English Heritage to restore Picturesque Belsay Hall gardens

English Heritage is poised to start a restoration of the gardens at Belsay Hall and Castle which will peel back decades of gardening to re-present the landscape as it was originally designed.

The Quarry Gardens. Image: Colin Gregory/Flickr/Creative Commons
The Quarry Gardens. Image: Colin Gregory/Flickr/Creative Commons

Unusually, the property near Morpeth, Northumberland, has a range of surviving garden layouts dating back to the high Picturesque period of the 19th century, with both formal and informal examples of the style, something which English Heritage says is unique in England. Bold Italian geometry and formalism contrasts with the exotic naturalism of the Quarry Gardens, and the Rhododendron Garden.

Much of the garden was created within the quarries that supplied the stone for the Greek Revival mansion that superseded the medieval Belsay Castle as a family residence at the beginning of the 19th century.

The garden has a large number of ferns, including a large Chusan palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), planted around 1852 and thought to be one of the earliest examples in Britain.

Other significant trees and plants include a large Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) planted in 1839 to the east of the tennis court, Gunnera manicata, Magnolia kobusCornus kousa, Parrotia persica (the ironwood tree), some old Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica) and Rhododendron fortune.

There are more than 30 species of lily in the garden and Belsay Hall holds the National Plant Collection of Herbaceous Iris (series spuriae).

English Heritage is recruiting a new garden supervisor to work with the head gardener, senior gardener and site manager on the gardens.

Belsay Hall was one of the venues chosen to take part in a native daffodil planting programme last year.

Belsay has been owned by the Middleton family for more than seven centuries. The family left the hall in 1962 but continue to own the estate outside the historic nucleus of hall, castle and garden.


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