Teesside garden centre puts environment first
PUBLISHED: 18:24 02 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:30 20 February 2013
Linda Viney visits a Teesside garden complex where caring for the environment underpins everything that happens
If you are reading this then you are interested in gardening and for an example of how to encourage the future generations of gardeners as well as care for the environment, look no further for a host of ideas than Natures World at Acklam on the outskirts of Middlesborough.
The first seeds were sown in the 1990s and their demonstration gardens include a wild flower meadow, organic allotments, a walkthrough compost heap and a hydroponicum (indoor tropical area). This is a pioneering eco experience for all ages, encouraging children who are the gardeners of tomorrow and making the not-so-young more aware of the need to care for the environment.
This 25-acre peaceful rural haven was created for the community as an educational and training centre but over the years has attracted visitors from the whole of the North East and beyond.
I was struck initially by the exterior wall of the entrance which have been covered in more than a 1,000 recycled tyres, which I must confess made me wonder what to expect.
The first garden I came to was the White Garden, which was donated by Tioxide following being awarded a gold medal at the Gateshead Festival. It has an aura of peace and calmness with a gazebo painted white in one corner, allowing visitors to look across the garden. The plants, as its name suggests, all have a white theme. While I was there two boys were eagerly taking snapshots, showing how much families can enjoy a day out here.
Another oasis of tranquillity is the Japanese Garden, with bamboo and ornamental grasses for sound and movement, Japanese maple
and the traditional gravel and stepping stones.
Each area leads you through the gardens to take you on a journey of discovery. We dont all have large gardens and another area demonstrates what can be achieved from a small backyard. It doesnt have to be uninteresting but can become an easy to care for area allowing a little of nature to creep in, just by adding container plants and a few bird feeders it can soon become an outdoor room.
The Apothecarys Garden and Sensory Garden are full of information and diverse plants showing how plants have been used for many centuries for medicine, colouring, perfume and culinary purposes, while the castor oil plant is the garden variety which doesnt produce oil - the sign explains all. A star-shaped bed demonstrates how herbs and other plants can be shown off.
The original Chelsea Garden was awarded a Bronze Medal at the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show in 1996. It is designed to show natures healing process by contrast with man-made forms and the central grid pattern is symbolic of the original Victorian plan for Middlesborough.
Another area is named the Mini-beast Garden which is planted with shelter, wild flowers and contains log piles. Butterflies and moths are encouraged, while water affords another dimension, which benefits gardens for tranquillity and attracting welcome species such as frogs, toads and newts.
The compost area, while not the most aesthetically beautiful, is very informative, giving the recipe of creating good compost out of kitchen waste. Many gardeners know the benefit of comfrey, which will give you a liquid manure containing a large amount of potassium. This recipe and several others can all be found here and while you study, the children can run through a compost heap.
The 4 Rs Garden (reduce, recycle, reuse and respect) was constructed three years ago on the site of a caravan which several years previously had burnt down. The raised beds have been created out of three dead refrigerators and an old bath. The broken paving and cobbles were acquired from the council, while the rocks were found around the site. This demonstrates how something attractive can be created from materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
The thought of organic gardening may daunt some of us but for the allotment holders at Natures World it is a must. I met up with John Brodie who was lucky enough to get a plot last year.
The first task I had to undertake was to clear the site. We mustnt use any chemicals, he explained as he worked in his polytunnel. He had made scarecrows to deter the birds from taking his newly-planted and tempting seeds.
The allotments are for the locals and there is a waiting list.
Up until a few years ago this place had ten gardeners but the head gardener left to go to Harlow Carr, now belonging to the RHS and with the cut acks the site relies on fewer staff and volunteers, he went on. With visitors I get asked questions and just love talking and swapping ideas.
A bomb-damaged house forms the backdrop to the Dig for Victory Garden. Visitors can wander through the ruins into the garden where a typical 1940s garden awaits.
The Climate Change Garden has a Mediterranean feel with herbs, sedums, cordylines and even banana plants. Forming a circle, the garden uses sustainable recycled and locally-sourced materials. The mosaics were designed by pupils from St Gerards Primary School in Hemlington.
Full of tropical and Mediterranean plants with terrapins enjoying the small pond, it is Natures Worlds way of bringing a little piece of Eden to the North East. The Hydroponicum has been in situ for nearly ten years and is still being developed.
The glasshouse structure is pleasing to the eye and with care for the environment a huge solar panel is sited outside. Within the building is also a conference centre and information area. Solar power is also used for the informative talking posts dotted round the whole site and informative boards are everywhere, so there is no excuse not to leave with ideas.
Opened by David Bellamy in 1996, another innovative part is the unique 400-metre long working model of the River Tees which was created out of a flat boggy field. Although not strictly garden related it is still fascinating and helps to make this a good family day out. I certainly enjoyed it and, yes, learnt a lot from my visit.
Telephone 01642 594895. Open daily excepting Christmas to New Year. 10am to pm in summer; winter closing 3.30pm