Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Welcome to Chastleton Garden

Welcome to Chastleton Garden in a November frost.

Welcome to the new Chastleton Garden blog. Chastleton House and Garden dates back to the early 1600s - the Jacobean period. The House and Garden were originally built by the Jones family between 1607-1612 and were kept in the same family until 1991 when the Trust took on the property. The House and Garden have a unique, ancient and timeless atmosphere. The Trust aims to preserve a feeling of romantic neglect, that reflects the ups and downs of one family coping with caring for a large country house and diminishing estate. Chastleton Garden is open from mid-March to the end of October.

The garden retains its Jacobean layout, apart from having a few gates and doors added to a few of the walls. The garden, like the house, aims to have the feel of stepping back in time into a family home.

The garden is entered by the Forecourt, with its soft, random planting and slightly weedy, unkept drive. The Best Garden has a central feature of old, overgrown Box topiary with amorphous shapes, encircled by a Yew hedge. There is a Kitchen Garden, a Wilderness and Nuttery, croquet lawns, the West Garden and the Stable Yard. The garden is framed with walls with fruit and roses and large hedges.

I arrived as the Trust gardener for the property in March 2010. The garden was prevoiusly maintained by a garden contractor. The idea was to look at restoration and conservation work that needed doing in the garden and to launch the garden as the important historic feature of the property that it is. It was important to raise its profile and bring it more alive with volunteers and visitors. It is an unusual precedent to have to maintain a garden in an informal, 'slightly neglected' way and yet retain interest, health of plants and historical accuracy. So far it has been an exciting journey working at Chastleton. Among some of the things that have been achieved so far are: recruiting volunteers, setting up daily 30min garden 'taster' tours, compost workshops, evening Midsummer Tours, Apple Day, NGS day, croquet engagement, working to rejuvenate all areas of the garden whilst retaining the philosophy of the property, bee keeper talks, talks on birds in the garden, propagating and selling fruit and vegetables from the garden, writing a guide to the garden, giving external talks on the garden, setting up environmentally friendly horticultural practices, etc.

We are at a very exciting stage in the garden this year as we have worked with an historic landscape architect, an archivist and Trust advisors to put together The Conservation Management Plan for the garden. This means the garden will have been thoroughly historically researched and a plan made of how each area of the garden should be presented, what eras it should reflect and how it should be restored and conserved. Watch this space!
Anna - Gardener.