Team effort to restore an historic ‘lost’ garden in Northumberland village

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Retired North East MP Chris Mullin will soon officially re-open an historic ‘lost’ walled garden in the village of Cresswell that for generations had been little more than a wilderness.

Once the pride and joy of the family which gave its name to the village, the 200-year-old triangular walled garden provided exotic fruits, vegetables and flowers for them when they lived in the now-demolished stately home of Cresswell Hall.

In its Victorian heyday, it was a corner of a much larger six acres of kitchen gardens – hidden behind its 14ft high walls that provided the perfect growing micro-climate protected from the chill of the North Sea winds.

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Seven years ago, the idea of restoring the garden to its former glory was first mooted when work was underway to also ‘rescue’ the adjoining Grade II listed 14th Century Pele Tower, which at the time was classed by Historic England as one of the country’s most ‘At Risk’ ancient buildings.

From left, Steve Lowe, Barry Mead and Philip Hood in the Cresswell Walled Garden.From left, Steve Lowe, Barry Mead and Philip Hood in the Cresswell Walled Garden.
From left, Steve Lowe, Barry Mead and Philip Hood in the Cresswell Walled Garden.

With significant grant support from the National Lottery, among other funders, the Pele Tower was fully restored by the Cresswell Pele Tower Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CPTCIO) that was jointly set up by the local parish council and Greater Morpeth Development Trust to undertake the work.

Now, the same organisation has completed the restoration of the half-acre walled garden – again with National Lottery support as well as other funders including Northumberland County Council, CELL and Parkdean Resorts, which owns both the site and its neighbouring holiday park, totalling £249,909 – to transform it into an imaginative community resource.

The central area of the garden has been cleared of overgrown vegetation, new lawns and footpaths have been laid, three attractive pergolas have been built along with an eye-catching gazebo that will accommodate outdoor music and entertainment events, a small pond has been dug to attract wildlife, raised beds have been created to grow vegetables and there are apple and pears trees, plus a newly planted medieval orchard of unusual fruit varieties.

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While the main capital works were completed by RHD Construction & Environmental Contractors, a team of 20 regular volunteers has worked for many hundreds of hours to get the Cresswell Walled Garden ready for its re-opening.

Cresswell villager Barry Mead, who has acted as one of the lead project team, said: “When we first started work, we had to spend many hours clearing back vegetation to even enable us to find the original footpaths and layout of the garden.”

Many of the volunteers have been local residents, but others have joined in from neighbouring communities as well as visitors staying at two local caravan parks.

Chair of the CPTCIO trustees Philip Hood said: “It has been an absolute labour of love to restore the garden and it is going to be a true community asset that Cresswell can be so proud of. None of what has been achieved would have been possible if it were not for our marvellous volunteers.”

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Volunteers co-ordinator Steve Lowe said the restoration of the garden had been carried out as faithfully as possible in line with its original design and layout.

Mr Mullin will formally open the garden at an invitation event on Sunday, June 2, then it will be open to visitors from 2.30pm onwards for the rest of the afternoon.

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