Wadworth, the Devizes-based brewers, have joined forces with Sparsholt College in Hampshire to create a Chelsea Flower Show garden which features heritage hops as its theme. The Wadworth 6X sponsorship is behind the efforts of a team of 14 Extended Diploma horticulture students who have designed and will build every aspect of the garden, and will also be cultivating the hops.
As brewers of quality cask ales made with the finest ingredients, Wadworth use a variety of hops in their brewing. Some of these hops will be featured in the garden, and the theme of the display will educate visitors about how hops are grown, their fascinating history and the heritage of hops and beer within British culture.
The garden will be in the zone of the show known as RHS Discovery, and the students have worked closely with the National Hop Collection so that they can highlight the way the number of hop varieties has declined over the years and how the organisation has worked to conserve rare varieties.
“We are simply delighted to be involved in this project for the Chelsea Flower Show and to be working with the remarkably talented staff and students of Sparsholt College,” said Paul Sullivan, Wadworth Sales and Marketing Director. “This is an exciting time for the brewing industry with the craft beer sector growing rapidly. As an established brewer that prides itself on quality and consistency, we are conscious of the need to nurture our dwindling stock of heritage hop varieties so that future brewers have a full range of ingredients to choose from to create the finest beers. Cask ale is now fashionable again having virtually disappeared in the 1970’s. Maintaining a full range of hop varieties will help to provide the brewers of the future with the basic ingredients for extending the variety and popularity of this historic beverage.”
Wadworth is a beacon of the brewing industry having brewed beer in Devizes since 1875, and it is still a family firm, now being run by the fourth generation of one of the founders. The company is proud of its brewing heritage whilst also investing in the future of the business. Traditional cask ales are brewed alongside sophisticated modern beers which suit today’s generation of beer drinkers.
There is a Victorian tower brewery which houses a state-of-the-art brewhouse, a sign shop where pub signs are hand painted in the traditional way and the famous Wadworth shire horses that still deliver daily to local pubs. The company also has an estate of over 240 pubs across the south and west of England.
Aspects of Wadworth’s heritage and the company’s ability to move with the times and innovate for the future will be reflected in the garden design which will also address the future of hops and how rare varieties can be saved for forthcoming generations.
The first step in the design process for the Sparsholt students was a visit to Wadworth and a tour of the brewery where they learnt all about the brewing process and how hops are used to help create flavour, bitterness and aroma in the beer. They also visited the other working areas of the brewery such as the paint shop, and finished with a trip to say hello to the working shires.
Horticulture lecturer Chris Bird who is leading the team said: “The initial research is an important part of the design process. Having visited the brewery, the students then sat down to come up with a design that worked for our stand in the Discovery Zone of the show. As students of horticulture, they are concerned about the conservation of plant varieties for the future, and hops have so much heritage surrounding them that their cultivation is a window into the social history of past centuries. Beer was once the only safe drink as water was often contaminated, and it is still part of the fabric of our national identity.”
Sparsholt College have a long history of RHS Chelsea Flower Show medal success, achieving 6 Gold medals, 3 Silver-gilt medals, 4 silver medals and 3 bronze medals since 1998.