The Wild Garden
As you pass between the stone pillars of the gateway and enter into The Wild Garden, the atmosphere changes dramatically. The Wild Garden, where Kipling once had his tennis court, is now planted informally with a mass of spring bulbs and flowering trees and shrubs.
The Wild Garden at Bateman's has something to offer visitors throughout the year, from spring bulbs unfolding into carpets of colour on the ground, to wildflowers in the summer months and a riot of colour in the autumn months. Here are some seasonal highlights to give you a flavour of what you might see at different times of the year.
We can highly recommend regular visits to admire the earliest snowdrops, narcissi, small blue Scilla litardieri and S. bifolia and the white gem-like flowers of Wood Anemones. Following swiftly on are the checkerboard-flowered Snakes Head Fritillary in purple and white, bluebells and the tall Camassia Leichtlinii from North America carpeting the floor underneath the March-flowering Cornus mas, flowering cherries and the snowy peaks of Amerlanchier lamarckii (Snowy Mespilus – Juneberry) in April and finally the Rhododendrons and sweet-smelling Azaleas and our remarkable flowering crab apple Malus floribunda in May to early June.
Standing on the first bridge over the River Dudwell, you can see the Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton Americanum), bearing giant acid yellow arum-type flowers (which give this plant the smelly part of its name) in spring.
Just beyond the bridge is the tall Balsam Poplar, Populus balsamifera. In spring the sweet musky perfume exuded from the opening leaf buds is quite intoxicating.
The river, although only 10 miles in length, is of a very good quality and is host to a range of invertebrates, insects and fish, including nineteen Dragonfly, Damselfly and Demoiselle species, brown trout and Kingfishers, which can be seen darting over the water in summer.
In summer, wildflowers take over rom the cultivate species; Cuckoo Flower and Ramsons flower in abundance followed by a variety of vetches, clover and speedwells. Along the banks of the river we can see Meadow Sweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and Rosebay Willowherb, the living fossil that is Horsetail (Equisetum), which has been around for over 100 million years, and a mass of Leucanthemum vulgare (Ox eye daisies). By the bridge over the weir are the equally prehistoric looking Gunnera tinctorial, Giant Rhubarb and Darmera peltate (Umbrella Plant).
In late summer we take a hay cut in the Wild Garden and Meadow beyond, which helps to reduce the vigour of the grass, allowing more wildflowers eventually to colonise the area.
The Wild Garden will be on fire with autumn colours; look out for Amelanchiers, Azaleas, Liquidamer and the Katsura tree Cercidiphyllum japonicum with leaves that smell like toffee apples.
A path through the Wild Garden leads to the old Park Mill which features in Puck of Pook’s Hill. The Mill dates back to 1750 and in Kipling’s day was used to power his hydro electric power turbines to generate electricity for the house. Today the mill is once again producing flour on a regular basis.
Just like in Kipling's day, you may spot Hens, roaming around the Wild Garden and Mill area. These are looked after by Len Bernamont, the Garden & Outdoors Manager, who enjoys watching the hens pecking around the Wild Garden, foraging for insects and also the occasional crumbs from visitor sandwiches.
" The main benefit is the way they spread the wildflower seeds, by scratching around in the Wild Garden, and spreading seeds for germination on their feet."
In spring you can see the effect, as the wildflowers burst into life providing a colourful display in the Wild Garden.
The chickens are a valuable part of the eco system here at Bateman's and we appreciate your co-operation in helping to keep them safe, by keeping dogs on short leads.