‘We’ve been peering through the fence at it for years.’ – restoring Quarry Bank Gardens

It’s not just the Mill that is steeped in history; Quarry Bank Garden has its own tale to tell.  In 1800, Quarry Bank House was built for mill owner Samuel Greg and his wife Hannah, who was desperate to escape city life in Manchester, and raise her thirteen children in the countryside.  The garden was also created by the couple and is made up of very distinctive parts each full of their own character. It was designed to incorporate both the natural beauty of the river valley with the picturesque views of the Mill towards the top of the valley, a trend which was popular at the time.

The Lower gardens
The Lower gardens

After purchasing the Lower garden in 2006, we were able to complete the set, as it were, in 2010 when we purchased the Upper garden, with its Kitchen Garden and the Ferney Brow garden situated on the wooded cliff side.  The Kitchen Garden provided fruit, vegetables and flowers for the Greg family and they often brought their visitors here.  The garden was designed using the latest horticultural and scientific techniques, walled on three sides to catch the sun, with the South side left open to allow frost to roll away over the cliff edge.  The Upper garden is also home to the Victorian dipping pond, which was created to help keep the crops watered, which was recently restored as part of our huge restoration project which has been in place since we purchased the garden.

The Victorian dipping pond has now been restored
The Victorian dipping pond has now been restored

In the summer of 2011 we were able to open a small section of the garden for visitors while our garden team worked on clearing the debris and cutting back undergrowth to find pathways and hidden features.  There was an archaeological dig to find the lost melon house and research in the archives to learn the story of the people who had worked here.

In the winter of 2011 whilst the garden was closed, we began to restore the woodland and cliff top walks. Work took place on the buildings and plants and vegetables were brought back into cultivation. Our estate joiner and engineer began restoration of the Victorian Alpine House; the small glass house in the centre of the kitchen garden, originally used for exotic alpine species. Meanwhile, the main glass houses will continue to be surveyed ready for restoration and any repairs needed to make them safe will be carried out.

Clearing out the Alpine House
Clearing out the Alpine House

We couldn’t have begun this work without or brilliant bunch of garden volunteers, with one volunteer estimating that over the summer of 2011, the team laid a mile of stone edging in the Upper garden alone.

John and Ian have been with the team for 3 years now and have spent this summer laying stone edgings in the Upper Garden. Having come from a desk job, Ian had never done this sort of work before but he enjoys it and says it is all worthwhile when you see the garden coming together. They both agreed that they couldn’t wait to see the glass houses restored, especially the Alpine House, which is now all finished and you can go and take a look at it in all it’s glory now.

Some of our lovely volunteers
Some of our lovely volunteers

Janet and Pam come once a week to work in the gardens and have been busy clearing out the glasshouses and back sheds with the rest of the team. They also both took part in the archaeology dig around the melon pit in the summer of 2011, a whole new sort of digging! Like most of our volunteers, Joan has found working on the Upper garden exciting, for as she says, ‘We’ve been peering through the fence at it for years.’ And the most exciting part is that the Upper garden is open to the public for you to all come and have a look!

Ann Gaughan, one of our fantastic gardeners explains the hard work that went into getting the Upper gardens ready for their reopening back in mid-February this year:

“All of the Upper Garden had been left to run wild in the last few years, in order to open both Ferney Brow and the Redwood walk to visitors we’ve undertaken a massive amount of work  removing self seeded trees and cutting back over grown shrubs. This has to be done to let light and air back into the areas and to let the plants that we want to keep such as the sequoias and rhododendrons grow more healthily. This year we had some clumps of snowdrops and daffodils come up for the first time in years because there was enough light for them!”

Just a few of our lovely snowdrops
Just a few of our lovely snowdrops

Their hard work has enabled Ferney Brow to be opened for the first time in over 50 years and you can now walk up from the Lower garden, through the woodland garden and into the Upper garden. In addition to cutting back self seeded trees and weeds the garden team have added some new plantings in this area. The planting of the Upper garden has begun with the restoration of the Long Border, a herbaceous border that ran in front of the glass houses and was used to provide cut flowers for the Greg family’s homes.

But wait there’s even more still to come (I think I need a lie down after all this excitement!) In May 2013 the Redwood Walk will be opened to the public for the first time, and the garden team have been busy clearing paths and moving dead wood in order to create a walk through this part of the garden and for the first time visitors will be able to see the magnificent sequoia and the extensive collection of rhododendrons, first planted and cultivated by Robert Hyde Greg all the way back in the 1800s.

The Alpine Glasshouse
The Alpine Glasshouse

I’ve already been up to the Upper gardens and the views were simply amazing. And even though we are waiting for spring to bring a burst of colour to the gardens you can already clearly see the incredibly hard work that the garden team has put in – a huge well done to them all!

What a view!

So what are you waiting for? Come and see for yourself what the fuss has been all about!

Laura

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