Rebuilding Gibside's walled garden
Walled gardens are woven into the history and landscape of the places we look after and the lives of local people. Sadly many of our 140 walled gardens have fallen into disrepair and, although we’ve carefully restored 30, we need your help to bring more of these treasured growing spaces back to life.
Gibside’s four acre walled garden is one of those we're hoping will benefit from our Walled Gardens appeal. Built between 1734 and 1736, it was once lavished with exotic South African plants by the adventurous plant-hunting Bowes and Bowes-Lyon families who ran the estate for around 300 years.
A garden ripe for restoration
The plot fell into disrepair in the late 1800s and after coming into our care in the 1990s a large part of it was used for a time as an overflow car park. Thankfully it’s since been possible to turn the garden back into a growing space but more work is needed to restore it to its former glory.
In February 2013 disaster struck for the walled garden when 20m of the wall came tumbling down. Our dedicated volunteers sprung into action, taking on the task of gathering and cleaning over 10,000 bricks, each one almost 300 years old, ready for the wall’s repair.
Plans to rescue the Georgian garden
Alongside the repairs to the wall, geophysics surveys and excavations have revealed a network of pathways and the foundations of an elegant orchid house which we hope will be restored. This will go hand-in-hand with new seating and replanting.
‘Historically there’s an amazing story to tell,’ says Gibside gardener Keith Blundell. ‘It’s also a wonderful space loved by staff, volunteers and visitors. The continuing restoration work will help us to grow the love of this most special garden.’
Getting stuck in at Gibside
Restoring the walled garden will benefit not only visitors to Gibside but also the local community. The garden is used by local residents for a community farming initiative and many other groups are also involved including six primary schools, an NHS hospital and a women’s refuge.
‘It is an absolute honour to garden here,’ says Geoff Hoodless, who as well as being one of the 30 volunteer gardeners at Gibside is also an allotment holder. ‘I involve my grandchildren in my allotment and as a volunteer I love sharing stories with visitors as the garden continues to evolve.’