Chesters Walled Garden
DescriptionChesters Walled Garden has, over the years, achieved a wide reputation for its eclectic mix of rare plants with wildflowers, formality with informality. Featured numerous times in magazines, books and on television, it is much loved by artists and photographers, gardeners and non-gardeners alike for its romantic, walled garden atmosphere.
Chesters Walled Garden is a 2-acre 18th Century garden, surrounded on three sides by sheltering woods of beech and yew, and open to the south with views over the lovely Tyne valley. Situated next to Chesters Roman Fort, it is on the line of Hadrian's Wall - the site of a Roman road actually crosses the garden. For over 200 years the fruit and vegetable garden for Chesters house, it has now been laid out as a unique herb and herbaceous garden. It boasts one of the largest collections of herbs in the country growing ebulliently behind neatly clipped box hedges. There are wide gravel paths, espalier apple trees that are over a hundred years old, long vistas, and secret corners where one can sit and dream. The National Thyme Collection, which grows on a 30-metre long raised bank, is at its peak in June and July when it resembles a Persian carpet of glowing colours and is alive with honey bees. A Mediterranean border of rosemaries, sages and other highly scented herbs growing in gravel also houses the National Collection of Marjoram. There are two pools, one with a fountain, the other of still water and reflections.
The Roman garden displays those herbs the Romans grew in Britain, culinary, medicinal, and sacred plants laid out in a small formal beds. Roses are planted in abundance in the walled garden. Some 100 varieties of old and species roses planted for their aroma, reach their height in July. Extensive herbaceous borders of unusual plants, double and variegated forms of cottage garden favourites, planted in a very English style. There is a medieval 'knot garden' of box planted to a design of 1617. Red squirrels can be seen in the surrounding woodland.
The nursery has a wide selection of plants; an extensive collection of herbs to choose from, wildflowers, old fashioned roses from David Austin, herbaceous plants and grasses. Many of the plants can be seen growing in the garden so you can see how they look when mature. There is a shop selling locally made products; honey from Northumberland, terracotta pots made in Hexham, candles, linen sachets, jams and chutneys, books and postcards. Plants from the garden are propagated and sold in the nursery, varying from year to year, often full of surprises. There is no catalogue and no mail order.
The garden is run by garden writer, Susie White, who changed the name in 2001 from Hexham Herbs to Chesters Walled Garden to better emphasise where it is. She explains that she gets the greatest pleasure from the fact that the garden is run organically, attracting a wonderful range of birdlife, red squirrels, frogs, newts and toads to the two ponds, and bees and butterflies galore. All this is achieved by careful planting of nectar rich flowers and seed and hip-bearing plants.
Apple days and organic days are sometimes held in the garden, with demonstrations of good compost making and organic gardening techniques. The compost bins are on show to the public and there is often someone who can explain how they work successfully. The garden opens annually for the National Gardens Scheme. Guided tours by owner Susie White can be arranged in advance and many groups have visited over the years. The visit of the Herb Society of America in 2005 was recorded for BBC4’s Woman’s Hour. Susie also lectures widely and details can be found in the RHS Speakers List.
With one of the largest collections of herbs in Britain, the garden is informative but it is also beautifully laid out which is why it attracts the attention of so many artists. Several exhibitions of their work have been held and artists and photographers continue to be inspired by the naturalness of the design and the colour and foliage patterns. In its twentieth anniversary year, Chesters Walled Garden is looking better than ever.