Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire

It has become a tradition on the First Tuesday in January for the Tuesday Team to walk from the Mansion Stable Yard through the Park to Knutsford, have a coffee and chat at a lovely café, and then walk back to the Stable Yard for lunch in the Restaurant there; most enjoyable with good company, if a little wet until the afternoon. Weather permitting we start work on the second Tuesday.

I hope you all did your ploughing on Plough Monday and that you will enjoy Wassailing at the weekend following.

Our first Tuesday of work saw the Team ‘rhodo-bashing’ between Mercury and the Monument (sounds like a pop group!). This essential work is done every year to keep the rhododendron under control and rejuvenated; the Team gently worked their muscles back to fitness after a month’s “rest”. The weather was cold in the morning, snow at lunchtime and sunshine as we packed up for the day. Another Tuesday, another déjà vu in all respects, luckily for the ‘r-b’ Team.

‘Kung hey fat choi’: Happy New Chinese Year of the Wooden Sheep which starts with February’s full moon.

When the restoration of the Walled Kitchen Garden took place in the early part of this century, there was insufficient funding to restore the likewise walled Old Nursery which once provided plants for both the kitchen garden and formal garden. This fantastic and once productive space slumbered on unloved until recently. One stalwart gardener is now slowly and determinedly bringing this huge area back to life, and there is an exciting Project in the offing. The last remaining sunken Melon Pit (there were originally three) is to be put back into use growing melons, following some urgently needed tlc. The roof lights are to be repaired, the contaminated soil from the brick waist high raised beds removed, and refilled with manure to create hot-beds. When up and running it is intended that interested visitors will be given a conducted tour and brief talk about the history of the melon pit, which is 76ft long and 10ft wide, with half the height sunk below ground level, to retain heat. Before this can happen the access steps will be checked, safe paths need to be laid circum-navigating the melon pit, together with a ramp for disabled access into the pit house.

Another bright cold day but two bonfires were providing welcome heat. Tree felling and clearing was the order of the day for the Team, to open views both across the parkland and around the Japanese Garden. Meanwhile I cleared the weeds and debris from the gutters of the Melon Pit and tidied up pots and trays in the morning, and in the afternoon raked back soil from the edges of the slip bed lawns in the Orchard where a cheeky mole had deposited its molehills in a long line along the edges.

Half Term sees the Scarecrow Festival in the Formal Gardens. The bright sunshine brought out lots of families to enjoy spotting them. The volunteers had to keep moving so they weren’t mistaken for a scarecrow.

The start of seed sowing and pricking out has been badly delayed due to the glasshouse still waiting for repairs to be completed. As the builders have been ‘pulled off’ to work on the Tenants Hall for five weeks it could be nearer Easter before production can begin.   Hopefully with our good facilities we will be able to catch up.

A bright but very cold morning saw the Team down by the Japanese Garden, planting Willow cuttings to add another dimension to the space. In the afternoon the American Garden got a weed-through, and the soft fruit beds saw the start of a weed and tidy.

FORUM 2015

We are very happy to announce that there will definitely be a WKGN Forum this year. Thanks to the kindness of Chris and Karen Cronin, it will take place at their Kitchen Garden at Croome Park in Worcestershire, early in October.
Details regarding the precise date, speakers, and how to book will appear on the Grapevine in due course.




Reg. Charity 1044024


ISBN 978-0-9931470-0-5

Cost £7.00, plus £2.00 postage and packing.

Edited by Polly Burns, Tina Ranft and Nigel Surry

Suffolk Gardens Trust is pleased to announce the publication of their latest book ‘Walled Gardens of Suffolk’, the result of a decade of research to identify and record walled gardens and also to advise owners and tenants as to how they can be revitalised and the role they can play in the 21st century. We hope that this work will enthuse readers to learn more about the development and variety of walled gardens in Suffolk and consider ways in which their decline can be arrested. Suffolk has the potential to have its own Heligan!

Our team of recorders have done detailed surveys of some 40 gardens reflecting very different life styles. We are indebted to Jenny Broster, a member of the group who has made available her degree thesis to the editors and indeed gave us the group the idea that more could be written to inspire further study and identification of sites.

80 pages.

11 Ordnance Survey maps

Over 50 colour photos

8 case studies

List of gardens

Glossary of terms

Select bibliography

Suffolk Gardens Trust was founded in 1995, for further details of our aims and activities, please see out website, suffolkgardenstrust.org . To order ‘Walled Gardens of Suffolk’ or get information about Suffolk Gardens Trust, please contact:-

Stephen Beaumont, Chairman on 01728, stephenbinkybeaumont@gmail.com

Nigel Surry or Polly Burns on 01787 370953, surry.burns@keme.co.uk

Any advice for Simon?

