Archive for 03/05/2013


The afternoon sun in late winter falls across one of the gardens at Buckland Abbey

The afternoon sun in late winter falls across the Elisabethan Garden at Buckland Abbey

‘700-year-old home of Elizabethan seafarers Drake and Grenville

In the 13th century, Buckland Abbey was home to the Cistercian monks who built the abbey and the incredible Great Barn and farmed the then vast estate.

The Abbey, now a house with a combination of furnished rooms and interactive museum galleries, tells the story of how two seafaring adventurers – Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake – changed the shape of the house and the fate of the country….

Our Abbey garden is mainly a 1950s design. The main border includes hydrangeas, camellias, eucryphias, azaleas, rhododendrons and our two magnificent magnolia trees: a delavayi species and a grandiflora.

The monks cultivated the walled kitchen garden behind our Cider House and it’s still as prolific as ever. Meander through the espaliered fruit trees and vegetables and admire the Abbey towering above.

Our beloved herb garden next to the Great Barn has had a tough time. It was once home to 50 different culinary and medicinal herbs but box blight wiped it out. We’re currently refurbishing it.

In 2001 we purchased the Cider House, which was turned into a private residence in the 1940s. This acquisition has brought the monastic estate back together and has allowed us to invite the public to visit the beautiful gardens, passionately created by former owners Michael and Sarah Stone. It includes mixed planted borders, roses and a large amount of trees and shrubs

We created our Elizabethan garden in 2001. It shows you what the garden may have been like when Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake lived in the Abbey. There’s a wild flowery mead, cultivated hedges, changing flower displays and even a hidden garden just perfect for contemplating your next voyage, just like Drake.’

Source and further information:

The gardens at Buckland Abbey, Devon – National Trust web site

Old School Gardener

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The Emneth Playing Field Committee engaged me to advise on community involvement and assist with procurement and project management as well as design their new play area. This was to be a refresh and expansion of their existing play area on the edge of this lovely west Norfolk village, famous as the home of the author of the Railway Series of children’s stories featuring ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, the Rev. W. Awdry and his son.

The existing play area was flat and featureless with some run down play equipment and old, broken down boundary fencing, adjacent to the sports pavilion. There is a steep, seasonal ditch (or ‘dyke’), and road to one boundary and playing fields to the rest. A budget of around £60,000 funded by a combination of the Big Lottery, Parish Council, local fundraising and ‘in kind’ contributions by local firms and the community made this a truly community-led project.

The Chair of the Playing Field committee was the main driving force behind the project and he made sure local people, including children, were fully consulted about the play area and the sorts of features that they would ideally like. This work included surveys and model making as well as community meetings. The results of this consultation were reflected in the sketch and final designs. The existing play area was expanded and another, adjoining area on another side of the Pavilion was brought into use as the focus for a toddler play area, leaving the expanded, existing play area as a site catering for older children.

Key features of the new ‘playful landscape’ include refurbished and relocated play equipment, some second hand play equipment purchased from a nearby village and several new equipment items all set within a landscaped, park – like space where the local community have helped to plant up new hedges, shrubs, other perennials and trees.

A large curved mound and ditch forms the centre piece of the older children’s’ play area, with a wooden stockade (complete with climbing holds on the outside wall) and a wobbly bridge access across the surrounding ditch. Weather (an unexpectedly dry spell) meant that the grass seeding used on this did not take hold initially and in some areas (especially those expected to get the most wear) turf was used instead. New, challenging equipment includes a cableway, mound slide, climbing unit,  basket swing as well as a refurbished slide and a group of large logs to serve as a social/ performance area. New fencing and natural hedging provides the boundaries, including to the dyke.

The toddler area features some refurbished and relocated swings and slide, plus a log train, mounding, play house within a sand pit (with ‘fossil’ slabs to discover beneath the sand), picnic tables and various other informal features using logs for balancing or as stepping-stones. The project was completed in 2011 and officially opened in 2012. It has proved to be very popular with local children and is also used by the local school.

Old School Gardener

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