Maintaining the gardens at Chartwell throughout lockdown
Chartwell has not been so quiet since the Second World War, when Winston Churchill and his family left his beloved home behind and moved to Downing street.
Although no one could visit Chartwell during lockdown, work behind the scenes has not stopped and 2020 has seen major changes across the gardens. Just prior to the lockdown, the garden team were in the final throes of completing some extensive garden border restoration work and putting the final plants in position, completing a five-year restoration project.
During the lockdown, a large portion of the garden team were furloughed and volunteering ceased, leaving behind a very small team to deliver the minimal essential tasks in order to not lose control of the garden. The remaining team have worked tirelessly; undertaking essential tasks in the garden and working to keep the whole of Chartwell secure. This has included copious amounts of mowing to retain formal lawns, extensive amounts of targeted weeding on a cyclical rota and the new borders have required regular and careful watering to enable new plantings to settle in.
With reduced staff levels, it isn't possible for us to grow and care for all the annual stock in the Chartwell greenhouses as we normally would. For that reason, the annual seasonal planting and variety in the Walled Garden has been greatly reduced. However, there are still some eye-catching borders and most of the productive beds are now full with pumpkins and squashes to enable Chartwell to create displays this coming autumn.
All the portfolio staff are extremely proud of the work that the garden team have carried out under the current pressures. These have been testing times for everyone and on your next visit it's likely you'll see less annual seasonal displays throughout the garden and some of the borders may not be looking their best. But the team is already working hard to rectify this as lockdown measures began to be relaxed.
We mustn’t forget that this isn’t the first time the gardens of Chartwell have suffered. Mary Soames, daughter of the Churchills, described the post-war conditions in her book: “The gardens, fields and woods at Chartwell were, of course, in a shaggy and neglected state after the war years. But gradually their condition was restored”.
Though the light at the end of the tunnel may be some distance away, all of us here at Chartwell are grateful for the continued support and are pleased to welcoming our visitors back to the garden.
The National Trust has introduced a booking system, so we can manage visitor numbers and enable effective social distancing. Anyone planning on visiting a National Trust site has to book a place on the property webpages.
We can’t wait to see you again soon.