolls Maravilla
  • Heritage
  • Autumn Bliss
  • Himalaya, Bedford Giant
  • Loch Ness