10 years of restoring the Walled Garden at Attingham
A treat for the senses and a delight all year round, ever changing with the seasons. During 2018 Attingham’s Walled Garden had been back in production for 10 years, and the journey isn’t over yet. Attingham’s Walled Garden is an example of the National Trust’s commitment to sustainability and locally grown food.
Attingham’s Walled Garden is a hive of activity, with seasonal fruit, vegetables and flowers grown throughout the year, and a haven for wildlife, including the Attingham bees. What you can see today is the results of ambitious conservation and restoration work to bring back what had been an empty and unused space, into a beautiful and bountiful production garden.
During 2018 we marked 10 years of restoration work in the garden.
The history of the Walled Garden
Attingham’s Walled Garden and Orchard were probably built at the same time as the Mansion for Noel, 1st Lord Berwick, in the 1780s. In its heyday it would have provided the whole household and staff with fruit, vegetables and flowers throughout the year. The latest horticultural technology was deployed to extend the season at both ends, providing the Berwicks with the latest developments of heated walls and glasshouses. This meant that exotic fruits such as pineapples, melons, and grapes could be grown for this family whose fortunes were on the rise.
As the Berwicks’ fortunes declined over the centuries the garden adapted. From a source of essential foodstuffs during the Second World War “Dig for Victory” campaign, to a market garden supplying local residents. It was also used as a space for recreation and hobbies, including possibly as a football pitch for students at the Adult Education college based in the mansion (1948-1970s), and towards the end of the last century, as a Christmas Tree plantation.
With all the changes over the years, the glasshouses fell into disrepair, the well and dipping pool had been filled in, and the hoggin paths overgrown. Only the historic walls remained as a testament to the horticultural excellence that once reigned within.
The restoration begins
The Walled Garden was earmarked for conservation and restoration after careful research and planning in the 1990s, the first soil of the restoration was turned on Monday 19 May 2008.
Over the past ten years a small staff team of gardeners have led an enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer team in the continued cultivation of the garden, bringing new areas into production, as well as tending the fruits, vegetables and flowers that are used in seasonal recipes in the onsite Carriage House Café and sold in the Stables Shop for visitors to take home and enjoy.
2008 saw one quarter of the garden returned to cultivation and the ambitious programme to restore it to full productivity has continued since.
" When I started working in the Walled Garden in spring 2009 I was daunted by its massive scale: a huge two-acre site of earth, grass and walls. We’ve started to return the permanent planting to the gardens – espaliered pears in the beds, peaches, plums, nectarines and apples against the walls. Tying in the new growth of these trees gives me a wonderful sense of connection with generations of gardeners who worked here before me."
Since the start of the restoration the glasshouses and vinery have been repaired and reinstated, back sheds have been brought back into use, the Orchard containing 160 trees and over 37 varieties of apples is now carefully managed, a cut flower garden has been created in the Frameyard, and three of the four quarters in the garden are once more in production.
The Gardeners Bothy has been repaired and is open to visitors containing information on the restoration, as well as a roaring fire on cooler days.
What are we restoring next?
During 2018 and 2019 Attingham is raising funds to repair and replace the frames and glass on the productive glass houses in the Frameyard.
These structures dating from the 1920s have come to the end of their life (not bad for nearly 100 years!) and with the increasing annual maintenance and conservation, and to ensure their continued survival and crucial role in growing seedlings and produce, parts of the frames will need to be replaced. As the Georgian gardeners utilised the most up to date horticultural technology, so will we, as today’s more modern long lasting materials and methods of construction will be used.