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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park March – The Walled Garden

I shall post two reports for our March visit to Attingham Park, the first about the Walled Garden followed by one about the walk we followed, the Woodland Walk.

We walked our usual track beneath tall mature deciduous trees to take us to the walled garden. We had a detour to look at the nut walk, lined with coppiced Hazel trees and to have a look at Attingham Park’s famous old bee “building”, the Georgian Bee House. It is a very decorative wooden construction painted white and featuring fancy trellis-work.

    

On route we discovered naturalised Daffodils and native Celandines glowing bright golden-yellow beneath magnificent mature trees. The lawns and borders of the gardener’s cottage looked neatly prepared to celebrate Spring. A Clematis alpina displayed deep purple buds fit to burst. Species Tulips were already in flower among emerging growth of herbaceous perennials.

    

Approaching the gateway into the walled garden we noticed colour on the trained fruit trees, the white and pinks of blossom.

  

Once we were within the walls we could appreciate the extra warmth and protection afforded by the tall red-bricked walls. Leaf buds were opening on fruit bushes and canes and perennial plants were emerging strongly now the soil had some warmth to it. Bulbs were already flowering and sharing perfume.

   

We were sure that the gardeners, who like to garden organically, were delighted at the sight of emerging Ladybirds.

We were so pleased to find the glasshouse doors open to allow us to wander inside to study their structure and mechanisms as well as allowing us to check what the gardeners were up to.

             

The informal decorative and cut flower borders surrounding the glasshouses were most colourful, with Primulas and bulbs taking full advantage of the extra degree or two of warmth afforded by the walls.

 

A quick look into the gardeners’ bothy showed us that lots of seed potatoes were chitting nicely and we noticed that the volunteer gardeners had plenty of jobs to challenge them.

When we return next month we look forward to seeing big changes in the productive borders.

When we left the bothy we continued to walk beneath tall trees along the way marked track taking us towards the start of the Woodland Walk. This walk will be the subject of the next March Attingham Park post.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Walled Garden at Attingham Park

Our local National Trust property, Attingham Park, is just a 20 minute drive away. We are so lucky as within the grounds are several different walks to choose from including woodland walks, but we also love visiting the renovated walled gardens. When we first visited Attingham Park years ago now there were very few walks accessible, the walled gardens were in a poor state of repair and the refreshment facilities were poor. Things have certainly changed for the better!

In late November we decided to go for a walk around the woodlands and explore the walled garden to see what was going on. The improvements become immediately obvious as there is now a new entrance building and a newly refurbished Carriage House Cafe in the stable yard. After sampling the delights in the cafe we wandered off towards the Walled Garden one of our favourite elements of the Attingham Estate. In the Stable Yard sits a little sales hut selling produce from the walled garden, freshly picked and delivered by bike.

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The Walled Garden was originally created way back in 1780 and its job was to provide the estate with fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year. Looking at it now it is hard to believe that it fell into total disuse and dereliction. An amazing team of volunteers have recently brought it back to life. It no longer produces food for the “big house” but instead sends its organic produce up to the restaurant and cafe and for sale to the visitors.

One of the impressive features of the Walled Garden is the amount of information boards placed carefully to keep visitors fully informed. Before passing through the gateway into the garden itself we always love seeing the beautifully trained fruit on the outside wall.

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Taking a step inside and the garden came to life before our eyes, volunteers busy harvesting, weeding the beds and clearing ground ready for winter digging.

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The volunteer gardeners enjoy getting creative with Birch and Hazel boughs and branches and their bean supports, tunnels and wigwams always look impressive.

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It was good to see sound organic principles being used here, barriers, green manures and companion planting and herbaceous borders to attract beneficial insects, predators and pollinators.

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As we moved into the glasshouse area we were impressed  by the renovation work being carried out on the glasshouse ranges. Information boards show visitors what the area looked like prior to its rescue.

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Cut flowers were also grown here and even in November the Dahlias were flowering well due to the protection of the walls and protection from Earwigs provided by the old fashioned method of putting a pot stuffed with straw on top of a cane.

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On a cold day a look inside the gardeners bothy proved to be a welcome time to warm up and enjoy the displays.

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Exiting the Walled Garden via the orchard gave us a chance to look at the front of the old red brick buildings. The Walled Gardens here at Attingham are worth visiting throughout the year as there is always something interesting going on. We are so lucky having this national trust property so close to Shrewsbury.

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From the walled gardens we wandered off into the woodlands following one of the marked trails. My next post will feature what we found there.

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Croft Castle Month by Month – January

Welcome to the first post in my series of monthly posts looking at a local garden. Throughout 2014 we traveled northward through the Shropshire Plains into neighbouring county Staffordshire in order to visit Trentham Gardens.

Throughout 2015 we will travel south to Croft Castle just into our neighbouring county of Herefordshire. We live at the northern tip of the Shropshire Hills, with the welcome sign just three-quarters of a mile away. In order to get to Croft we have to go southward through this range of hills, one of the most beautiful upland areas in the UK. We will enjoy our journeys!

At the entrance building a “Tramper” scooter acted as an effective sign. As we wandered towards the garden we enjoyed views of some of the estate’s ancient trees. These old massive Sweet Chestnuts are hundreds of years old and each year another dies. Luckily new ones have been planted as replacements. A natural mulch of leaves and nut casts are snuggled at their feet.

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We soon met a much smaller and younger character, placed to help celebrate wintertime. We were to find many more of his friends. Currently there is an evening event on here based on light and these trees were part of it. We vowed to visit one evening!

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We were soon on our way to the walled garden, our favourite part of Croft. To get there we followed a long mixed border abutting a tall stone wall. There was not much to see here in January but it looked full of promise. But we found character number two and three both smiling away just like their colleague we met earlier.

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The shop, not open in the winter, is housed in an ancient barn and on shelves at its entrance these hedgehogs caught our eyes. More interesting characters!

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A gap in the brick wall enticed us into the walled garden. We always enter with great anticipation, perhaps more so on this visit as we had never visited in the winter before. Either side of the doorway there was signs of colour in the narrow borders. The colours of the berries of an Iris, the mauve flowers of Liriope muscari and the silver of the long thin catkins of Garrya eliptica.

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From the open doorway views of the walled garden opened up in front of us. We soon espied different types of trained fruit and clumps of textured perennials in the borders.

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The textured foliage was provided by silver narrow foliage of Santolinas and in strong contrast the thin strap-like leaves of the Black Grass, Ophiopogon. This is not a grass at all but in reality a Lily!

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There were two very contrasting sorts of trained fruit. Ancient beautifully sculpted apples and a much newer array of grape vines, also beautifully trained. It was so good to see the skills of fruit training created at two very different periods of time.

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What made this walled garden extra good for productive gardening was the fact that it was on a slope encouraging the sun to warm up the soil to its maximum. Even in early January the difference in temperature was noticeable. We could feel the change as we entered and exited the walled area. The photo of the door in the wall illustrates the slope and shows how steep it is.  The plants also illustrate the effects of the walls protective powers. An Iris was in flower and a Melianthus was in bud. Arum italicum “Marmoratum” was in full marbled leaf.

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When we were half way along the second edge of the walled garden we reached the gateway leading out of the garden which in the past had been clearly marked “private – keep out” so we were pleased to discover that it has been opened up for us to explore. Jude was soon on her way through! We had always longed to get a close up look at the old greenhouse range.

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We will leave you here for now as we disappear behind the beautiful, unusually shaped blue gate where we found out what new treats were in store for us before we returned to the walled garden. See part two where we discover what was going on behind the blue gate as well as in the rest of the walled garden. We also wander around the rest of the gardens at Croft.