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Wonder Walls

We always enjoy discovering what plants manage to grow in walls and marvel at how they get a foothold and seek out enough food. You can imagine how delighted we were when we came across this 50 metre long wall which was a garden in itself.

This garden on a wall was at Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property in the southern end of the Lake District in Cumbria. there were other interesting “wall gardens” here too.

The wall runs the length of the Dutch Garden and is constructed of limestone. It is now home to many very happy looking plants. They are a sort of hanging garden!

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Along its top edge a narrow border adds an extra dimension to this wall. Forget-me-Nots in pink, white and the more usual blue provide splashes of colour. After enjoying the vast range of plants growing in the gaps, crevices and cracks of the wall a shelter with a comfortable seat provides a convenient resting place.

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Within the gardens at Sizergh we found other examples of “hanging gardens”, one hanging from a flight of stone steps covered in alpine plants, presenting a colourful display. These decorative steps had been roped off to stop anyone using them and damaging the plants growing there. Many visitors stopped to take photographs of this mini-garden which I presume came about by accident. The plants probably self-seeded into the gaps between the stonework. Similarly plants have taken up residence on the side walls of the steps.

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In the kitchen garden at Sizergh the stone walls that make up the sides of the old cold frames also became a habitat for self-seeded little plants.

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The walls around the kitchen garden gave the impression of more hanging gardens for us to enjoy. Many of the plants in these walls were wild flowers of hillsides and cliff faces or ones normally grown on rockeries. It was interesting seeing thes plants growing vertically instead of as mats on the ground.

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Ferns were particularly happy growing in the shade of the walls where they could establish themselves in cooler damper conditions found there.

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These walls also had extra habitats added to them to encourage even more wildlife to shelter or set up home.

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For my final wall I include this stretch of the castle walls themselves where little creeping daisies, Erigeron karvinskianus had settled in happily showing off its flowers in white and many shades of pink.

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We were amazed to find so many plants growing in these walls at Sizergh and wondered how many thousands of tiny critters we could not see as well as small mammals and birds were also sheltering or living there in their own secret miniature world.

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A Week in the Lake District – Part One – Sizergh

We decided that it was about time we re-visited one of our favourite family holiday destinations from when our children were youngsters, the Lake District. So a week in early June saw us journeying northwards to re-find some old haunts.

The first place we visited was the National Trust property, Sizergh Castle, right at the southern end of the lakes, in an area described as the “gateway to the Lakes”. The National Trust is very much in evidence in this area owning many properties as well as lakes, hillsides, fells and farms. The Lake district was central to the Trust’s early development.

Sizergh Castle is a Medieval house with gardens, orchards, limestone pasture and semi-natural woodland. The garden features fern collections, a kitchen garden, a pond, lake and its main feature a massive rock garden.

We soon realised that this was going to be a place full of interesting plants which also looked after its wildlife.

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The little wooden sign clearly showed us the way!

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We followed the little wooden sign on a stone wall directing us to the garden and made our way towards the kitchen garden. On the way we stumbled across the “stumpery” where the garden’s fern collections are being re-homed. The variety of ferns was vast and we spotted many we had never seen before.

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The walls in the fernery and walled garden were home to so many different tiny plants as well as just ferns. We were soon to discover that this was a feature of the walls throughout the gardens.

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The kitchen garden was on a gentle slope and based on a strange shape somewhat like a long bent rectangle! The old wooden cold frames were still fully in use. We were fascinated by the raised hot beds where plants grew in soil covering heaped manure. This gave heat and later as it broke down fertility and structure to the soil.

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Within the kitchen garden we found a small patch of multi-coloured Forget-me-Nots. We found lots more throughout the gardens.

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From the kitchen garden we wandered into the orchard with its bee hives, buzzing with activity. Beyond the orchard we came across a small lake. In the borders on the lake side were beautifully sculptural pollarded willows. They looked like a group of people meeting up for a chat.

 

 

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Wide open expanses of lawn opened up in front of us as we walked away from the lake. These afforded us views of the castle buildings themselves.

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Where there was a change of level the grass banks were sown as narrow wild flower meadows. They were full of life.

 

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Behind the main buildings we found the “Great Barn”, an agricultural building of a type we had never seen before. The barn was raised up on a bank to create two levels. In the lower level the animals were housed while carts loaded with cereals drove up the grass covered gradients to the upper level.

 

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One of the most famous sections of the gardens was the vast rock garden.  Acers gave this area colour and texture and provided great views back to the castle itself. Tiny streams wound their way through the rocky outcrops ans areas of planting.

 

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We found these appealing little carvings while we wandered around. The first was a yard high snail carved in wood while the second was a sculpture created by Mother Nature and again we thought it resembled a snail. The final piece was a wise old owl carved from wood.

Our first day in the Lake District was most enjoyable and we hoped our other days would be equally as inspiring.

 

 

 

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