Garden closes the gate

New Deanham garden with Barbara Steel.
New Deanham garden with Barbara Steel.

A COUNTRY garden that once attracted thousands of visitors will open to the public again for one last time.

The New Deanham Farm garden near Wallington was a regular feature on the British Red Cross Open Gardens programme, hosting a decade of open days when up to 500 people at a time would take the chance to see its features.

Owner Barbara Steel last took part in the scheme in 2004, before taking a well-earned break.

But now, after reaching the age of 70, she is planning to open up her grounds for a final time to raise funds for local causes.

“We were in the Red Cross garden scheme for about ten years until 2004 when we ran out of steam a bit,” she said.

“I have got to 70 now, which seems to me to be a big age, and while I don’t feel terribly elderly I thought we could probably open the garden again for one more go.

“It is an absolute leap of faith because I don’t know how many people are coming. I have no idea, which is quite exciting. You just have to go with it and do what you can.”

The garden, which covers about two acres, includes colour-themed borders, a courtyard garden, wild pond, woodland, a vegetable plot and a warm terrace, with views of Shaftoe Crag, while the magnificent farmhouse dates from 1669 and featured in Hodgson’s History of Northumberland.

However, its present state is a far cry from when Mrs Steel took over the property.

“It is a garden that grew over the years — we started from nothing,” she said.

“The house was derelict, the farm fences were broken, everything was shabby and the garden was non-existent, it was scrub.

“We had to lay a lawn and dig flower beds and now almost everything you see, apart from the wood, is completely new. It has been 25 years of hard labour, but a labour of love as well. If you talk to anybody who is keen on gardening they will tell you that it becomes a bit of an obsession — once you start, you can’t stop.

“It is a very good therapy, it keeps you calm, but you also have to recognise that there is no control. You can do what you do and then nature takes over. For instance, I planted about 60 things I have grown from seed because I thought it would be a flash of colour. Two days later the whole thing had been eaten by birds. But never mind, there is always something else. Gardening is a wonderful pastime I think.”

She added: “I have got the garden as good as I possibly can now. I will still carry on gardening, but I think we have brought it up to its peak.”

The open day will include an art exhibition, bring and buy plant sale organised by parishioners at St Wilfrid’s Church in Kirkharle, and refreshments served by members of Matfen Hall Golf Club Ladies Section.

The event takes place on Sunday, from 2pm to 6pm. Entry costs £2.50 for adults and is free for children. Proceeds will be split between St Wilfrid’s Church and Matfen Hall Golf Club Ladies Section.

New Deanham can be found five-and-a-half miles north-west of Belsay, off the A696.