The volunteers preserving a splendid Barnard Castle garden

PUBLISHED: 20:16 06 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:42 20 February 2013

Roy Long

Roy Long

The gardens at a fine Barnard Castle home are being restored to their former glory, as Linda Viney reports

The high fells of Upper Teesdale offer a fantastic backdrop to the gardens at Eggleston Hall, near Barnard Castle. This delightful gem forms four and a half acres surrounding the classic Georgian country house which was used as for the TV show Ladette to Lady.

Eggleston Hall was once the private home of Sir William and Lady Gray and the walled garden was the kitchen garden providing vegetables, fruit and flowers. The house has also been used as a residential cookery and flower arranging school and was requisitioned during World War Two and put to use as a convalescent home.

The gardens are now run by a partnership and specialise in rare and unusual species with an emphasis on hardy herbaceous stock, which thrive in the climate of the northern dales.

Malcolm Hockham came here nearly 20 years ago following eight years in horticultural research and worked tirelessly with Gordon Long who has recently retired, however his brother Roy and relative newcomer Robert Morrell have formed a partnership with Malcolm to further develop the gardens.

Robert started as a Saturday boy and during the school holidays he worked extra hours and became passionate about plants and the landscaping which is now his main responsibility. He proudly showed me the glasshouse he has fully restored and he is now working on another, a third has been turned into a hosta house.

I cant believe at 23-years-old Im lucky enough to be a partner here, it is a huge commitment and responsibility but one I am happy to take on, Robert said. We work well as a team bouncing ideas off one another and were one big happy family.

The harsh winter climate naturally selects out the weaker plants leaving the hardier ones to thrive. The plants are grown from division, grafting, propagating and seed sowing from seeds gathered from around the world, with many new species trialed each year. By selling plants Malcolm raises funds to grow new and interesting species.

Gravel paths wind past mature trees and shrubs, some of which have had to be cut back opening up vistas and allowing more light for the plants growing underneath. Another secluded area with clipped hedges has a circular pond and a sundial and mixed planting gives added interest. Robert has started a rootery from an idea he read about at Highgrove and there are also plans to create a prairie style border.

A natural stream which comes off the moor is contained and runs through the walled garden, flanked by candelabra primulas. beehives have been sited between the stream and the wall. A semi-potager style garden is edged with step over apples and together with the other vegetables and fruit, the produce is for the house and staff with any surplus for visitors.
Malcolm sourced the trees for an A to Z apple tree walk, but he was unable to find one for X so, with tongue in cheek, he labelled Christmas as Xmas.

It was 20 years ago when Gordon suggested they could sell the plants and the New Zealand plant Celmisia spectablilis Eggleston Silver, with spectacular daisy like flowers and unusual foliage, really put the nursery on the map. It then developed into growing hardy unusual plants all of which thrive here at 800 feet above sea level.

* The walled garden is open daily and admission costs 2 for adults, children free. For more information, visit www.egglestonhall.co.uk.

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