Hello WKGN members,

We have a walled garden of approximately 2 acres size with rectangular wall, our house (the gardener’s cottage) being set into the middle of the south wall. We are situated to the east of Glasgow. We have lived here about 3 years. The previous owners had arranged for some building work to repair some sections of the wall which were badly damaged, I think about 10 years ago.
A fairly large section of the south wall has recently collapsed, about 15 metres long, and approx the top 3 metres of the approx 4 metre high wall. This part of the wall is brick inner and outer skin with rubble in-between. It is only the inner skin which has collapsed resulting in the large coping stones also falling in, but the outer skin remains intact. Some adjacent parts of the inner skin appear unstable.
This part of the wall was one of those parts which were repaired about 10 years ago, in fact the new section has fallen off the older section which remains at the base. When you look at the construction of the new section it appears that the builder has not tied the two skins together sufficiently, whereas the properly constructed older parts of the wall appear to have intermittent layers of bricks end on which presumably tie the inner to the outer, or both to the rubble centre.
It appears that our insurer will not cover this, despite us thinking that our walls were covered.
I assume that we will need to get a structural engineer’s report to assess this damage and advise on proper repair. I wonder if this should be a specialist in this type of construction, and if anyone knows of such specialist in the central belt of Scotland or who would be prepared to travel. I presume it would also be best to get a specialist builder for the repair, which I guess is going to be expensive.
Does anyone have any advice about this? It would be gratefully received.
Simon Osborne.

Kitchen Garden Specialist

Kitchen Gardener required.
Location: Private Country Estate North Yorkshire.
Salary: Circa £18,000-21500 Per Annum + Accommodation.

for more information go to;


November and December Musings.

Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire

The first Tuesday in November was unbelievably warm and sunny. The day was spent doing an ‘archaeological dig’ to find the Victorian edging tiles to the path in front of the Pinery (or Pineapple House) which had become buried under ‘the lawn’ and the hoggin on the path which had slid down the camber over them. I was assisted by the special needs married couple I have mentored over the past 10 years, and we made a good team: I made the mess and they picked up the turves and swept the path. The tomato plants in the Fig Houses had the last of their bounteous crop picked and taken to the Restaurant, where the green ones will be made into chutney and the red ones served in salads. The plants were taken down from their strings and composted, with thanks for their sterling production.

St Martinmas Day (Nov 11) was mild, so hopefully the weather will continue to be so for several more weeks, even though a bit windy and wet at times. The Team observed the two minutes silence at 11am in the Kitchen Garden, and also remembered the previous generations of gardeners there. More ‘archaeological digging’, this time by the Peach Case, where we (the couple and I) unearthed the downpipe drains from overgrown grass and weeds, clearing them out and then started on removing a long stretch of weeds inbetween to enable the making a new lawn edge. Broad Beans were planted by the Team in the Kitchen Garden, winter veg (eg celeriac, leeks, brassicas) were gathered for the Restaurant and Café, plus Garden Shop. Out in the Formal Gardens the Croquet Lawn at the side of the Mansion was being scarified and cleared.

The Great Lawn, bounded by The Maze, the Italian Garden, The Mansion, The Conservatory and Charlotte’s Garden was manfully and womanfully cleared of leaves by the Team. In the Orchard, edging of the many strips of lawn by the walls steadily continued.

A change of location this week to the Picnic Area for the leaf sweepers, the gardeners also joining in. This area has mainly oak trees, so the leaves were bagged and saved for use in the Pineapple House. The Peach Case edging has been completed, and matches the edging outside the Pineapple House.

Mole hills have appeared, just where I have edged the lawns, so a line will be needed to straighten the edges, but this will have to wait until next year.

The Volunteers’ Christmas Lunch in the Foyer of the Tenants Hall was hosted this year by the Japanese Garden Team, and attended by 74 volunteers of various skills. There was a talk about the animals at the Tattondale Home Farm, and the usual fiendish quiz, which certainly got the brain cells working after a good lunch.

No more work for us this year, so until the middle of January I can look forward to growing my nails and having soft hands for a few weeks, although I have still to completely put my own garden to bed, the ornamental vines have yet to have their final prune, and the self-contained water features need emptying and covering.

My Christmas Wish is to be able to read news/musings/blogs from other member gardens or rather gardeners next year. It was inspiring to read about Croome Court.

It only remains for me to wish my readers, real or imaginary, a good Festive Season and a good Gardening Year in 2015.

 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.


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