A secret garden in Worcestershire was revealed to the public for the first time for over a century exclusively this August Bank Holiday weekend (23rd-25th Aug).
The Walled Gardens at Croome Court is one of the finest Georgian walled gardens in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe.
It has been restored from an overgrown and unruly wilderness to its former glory by owners, Chris and Karen Cronin. The Cronins fell instantly in love with the gardens, which date back to the 16th century, after discovering it in a dilapidated state in 2000. They saw past the wild brambles and shells of agricultural buildings, in spite of common sense and strong advice given against the investment.
Together they had the vision of what they could make of this magnificent historic dwelling and were drawn by the mystery that fulfilled The Walled Gardens and what they might find once the restoration was underway.
“We came to Croome as enthusiastic amateurs, and we remain as such, but we now have earned a measurable amount of experience and we hope to continue to apply it in a positive manner. Our adventure has been ground breaking in many ways and we now want to share our journey with all who are interested in historic gardens,” said Chris.
The restoration has revealed a wealth of antiquity from service tunnels that would have been used to channel the cast iron hot water pipes, to a large dipping pond that acquired its name through its function of dipping buckets to collect water to distribute around the garden and to the nearby stable block. The dipping pond has now become a new haven for various forms of wildlife, with some rare species of frog and newts being spotted.
Archives and media cuttings express the true value of the garden back in its historical glory, with a Gardening World article dating back to 1887 exploring the array of glass houses to offer – the original article is still available to see today.
The glass houses and outbuildings are an integral part of the restoration. After a number of years of dedicated restoration a vinery, a melon and cucumber house and a peach and fig house are fully restored. The foundations remain for an original tomato house, forcing beds, pineapple pits and orchard house, where more work is planned in the future.
With sustainable and eco-friendly living an ethos that the Cronins want to implement at The Walled Gardens, the melon and cucumber house is a perfect example. A system allows rain water to be channelled from its roof into a large storage tank under the terrace, which is then pumped inside through a network of pipes to water an array of produce from vines to bananas.
“Our future plans for the gardens rest, to some extent, in the hands of those who wish to share this dream,” said Karen. “We aspire to expand massively and bring the gardens back to full productivity again, a very ambitious plan that will require considerable support from the wider community in order for it to succeed.”
With an extremely successful opening over the August Bank Holiday weekend, seeing over 1,400 visitors – the Cronins are looking to open the gardens on a more frequent basis as of Spring 2015.