Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Walled Garden Restoration 2013

the walled garden in July 2013
2013 has seen our walled garden cast off its car park status and resume its rightful role as the beautiful and productive heart of Gibside's pleasure grounds. Behind this transformation stands a huge team of people-- from staff and volunteers, to contractors, archaeologists, and members of the local community--whose hard work, energy and commitment to the project has been unstinting. The result, we hope you'll agree, is awesome ... and here's a quick re-cap:

March 2013

March saw the walled garden mud-bound and desolate, scattered with cones, planks, boards and assorted vehicles. The biggest change was the opening of the new main car parks which ensured the walled garden would be car-free at last and our contractors could begin removing the spine roads that had been put down. Meanwhile, we were measuring out the 4 large L-shaped beds, and guesstimating the positions of the planting plates using the geophys surveys. Outside the walled garden, the arrival route was being improved: turf was being laid, the bus turning circle was being created, and the play castle area was having a makeover.

28 March 2013

April 2013

April saw a prolonged winter finally loosening its grip as the skies blued up and daffodils, crocus and hyacinths took centre stage. In the walled garden we excavated trenches along both sides of the main path to reveal over thirty 18th century planting plates (each marking the site of an apple tree planted in the original garden); these were cleaned up and catalogued before being filled in again.
15 April 2013

May 2013

May saw the arrival of tulips, apple blossom and rhubarb in abundance, but it was the heavy machinery in the form of tractors, dumpers, an excavator and a power harrow that dominated work in the walled garden; the emphasis was on earth-moving on a grand scale.

1 May 2013
By mid-May the mountain of soil behind the apple borders had been redistributed over the lower half of the garden, and harrowed into a smooth tilth ready for turfing. Meanwhile, turfing at the top of the garden had already got underway; the sprinklers were out and things were seriously greening up.

16 May 2013

On Tuesday 28th May, 22 families came into the walled garden and each planted an apple tree on the site of the original plates.

June 2013

The final few thousand square metres of turf were expertly laid in June, not so happily coinciding with one of the warmest driest spells of the year so far. It required watering on a daily basis. Filling the huge blue bowser, positioning endless metres of lay flat piping and its attendant sprinkler gun became part of a routine that started early in the morning and finished late at night on many occasions.

It's fair to say we were losing the battle, with the bowser taking hours to fill and minutes to empty.

The torrential rain that eventually came, on Sunday 23rd June, saved the turf. It was one of the happiest days of my year.

12 June 2013

July 2013

July 2013 saw the walled garden taking a deep breath, and I neglected to take a photo of events from the bottom gate. The steadily greening turf got its first cut.  Red and black currants were dripping from the bushes; sweet williams, scabious, campanula, roses, cornflowers and lilies filled the garden with a carnival of shapes and colours. The bees, and butterflies, were loving it!

Work was continuing too, and the marquee base was put into position, ready to host a cluster of late summer weddings.
17 July 2013
August 2013

The height of the season saw the phacelia in full bloom and buzzing. The apples were ripening, the final few apple trees had been planted and the turf was beginning to look as though it had always been here. Daily maintenance tasks took over our time: weeding, dead-heading, weeding, harvesting, edging, weeding, mowing, and more weeding. The wedding marquee was up, and it was time to take stock of things in the glorious sunshine.

8 August 2013

September 2013

The walled garden was surprisingly productive around us, considering that our time had been little spent on caring for the plants. They, with a little help from the weather, had looked after themselves. The apple harvest was going to be huge, and we had onions drying on the beds. Blackberries festooned the hedgerows, sunflowers strutted their big-headed stuff and our annual borders were flowering their hearts out still. The walled garden had truly become a productive and beautiful place.
4 September 2013

October 2013

Autumn arrived. Apples arrived. The walled garden was bathed in gold. Horses stole into our orangery field for a naughty jaunt, and in the hub we began planning what fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs and trees will be planted in 2014 ... exciting times!

17 October 2013

November 2013

The walled garden sparkled on the morning of the 19th November under the influence of the first frost; the low light picked up the last of the colour in the tree canopies and the turf was a cool green. Everything was beginning to retreat into itself, the majority of leaves had been cast off, shrubs and herbaceous plants were slowing down and storing up their life deep inside for the winter months. It was a rare moment of stasis.
19 November 2013

December 2013

With Christmas waiting in the wings, December was a time for clearing and cleaning. The greenhouses and cold frames were tidied up; the last of the potatoes were harvested and the productive plots emptied; the herbaceous border was cut back, dug over and given a top-dressing of leaf mould. 

There's no rest in the walled garden though, as the marquee will be coming down, and (weather permitting) we'll be re-turfing the area where it stood in early January; there are more apple trees to be planted, and the Conservation Team will be planting up the large area under the raised walkway in late January. 

Spring will see a flurry of activity as we begin to get everything ready for the walled garden's first full year as a real garden. It should be amazing.

4 December 2013
 Thanks to everyone for the overwhelmingly positive feedback
we've had on our work in the walled garden this year.
Thanks also to our readers and writers on the Conservation Team blog.
We hope to see you all again in 2014.

Happy New Year!

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