Friday, 22 May 2009

The garden comes second in Gardeners' World Magazine vote

Fast forward to June and this picture sums up the atmosphere of the walled garden, a lazy summer evening with backlit profusion of the wild and the cultivated mixed together. The garden seems to strike a chord with people; earlier this week our postman of three years had to deliver a parcel and, finding the shop door closed, opened the magical, paint-peeling door in the high wall. He stood transfixed by the garden, bowled over by it, saying 'I never knew what was behind the wall'. I loved that, it was like the secret garden, the sudden discovery, the enchantment.

Anyway, here is how The Journal reported the news that the garden was voted 2nd in the north in Gardeners' World magazine.

Small garden is a big hit

A GARDEN in Northumberland that is dwarfed by North of England rivals has seen off the big boys in a national competition.

BBC Gardener’s World magazine ran a contest in which more than 6,000 people voted for their favourite garden in each region.

Of 28 gardens in the North, Chesters Walled Garden at Chollerford in Northumberland came second in the poll.

The two-acre, 18th Century garden on the line of Hadrian’s Wall was bettered only by the 56-acre RHS Harlow Carr Garden in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, which attracts 220,000 visitors a year.

In the top five, Chesters was chosen above Newby Hall in Ripon, North Yorkshire, which has 25 acres and 115,000 visitors, Liverpool University’s Ness Botanical Gardens at South Wirral with 64 acres and 100,000 visitors, and Castle Howard in North Yorkshire on 1,000 acres and 200,000 visitors.

Chesters also came above top Cumbrian gardens Levens Hall, Muncaster and Dalemain.

The Northumberland garden has been cared for by Susie White for the last 23 years.

Herbs are a major feature and it holds the national collections of marjoram, thyme and burnet.

Susie says: “I am chuffed to have done so well and amazed that we came above gardens of the size, quality and history of places like Castle Howard .

“Chesters is miniscule compared to some of the Northern gardens, which have big visitor databases through which people can be encouraged to vote.

“I think people feel relaxed here and have an affection for the garden.

“ I know that the garden touches a special place in people’s hearts because of its atmosphere, natural planting, with wild flowers among the rare perennials, wildlife and the scent of the herbs, and this is reflected in what gets written in the visitors’ book, but I was thrilled and surprised that so many people had voted for the garden as their favourite place.

“ As an example of the amazing wildlife, a wren came into the shop and stood on the visitors’ book.”

An annual bird count has been carried out once a month for 12 years by a local ornithologist and has just topped 70 different species.

“That is not bad for two acres and shows that what and how we plant is successful,” said Susie.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Walled garden bird count reaches 70 species!!

The walled garden, as regular readers of this blog will know, has the most amazing wildlife, encouraged by the range of plants, nest sites, hollow walls, nectar plants and sheer fullness. For many years, ornithologist Alan Todd has conducted a regular bird count, chronicling the monthly occurrence of different species, a fascinating record. the number has been creeping up and has now topped 70 species!! He saw a crossbill in the late winter and that has added to the dynamic list which includes hawfinch, long tailed tit, green & greater spotted woodpeckers, flycatcher, brambling.... I won't list them all here but if you come to the garden, there is a laminated sheet of Excel in the shop showing which months the different birds have been recorded.

There have been oddities over the years: the mallard who decided to nest on top of the ivy covered wall, another mallard who let her ducklings drop down into a sunken greenhouse so we had to put a ramp in, the pheasant in my previous blog with her large brood amusing the visitors, a pheasant who laid eggs right next to the path by the pond (not many brains), the amazing site of 7 nuthatches on the feeder at once. What's in a number, really, but with the list stuck at 68 for a while, I was delighted when we suddenly made 70!