The walled Kitchen Garden built in the early eighteenth-century, remains an important part of the Rode estate. The two-acre plot slopes gently to the west for drainage while belts of mature trees shelter it to the north and east.
Today the Kitchen Garden is a highlight for many of Rode’s visitors who see it at its best and most colourful from mid-June. Worked almost entirely without the use of chemicals, the plot is divided into four sections that are filled with vegetables, including traditional and exotic varieties, and fruit bushes. Their crop provides a variety of jams and chutneys for the Tea Rooms. A favourite is ‘Kelvin’s Gooseberry Chutney’ which uses prize-winning gooseberries grown by Rode’s own world-champion, Kelvin Archer. Kelvin beat his own world-record on two successive weekends in 1993 with a Montrose weighing 39 penny weight and 19 grains – the size of an egg.
The head gardener occupies the Gardeners Cottage built into the south-facing wall, which is covered in honeysuckle and roses in the summer. The Victorian head gardener, John Bailey, would keep a watchful eye on both his plants and on the bothy, in the far corner, where the garden boys lived. One of their jobs was to stoke the chimneys in the wall supporting the espalier fruit trees. Traces of chimneys, including one restored, still remain, as does the nineteenth-century glazed vinery which still produces today. Another vestige of the Victoria era is ‘Colonel’s Walk’, a private pathway behind the west wall which the Wilbrahams used to bypass the Kitchen Garden as they walked to church.
Flowers for cutting and drying then attract countless butterflies, drawn also by the garden’s long shrub border, abutilons, eucalyptus and mimosa tree.