Historic garden is thriving once again

Alnwick Garden Club members tour the Wynyard Hall Gardens. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Alnwick Garden Club members tour the Wynyard Hall Gardens. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

There’s no better way to round off a successful season of talks and demonstrations, such as those we’ve had at Alnwick Garden Club, than a summer outing to a destination of members’ choice – so we did just that.

The majority opted for a trip to Wynyard Hall Gardens, a mere 1.5-hour coach trip from Alnwick, and a good time was had by all.

This is a garden with almost 200 years of history.

Developed during Lord Londonderry’s ownership of the hall from 1822, it was a visitor attraction and productive unit, contributing ornamental, vegetable and fruit crops towards a sustainable estate. But in keeping with many such enterprises, decline came as war approached.

Fast forward to the present owner, Sir John Hall’s occupancy, and a most remarkable transformation has been achieved in such a short time.

It’s difficult to believe that the press open day, which revealed a recently-planted, two-acre walled garden, was just three years ago. Back then, the sloping site, hard landscaping and supporting structures caught the eye, but the potential was clear.

Now, we have a rapidly maturing garden with fountains, terracing, walkways and a gorgeous blend of roses and herbaceous perennials. Great credit to designer Alistair Baldwin, David Austin’s rosarian Michael Marriott, and the small, in-house gardening team for this brilliant transformation.

The nearby Marquee Garden offers a perfect foil of perennial borders and ornamental trees, copper beech hedges and distant views.

In the season after official opening, the Edible Garden and Victorian-type Glasshouse followed. These additions have clearly enhanced the visitor experience and were first point of reference on our arrival.

Warmly welcomed and ushered into the large Victorian-style greenhouse, which doubles for refreshments and retail, we were served elevenses at beautifully set tables, looking out over a series of raised beds planted with vegetables and fruits.

We later met Mark Birtle, head gardener, for a one-hour tour, prior to lunch in the Farm Shop Café. Such occasions are only enjoyable if the guide is knowledgeable, relaxed, and has a sense of humour. He is all three.

Mark and his assistant do occasional demonstrations, pruning, etc, by arrangement, and excess vegetables are used in the restaurant.

A healthy bed of the root vegetable salsify, with its globular seed heads, caught the eye, as did a row of runner beans struggling to regenerate growth, the result of hares jumping over a barrier and nibbling plants at the base, Mark confirmed.