0 Working with nature at England's tallest waterfall

Canonteign FallsCanonteign Falls is a very special tourist attraction in the rich and lush landscape of Devon, home to England's tallest waterfall at 220ft.

The estate also features miles of scenic walks, tranquil lakes and waterside gardens, while the manor house is a popular venue for weddings and functions, with formal lawns and flowerbeds offering a picturesque setting.

However, high visitor traffic and the effects of the weather meant that the turf and woodland areas were in need of renovation, and in 2009, estate manager John Voisey sought the advice of British Seed Houses.

Amenity Sales Technical Advisor Joe Hendy recalls: "The formal lawn surrounding the house was in a poor condition and needed a lot of work to restore it to the standards required by the estate. Our A5 dwarf ryegrass mixture, which contains some of the highest rated lawn grass cultivars available in the UK - AberSprite, AberImp and Vesuvius - was the ideal solution. It offers rapid establishment and a fine appearance, yet it is tolerant to wear."

John Voisey comments: "The lawn area gets a lot of wear - it is used for weddings and is often covered with a marquee and floor for up to five days. The A5 mixture recovers really well and soon looks good again."

In the higher gardens, Mr Voisey's team were able to spray off existing cover, cultivate and prepare a seedbed and also use A5 at rates of 35g/sqm.

British Seed Houses A27 was chosen to overseed an area of the lower garden where returfing had been unsuccessful. This all-fescue mixture is commonly used on golf greens and fairways fairways to improve sward density or repair damaged areas, and it was ideal for the shaded turf areas at Canonteign Falls.

Basatop Fair Fertiliser, a complete NPK slow release fertiliser including sulphur and trace elements which provides up to three months supply of nitrogen at a controlled rate, was used pre-seeding at 25g/m2. This encourages excellent development and high density ground cover, helping to give the visually attractive and hardwearing sward needed for the prestigious public areas.

"This has come on well," comments John Voisey, "We are really pleased with the results."

Joe suggested a mixture containing some fescues for the sloped areas as the rhizomatous growth habit of their root system helps with soil stabilisation. "Fescues are inherently more drought tolerant and slow growing, so our A3 Embankments and Drought mixture was ideal - it contains a blend of Slender Creeping Red Fescue, Chewings Fescue and Tall Fescue. Again, Basatop Fair Fertiliser was used.

"The banks need frequent topping up as they suffer from a lot of deer traffic!" explains Jon Voisey. "We need to overseed and repair on a regular basis, and A3 was chosen again in 2010 due to its impressive performance."

Woodland areas posed another challenge - the estate wished to use a wildflower mix but the considerable tree cover means that a mixture designed specifically for shaded areas had to be used.

"The mixture is called WFG8 and consists of 80 per cent grass and 20 percent wildflowers," explains Joe.

However, the maintenance required in these areas proved too demanding for the Canonteign Falls team, and the experiment was not repeated in 2010.

Using slow release fertiliser has proved highly successful, with a spring, summer and autumn application seeing the estate through the year. Floranid Permanent and the higher N content Floranid Turf keep both formal areas well fed with minimal effort by the busy staff.

And, because the mild Devon climate and the breathtaking scenery at Canonteign Falls is in demand all year round, rapid recovery and excellent winter colour is essential. The concentrated iron fertiliser Ferro Top is a real winner, as John Voisey explains: "The lawns get heavy traffic but need to look good for every event, so to be able to give them the quick boost that Ferro Top offers is ideal."

Mr Voisey comments that the sloping site and thin soil makes it extremely difficult to establish good turf cover. "There's no magic cure - the site dries out very quickly, and the weather conditions this year have been especially difficult. But we have really appreciated the advice and help from British Seed Houses, and the fertilisers in particular have been very effective."

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