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Cranbrook Flower Forest to expand fare

Published:Wednesday | April 7, 2010 | 4:00 AM
Peacocks and peahens, part of the rich showcase of fauna, roam the grounds of Cranbrook. - File

Aldeen Campbell, JIS Writer

OCHO RIOS:

Cranbrook Flower Forest and River Head Adventure Trail, a sprawling Jamaican ecotourism attraction in the hills of Laughlands, St Ann, is moving to increase its offerings and broaden its agricultural aspects.

The 130-acre attraction, which caters to nature lovers, weddings, family reunions, corporate fun days and educational tours, is located 18 miles west of the resort town of Ocho Rios.

The property devotes 40 acres to landscape, boasting exotic tropical gardens, lawns, pools and a tropical rainforest.

Lawrence Madden, Cranbrook's manager, told the Jamaica Information Service plans were afoot to expand the Cranbrook Flower Forest, as well as establish a fruit forest, growing a variety of exotic fruit trees, opening links to the tourism trade.

"We are also going to venture into growing vegetables, a whole range of herbs and spices, and all these will be packaged under the Cranbrook brand," Madden explained.

He said a recent establishment was the Cranbrook Nature Centre, which is a registered charity, designed to serve as part of the Cranlin Farms Limited's - owners of Cranbrook Flower Forest - thrust of education and outreach for locals and visitors.

"It will assist those youngsters in high school who are doing their school-based assessments, and we welcome them to come and study the forestry, to learn about how to care for the environment, how to do river training and, at the same time, enjoy recreation and work with the water and water systems," he said.

He also noted that Cranbrook would be partnering with the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to kindle a love for nature among youths.

Other agricultural plans, he said, involve the expansion of the plant nursery at Cranbrook to include not only flowering plants and ornamentals, but a wide variety of tree crops.

He said the nursery will focus on seedling production that can enhance Cranbrook's backyard and school-gardening programmes, as well as its commercial production of vegetables and root crops.

"We are moving to make this facility into an agro-tech learning centre and a centre of excellence for production, where you will learn how to care for the environment so the environment can care for you," Madden said.

Operators of the nature park said they intend to work in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority and the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to utilise the production.

"What you will see happen now is that we will be able to provide employment, because we want to attract a number of these graduates who are coming out of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education and Ebony Park HEART Academy, so that we will have knowledge-based workers among us," he said.

He explained that these graduates would be employed as tour guides and demonstrators. Cranbrook plans to host its own agricultural show and farmers' market, where persons can purchase fresh produce of the best quality, he said.

The attractions include bird watching, wading in the river, a petting zoo, pond fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and a nature walk.

"There is also tree-top tour that is actually done by Chukka Cove, and we facilitate it by actually allowing them to land on our property at the head of the forest, because we are willing to partner with anybody who has a vision and the vision is compatible with what we do," he assured.

Adventure Trail

A favourite for many visitors to Cranbrook is the River Head Adventure Trail, which begins on the lawns of the entrance garden. It takes a path through the beautiful gardens and walkways, along the banks of the Little River, passing under a canopy of bamboo trees and then gently making its way up into an unspoilt natural rain forest.

The sound of water cascading over rocks and trees reaching for the sky, heralds the approach to the cathedral-like gorge, where the river rises from a pristine pool at the foot of the rocks.

"Another attraction is the royal palm, which forms a beautiful walkway. All the palm trees are about 30 feet in height, and it is just a beauty to behold, and it forms the backdrop to a lot of weddings, as it is lined with other beautiful plants around the base of the palm trees," said Madden.

Cranbrook was opened to the public in May 1997. Its floral range includes orchids, begonias, gingers, heliconias, birds of paradise, ixorias, red euphobias, yellow alamanders, crotons, ferns, bromeliads, philodendrons and palms.