The glorious garden on a Weardale hillside
PUBLISHED: 17:05 28 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:48 20 February 2013
It was a tall order to create this glorious garden on a Weardale hillside but the hard work was worth it
You certainly need to be fit to work in the garden at Ian and Dorothy Hedleys Weardale home. High Hill Top, St Johns Chapel, is 1,200 feet above sea level and one of the highest gardens in the country open for National Garden Scheme.
It is no mean feat that Ian and Dorothy have battled the elements and created a masterpiece on a steep slope that most of us would think was an impossible task. But they have faced uphill tasks before forced out of farming by Foot and Mouth disease, gardening is the passion that has filled their days ever since.
When they were first married, Dorothy didnt like gardening in fact her sister did all the gardening for them however when they moved, she was encouraged by a friend and there is now nothing she likes more than spending time in the garden, planning the next task.
The dramatic scenery of the open countryside forms a backdrop, as does the farms 12 acre woodland, but a windbreak was vital if they had any hope of having a garden and leylandii was used for this, as well as beech, privet and alder.
Before they began the transformation work there was a wet hole in the front of the house, undaunted this was dug and piped into a pond. The back initially seems like a traditional space, with a well kept lawn and herbaceous perennials, ornamental grasses and hostas, and seating areas under the dappled shade of a tree. But there is much more to discover in this wildlife oasis, which is popular with insects, birds and the dreaded rabbits.
Ian has built everything himself with steps leading down created out of wood and chipped bark, and beside a meandering gravel path is some amazing planting of trees, shrubs and flowers. The beds are protected by chicken wire to stop the rabbits having gourmet meals and through the foliage there are views of the surrounding countryside.
A wooden bridge crosses a large lake flanked by flag iris and other marginal plants which soften the edges while a gunnera is racing to open its huge leaves.
A moorhen comes and nests every year and frogs, toads, newts and even a water vole have made it their home. Ian has constructed a canal which leads down through the plot and this is flanked with stone and beds alongside are home to stunning candelabra primula.
Much of the garden is terraced to allow access to the plants, weeds are kept to a minimum by filling the beds so they dont have room to appear.
Ian loves trees there are over 70 different varieties here and he is now waiting patiently for a tulip tree to flower. Ian and Dorothy have also tried, with mixed results, to build a collection of sorbus and have 35 different ones.
They are particularly proud of one rare small tree from Afghanistan, a Fraxinus Xanthoxyloides (Dumosa), which was grown from seed collected from a 1997 expedition and is an unusual ash. The biggest challenge it will face is the Weardale winter in the winter it has been known for the garden to be buried under two feet of snow.
Ian and Dorothy are members of the North Pennines Horticultural Society and for the last six years ago they have opened their garden to raise money for the local church, the Air Ambulance and the NGS.
Visitors and groups are welcome by appointment telephone 01388 537952