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Our work in the garden at Bateman's

A view of pink and red roses across the paved network of paths that surround the rose garden at Bateman's with a rectangular pond and the house in the background
The rose garden and lime avenue in September at Bateman's | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The main aim of the garden team at Bateman’s is to capture the spirit of the garden as it would have been when Rudyard Kipling lived here. This has been quite a challenge as there is little information and only a very few surviving photos showing the garden layout and plants. But they haven’t let this stop them.

Kipling’s influence in the garden

The Kipling family had a major influence on the layout of the garden at Bateman’s – which is still in existence today – planting yew hedges to create privacy and divide the space into garden rooms. Many of the character features are Kipling additions, such as the orchard, Pear Alley, lily pond and rose garden.

Protecting existing features

At Bateman’s our garden team is working hard to maintain these existing features as close to Kipling’s design as possible, including replacing plants with the original species where they’re still available. For example, we’ve refurbished the spring and front garden borders and they now look more like they did during Kipling’s time.

Restoring Pear Alley

Our garden team have recently restored Pear Alley. Located at the bottom of the orchard this is a metal hooped structure, 20 metres in length spanning a paved pathway originally created by Rudyard Kipling circa 1905.

The tunnel effect provided Kipling with a long vista from the orchard towards the house at Bateman's. Sitting on an old oak bench seat at the far end of the alley, he could rest and admire the home he'd bought and ponder both the responsibilities and humour of becoming 'one of the landed gentry'.

As the name suggests, the structure was planted with espaliered pear trees, trained to grow over the metalwork, adorned with white pear blossom in April and golden dropping pears in autumn. In more recent years, narrow borders were created, with low perennial groundcover plants growing underneath the pear trees.

Close up of espaliered pears growing through a metal framework
Espaliered pears in the garden at Bateman's | © National Trust Images/John Miller

In 2000 the original pear trees were removed because they had become entangled with the framework. The ironwork was repaired, and replacement trees planted. Recently these plants, grown on a poor rootstock, have declined, and succumbed to various fruit tree diseases.

In February 2024, our garden team planted 22 new pear trees, provided by the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, and grown on a semi-vigorous rootstock, which should mean the trees grow strong and tall enough to once again cover the metal structure. The new underplanting was designed to better reflect the romantic, floristic Art’s & Craft’s style which influenced the design of Kipling’s garden, with an extended period of interest achieved through the careful selection of plants providing flower and leaf interest from March to November.

Len Bernamont, Gardens and Outdoors Manager at Bateman’s says: “Pear Alley is one the most significant surviving features of Rudyard Kipling's garden. The Queen's Green Canopy fund and a donation from the Eastbourne NT Association have provided us with an opportunity to restore this feature closer to the way it originally would have looked, and at the same time, introduce more blossom and variation in flower forms to provide forage for pollinators in the garden.”

A person on one knee planting a pear tree.
Pear tree planting at Bateman's | © Lucy Evans

Experimenting with fresh ideas

Gardens continually evolve, and our gardening team is always investigating new planting ideas, particularly in the Mulberry Garden which, although referred to as Kipling’s kitchen garden, was formal in design; the planting was largely a mixture of herbaceous perennials and shrubs with the clever use of fruit trees adding both structure and productive qualities to what was a very ornamental design. We currently use annual flowers and vegetables to reflect the same ornamental and productive qualities of Kipling’s earlier design.

An image of a white butterfly perched on a bright pink flower in the Mulberry Garden at Bateman's in East Sussex
Colourful blooms in the Mulberry Garden attract lots of insects | © National Trust Images/Nina Elliot-Newman

‘Each year we conjure with new and varied planting combinations to create what we like to call ‘a fusion of food and flower’.’

– Len Bernamont, Garden and Outdoors Manager at Bateman’s

The challenges posed by flooding

One big challenge our gardeners face is contending with historic winter flooding of the lower parts of the garden from the River Dudwell, which flows through the Wild Garden.

Managing the water

At Bateman's, we are currently working with other organisations including the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Southeast Rivers Trust and Environment Agency to develop a natural flood management plan. Methods being considered include log bunds, which allow the river to flow freely at normal levels but during a flood, when the water tops its banks, they force it out into fields that have the capacity to hold it.

Creating new habitats

Tree and hedge planting will capture and slow more of the water running off the slopes, with depressions created in some of the fields, to hold even more water for longer. Not only will these actions mitigate the flooding, they will create new habitats for a variety of species, including wading birds.

Other challenges

Being open for 363 days of the year means we do all the garden maintenance, such as lawn repair, in public view. We carry out as much noisy machinery work as we can out of hours but working in view of visitors does enable lots of opportunities to engage with people hopefully allowing a much deeper insight into our conservation work.

Winter jobs in the garden

In comparison to the abundant, colourful borders and flowerbeds of summer, the winter garden at Bateman's can be less vibrant. However, our garden team can't afford to sit back and relax as there are a surprising number of jobs that need to be done during this quiet time.

Trimming the hedges

One substantial task that needs doing in winter is to clip the many yew hedges around the garden, as well as the rows of pleached limes on the lawn. This is carried out meticulously by our team of gardeners and opens up the views from the garden out across the estate.

A man with his back to us up a ladder pruning trees
Pruning the pleached limes at Bateman's in East Sussex | © National Trust Images/Elizabeth Vessey


The festive season is a busy time at Bateman's, full of activity as we welcome visitors to enjoy our special themed Christmas events, activites and decorations.

'In January and February, the garden becomes Kipling's 'good and peaceable place' and visitors and staff can enjoy the tranquillity of their surroundings, while taking in views and the structural elements of the garden that can only be seen at this time of year. I love the view over the estate at this time of year; reminding me of the strong connection between the garden and the landscape that inspired so much of Kipling's later writings.’

- Len Bernamont, Garden and Outdoors Manager

Planning for next year

There are many jobs to do at this time of year, especially as the days get shorter. But while putting the garden to bed, the gardeners at Bateman’s are already thinking ahead to their spring jobs. They know it won’t be long until they see the first green leaves and developing flower heads of the snowdrops in January that herald the vibrant spring colour to come.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

House reflected in the mill pond at Bateman's, East Sussex


Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

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