A fruitful garden at Stoneywell

Apples in the orchard at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Stoneywell reaps rewards a plenty at harvest time, for visitors of two- and four-legged varieties. Birds feast on berries from the rowan trees, while the tearoom offers cakes made from orchard apples and fruit freshly picked from the walled garden. The challenge, though, is to beat the squirrels to the chestnuts at the top of the hill.

The walled garden

Geoge Richardson, a local gardener from Newtown Linford, was employed by Sydney Gimson in the early 20th century to tend to the garden three days a week, all year round. Sydney would visit George weekly during the winter to pay him and return to Leicester with any fruit and vegetables.

100 years on, and the garden still produces an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables enjoyed by all who visit Stoneywell - including the occasional rabbit.

The walled garden was established as Stoneywell's main vegetable garden in the early 1900s, before the outbreak of the First World War. It was dug at the top of the hill, and walled a few years later to keep the rabbits out, using locally available stones.

Since the National Trust acquired Stoneywell in late 2012, the walled garden has been a hive of activity, restoring it to a working garden. In April 2013 the first plot was dug in preparation for its use as a holding area for cleansed plants - a reflection of the extensive works that were being done by a growing team of volunteers across the wider four acres of garden. Today, alongside Stoneywell's herbaceous collection you can find several varieties of soft fruit, an abundance of rhubarb and a feast of potatoes, beetroot, carrots and radishes.

The scarecrow stands tall in the walled garden to protect the produce from raiding rabbits
A scarecrow in the walled garden at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

The orchard

Around 1902 orchard trees were planted between the stables and the grass drive to a plan provided by Ernest Gimson, Stoneywell's architect and Sydney's younger brother. By 1950 all had died with the exceptionof a cox and crab apple tree, which too were gone a decade later. However, during the Second World War a second, smaller vegetable garden was added alongside the tennis court. This was converted into an orchard in 1950 for six apple trees - a mixutre of Newton Wonder, Bramley and Worcester Permain - and a solitary plum tree.

Stoneywell's orchard offers a quiet spot hidden at one end of the garden
The orchard at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Reaping the rewards

Today much of the fruit and vegetables grown in Stoneywell's gardens are enjoyed by visitors and the property team alike. The birds still get their fair share - particularly of bilberries, as the purple marks on the benches bear testimony to! The property is fortunate enough to have a recipe book by Mrs Woolley - Stoneywell's former housekeeper - and will soon be recreating some of her recipes using produce from the garden. In the meantime, much of the harvest is made available in the stables, for visitors to take a taste of Stoneywell home with them.

A selection of the produce freshly picked from Stoneywell's gardens
Fresh produce on offer from the gardens at Stoneywell, Leicestershire