The Brackenhurst Botanical Garden and Forest (BBGF) at our Highland Forest Hub is now renowned as the first-ever accredited botanic garden in Kenya, and due to CER-K’s restoration efforts, with integral support from local community members and other partners, it has turned into a flourishing indigenous forest.
It all began in 1914 as a small farm on the green hill of Tigoni near Limuru Town. Famously called “nothing but mist,” Tigoni was a sanctuary for vibrant wildlife and dazzling forests, forming the southern tip of the Aberdare ecosystem, one of the world’s natural treasures. It was predominantly a forest area with a wide range of flora and fauna, but today 99.9% of the trees, birds and wildlife, have been lost to felling by encroaching communities to create farms and tea estates.
The farm was called “Three Trees Farm” due to the three large Muna trees on the property. It was meant to be a simple coffee farm but when World War I began, the farm owners started providing holidays for British soldiers.
The holiday centre lived through several decades, an earthquake, and a well-concealed leopard, before the Baptist Mission of Kenya bought it in 1964 and turned it into Brackenhurst Hotel & Conference Centre. They developed its beautiful grounds for use by corporate, church, and other visitors for team-building, conferencing, and adventuring.
In 2000, Brackenhurst developed a strong relationship with Plants For Life International (PLI), an NGO for environmental conservation founded by Mark Nicholson. Together, they launched a 30-year project to convert Brackenhurst land into an indigenous forest. The first restoration phase focused on clearing the exotic eucalyptus, wattle, pine and cypress trees. Next, they planted 120,000 indigenous trees on more than 100 hectares of land.
In 2006, CER-K became a member of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). And 10 years later, it achieved a Level 3 accreditation with ArbNet, a worldwide grouping of arboreta, based in the Morton Arboretum, a public garden, and outdoor museum with a library, herbarium, and tree research program in Lisle, Illinois, in the United States The BGCI compound now boasts of many rare trees and shrubs that can are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which was founded in 1964, and which serves as an inventory of the status of conservation and biological species worldwide.
2015 brought the return of CER-K’s ‘flagship’ species - the colobus monkeys, which were returning after an 80-year absence. Other animals to return to the site include bushbabies, sykes monkeys, civet and genet cats, white-tailed and black-tipped mongooses, African Clawless otters and hedgehogs, porcupines, and bush pigs! In 2019 CER-K conducted a bird species survey, which showed the rise in bird species on site from 30 species to over 180 in 2000,. 2018 was the start of a new phase in Brackenology, which included the ardent desire to attract more visitors to the forest and gardens and one day become the first accredited botanic garden in Kenya. What a joy when the dream came to fruition in 2021! Brackenology then went on to become the Centre for Ecological Restoration - Kenya (CER-K) where Brackenhurst Botanic Garden and Forest (BBGF) is the site of one of our restoration hubs.