Our work in the garden at Bateman's
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 team is also carrying out conservation work on Pear Alley, which can be found at the bottom of the orchard, opposite the gated entrance to the Mulberry Garden. Kipling originally designed this feature to provide him with a long view down to the house. The understory planting is being replaced with a new design with plants funded by Eastbourne National Trust Association. New pears are being grown to order on a semi-vigorous rootstock and will be planted in 2023.
In 2000, we took the pear trees down as they had become overgrown. The framework was repaired, and the original pear varieties replaced. However, these trees were in poor state of health, with both canker and scab present on all trees, meaning further restoration is needed.
We have removed the old diseased soil and will be planting new pear trees of good-quality stock. It’s also a great opportunity to increase the variety of herbaceous plants growing under the pear trees, focusing on seasonal interest from spring right through to autumn and capturing a more romantic planting style.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Discover the garden at Bateman's. Find out what to see, from the Rose Garden designed by Kipling to wildflowers, an orchard and even a working mill.
Explore the estate at Bateman's. Discover what to see and do, from wildlife to seasonal plants and walks, in a landscape that inspired Kipling.
Discover where to eat and shop at Bateman’s, the home of author Rudyard Kipling. Stop for a hot drink or light meal, and then browse for the perfect gift or pre-loved book.
Discover the history of Bateman's. Explore its 17th-century beginnings and why the house and garden were so special to Rudyard Kipling and his family.
We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.