Visitor stories: Imogen

Imogen Usherwood

We asked our regular visitor, Imogen, what she loves most about Sizergh and for her top highlights from the garden.

Imogen and Tracey next to the Herbaceous Border in early summer

Name: Imogen Usherwood

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I'm 25 and have lived in the local area since I was 12. I left to study Russian and Slavonic languages and cultures at university in 2013. During this time I also lived abroad for a year, in Eastern Europe, but then had to move back in with my parents at the end of 2016 following a severe relapse of a chronic health condition. As well as an interest in languages and travel, I love exploring the great outdoors and know I'm lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country. The gardens at Sizergh have become a particular favourite local spot.

How long have you been coming to Sizergh? What made you first visit?

I believe I must have visited Sizergh first when I was in my teens, but it wasn't until 2017, after moving back home, that I started visiting so regularly. 2017 was a hard year for me; I wasn't well at all physically, but the isolation and loneliness I felt was worse. I started visiting Sizergh (with my mum first and then my carer, Tracey, when she finally was able to start working with me) whenever I could, on my better days. Sizergh was an obvious choice, both because the gardens themselves are beautiful and because it was fairly close to home so I didn't get too exhausted by the journey there. I quickly realised I always felt better after these visits. Just to have a change of scene and time outside, at a time when I was frequently housebound, helped immensely. The gardens are small and easy enough to get around, even when using a wheelchair... Although sometimes we do need help on the gravel paths! The staff, volunteers and gardeners are also a super friendly bunch, and I quickly started being recognised as a regular. This, again, did so much for my wellbeing, because I'd felt really low about leaving uni friends behind such a huge distance away and I believed I no longer had friends in the local area. I also believed I couldn't make friends in my current state, so the friendliness of others and just being recognised helped disprove these beliefs and really helped combat the loneliness.

Imogen with Charlie the cat, in front of Sizergh Castle
Imogen sitting with Charlie the cat on her lap in front of Sizergh Castle
Imogen with Charlie the cat, in front of Sizergh Castle

What's your favourite part of the garden and why?

I think my favourite part of the garden changes every time I visit! I love the varied collection of ferns growing out of the rocks and logs near the garden's entrance, but I'm always excited to get to the kitchen garden and see what's new there. I love how beautifully presented it is, showing growing fruits and vegetables can look good as I also love the kitchen garden. It's amazing to see fruits and vegetables presented so well and looking fantastic. I love the cute apples growing close to the ground, and used like a border, and that the different colours are organised in grids. I'm also excited to see the sweetpeas return, as they've long been a favourite of mine.

Which is your favourite season to visit the garden (and why)?

As I am lucky enough to live locally, I get to see the gardens change with the seasons. It's different every time we go! If I had to choose a favourite season though, I'd say early Spring, when the many, many different varieties of daffodils are out and the garden is just starting to burst back into life.

What would you recommend as a 'must see' for someone who's never been before?

Well, the garden is small enough, you really should look round all of it! But don't forget the topiary garden and orchard (with the bees and chickens!), as both can be easily missed as they're off the path. I only go to the topiary garden when the weather has been dry, so not to ruin the lawn, but it's a lovely view on a sunny day, looking back to the castle.

Imogen and Tracey in the topiary garden on the south lawn