I recently visited a Lincolnshire garden with a long and distinguished history that spans 500 years and fourteen generations of the same family.
However, over this long period the house and gardens have had their ups and downs, particular their down turns, the house suffered considerable damage during the requisitioning by the military during the war and was demolished in 1951, since then the gardens fell into a serious state of neglect. It was in 2000 that Lady Ursula Cholmeley decided to investigate the possibility of reviving the gardens, under her directorship work started in 2001, and so the story of these once great gardens continues.
My visit to the gardens was on an overcast March day. It may not have been the optimum time of year, I was just too late to see the dramatic drifts of snowdrops at their best and just too early to admire the creative wildflower planting schemes created by the garden team, however what I could see was the scale and beauty of the layout and design of the early gardens and how the site is now being enhanced with great foresight and imagination. Recent works include the major restoration on the Tudor walls surrounding the new rose meadows, complete with ‘built in’ bird nesting spaces within the wall itself. The contemporary design and new features in the White space garden bring a new influence to the garden while the continuation of the borders for cut flower production called ‘the Pickery’ provide named varieties of saleable flowers and seeds. Other work carried out in this extensive garden site includes wildlife habitat creation in the River Witham, a turf Maze, Alpine beds and the introduction of two life size Giraffe sculptures looking over the valley.
There are still many original garden structures to be seen within the beautiful valley site.
Ornamental steps lead visitors through the wildflower terraces down to the River Witham and the most glorious stone bridge with fine ornate details.
The vast Wildflower terraces are continually being planted up with drifts of different species of native plants that are both visually attractive and important for beneficial insects, butterflies and birds. The Sulphur Clover [Trifolium ochroleucon] is establishing itself in what could be the most northern planting known.
The old coach house courtyard provides the most picturesque setting for the garden shop and plant sales area. Here among a range of gardening products and gifts are the sweet pea plants and seed of the varieties grown in the garden. The summer displays of flowering sweet peas have become a major feature in the gardens calendar and prove popular with visitors. Also on sale is a range of the beautiful Harvington Hellebores. Further shop details can be found online: www.shopateaston.co.uk
The Tea Room is popular with visitors and the range and quality of food has secured its listing as one of the top UK places to enjoy good locally soured refreshments and light meals.
The Meadow Retreat is a recent introduction to the garden, the timber building overlooks the surrounding parkland and offers visitors an exclusive place to picnic and relax in throughout a day’s visit, pre booking is essential.
This historic garden may have lost its house and almost become lost itself but, thanks to the determination and vision of the owners, Easton Walled Gardens once again have a secure future and are being enjoyed by the many people who visit.
I often ask myself the question - Is it the sense of local history intertwined with the owner families and our national heritage and identity that makes so many of our great English gardens so very important, and special? If so, the Easton Walled Gardens must certainly be placed high on our list of horticultural treasures.
For more information about this wonderful garden see the website: www.eastonwalledgardens.co.uk