Terrace Hill Garden

View from Terrace Hill garden at Minnowburn, County Down

What do linen, volunteering, recycling and impressing the neighbours have in common? Terrace Hill Garden and its restoration encapsulates the history of both the Lagan Valley and the National Trust in Belfast.

When you go about planning the garden  of your new house, it’s unlikely you’ll think of what’ll be happening there 8 decades later.

So it was in 1938, when Ned Robinson decided to spend his fortune, made in Northern Ireland’s world-renowned Linen industry, on a new house and garden.

Like many of the linen magnates of the time, he wanted a grand house overlooking Lagan valley, a mix of picture-postcard views and the centre of industry and transport.

More important, however, was a garden suitable for hosting lazy evening parties in full view of jealous neighbours across the river in Malone house.

Saved for the people of Belfast

So Terrace Hill Garden was born, in the Italian sunken garden style, with Art Deco and Arts and Crafts influences.

And yet just over two decades later the area was under threat from development, having moved on from Belfast’s industrial heyday.

In 1962, the National Trust stepped in, saving an area that had now become a popular as a destination for walking and meeting among the residents of Belfast, in the spirit of founder Octavia Hill’s vision.

A ‘secret’ garden, restored and shared

With the garden and around now safe from development, generations of folk from Belfast and beyond explored Minnowburn and found their ‘secret garden’ on Terrace Hill, sharing moments and forming memories.

However by the turn of the century, the garden had become overgrown. With Rangers now working full time in Belfast, work began on reinterpreting and restoring the garden.

In the past decade, views have been opened up, walls and fences have been repaired and rebuilt, paths uncovered and the beds and walls replanted with a mix of woody and herbaceous species, all done by volunteers keen to hone their gardening skills or just enjoy the outdoors.

A new era

The latest addition to the garden is seating, refashioned and recycled from the old decking of the Lagan weir bridge, where you can take in the sights and smells of the garden, or enjoy probably the best view in the Lagan valley beyond.

Now the garden has moved on from roses and parties, it’s now a venue for music, weddings, art, or just a lazy picnic or kick about in the sun. No doubt Ned would have approved.