RESTORATION OF THE WALLED GARDEN AT WOLLATON PARK
Updated July 2019
Formerly the kitchen garden serving Wollaton Hall, restoration of the old walled garden at Wollaton Park has begun with regular volunteer maintenance sessions organised by Friends of Wollaton Park.
THE TRANSFORMATION PROJECT:-
In 2018 the Council at last agreed to start work to preserve the Walled Garden in the Park. The Garden, built between 1783 and1788 had 12 foot high heated walls. They enclosed a 4 acre garden, which was used to grow a large variety of fruit and vegetables for the Middleton family and their staff. Next to it was the 75 foot long, Large Conservatory, and in front of that was an Herbaceous Garden, where the flowers for the Hall were grown. After the sale of the Hall and Park in 1924 the Walled Garden continued to be used by the Parks Department for growing plants for their flowerbeds around the City. In 1991 this process was moved to Woodthorpe and the Walled Garden was abandoned. Since then vegetation and vandals have taken their toll.
Phase I of this emergence project, costing £20,000, is complete and the contractors replaced 3,000 bricks into various holes in the walls. They will also rebuild the Eastern Gateway, so a new gate can then be installed. The bricks they will be using have all been recovered from the Garden by volunteers, led by Pete Foster of the Friends of Wollaton Park. These have had to be cleaned and stacked. Unfortunately many of the bricks have been damaged and in due course we are going to need some new bricks, which will have to be fired specially at a cost of £25 per brick!
Apart from recovering bricks, the volunteers have been attacking 30 years of growth that have in part overwhelmed the walls and brought down one wall altogether. It is an enormous task as the ivy has grown up both sides of the 12 foot high walls.
Not only had the ivy attached itself with a vice like hold to the walls, it had also got under the coping stones at the top and in some cases forced them off. Once inside the wall, it has made its way along the old heating ducts and caused damage to the brick work. If our volunteers had not acted in time the walls would all have been reduced to rubble, just like the central wall.
Interestingly we have uncovered more potting sheds and also the bricked up doorway that gave access to the Large Conservatory. Years ago, when Lord and Lady Middleton visited the Garden complex, they would use the black door in the surrounding wall, located where the old adventure playground used to be. From there they would have walked past the Head Gardener’s Cottage (pink on the 1863 Plan, above, which survives), and then into the Large Conservatory. From here they could either go into the Herbaceous Garden or through this rediscovered doorway into the Walled Garden. Sadly the Herbaceous Garden and the Conservatory have long gone, though we hope to mark out its footprint in the grass. In June, during the Wollaton Festival, we, with FOWP, hope to provide Guided Tours of the Walled Garden and the surrounding area. We aim to use that black gate, so that the walks can start directly from the Park.
The plan is then to reopen the doorway into the Walled Garden so giving us direct access. We shall ask The Lord Mayor to formally assist in this reopening and also to launch our new Booklet, the “History of the Walled Garden”. This has been sponsored by Rotheras Solicitors, to whom we give our grateful thanks. You will be informed by email when this is to happen. You are welcome to come along; those who are able could join the working party!
We desperately need to raise further money to finance the continuing work of preservation and restoration, which is estimated at over £1,000,000. Once we have done that the aim is to use half the Garden for horticulture and half for community use. There could be new glasshouses and possibly a farm shop, with the potting sheds restored and possibly used as craft shops.
CAN YOU HELP?
The work of clearing the ivy, brambles and trees will continue for several months. Thanks to all who have already helped. To those who would like to help please come and join one of the workdays. You can bring your own cutters or you will be provided with tools. You will be covered by the Council’s insurance. On Thursdays we are supported by the Wollaton Park Team who look after the Park.
Regular work days are on Thursdays at 9.30 and also the second Sunday of the month from 10.30 to 12.30, Meet at the Communities Car Park first left off the entrance to Mr Man’s car park, and you will be given a car parking permit. All will be allocated tasks within their capabilities!
We also need guides for Tours. Can you help?
In February we had a Volunteer Week and people from all over the country came to help, whilst others just came to look at this amazing area. One of them was so impressed that he reached into his pocket and produced a large donation in cash! We need a lot more people like Mr Bob Elkin from Nailstone! Thank you.
A way forward by Councillor Steve Battlemuch (September 2018)
We know the Walled Garden has been neglected for far too long and there is a growing consensus that we need to ensure it can be restored to its former glory. The problem we have as ever is money, or more clearly the lack of it! To restore the garden in its entirety and make it a functional place again open to all will cost millions of pounds. The only source of that kind of money is unfortunately from lottery grants – unless someone wins the actual lottery and donates it all to it!
I wish the City Council had the money to help, but we don’t. We can bid for lottery funding and we will when a workable plan is in place, but we have to aware that Nottingham has had a fair slice of lottery funding for other projects so a successful bid may take some time.
What I am happy to announce is that we have a Stage 1 plan – that is to use around £20,000 to ensure the area can be made safe and a number of the walls repaired, graffiti cleaned and a new gate installed. This is based on a report which shows exactly how many bricks are needed and how the repairs can be carried out. £15,000 of the £20,000 needed will come from the City Council and we have the other £5000 pledged from local councillor’s individual funding allocations (£2000), with the rest made up from donations from the Historical & Conservation Society, the Civic Society and some individuals.
We are hoping this work can be completed as soon as possible and once done we will at least be able to open up the garden for more visitors as we develop longer term plans.
I believe we need a wide ranging consultation about the future use of the space and then develop an exciting and creative bid for funding to make it happen. I’m sure this will have to include ways to make the area sustainable in the longer term through some sort of income generation. I really appreciate the care and dedication that has gone into this issue from both the Historical Society and the Friends of Wollaton Park Group. I also understand the frustration felt by people at the slow pace of change. However I personally believe that with good will on all sides and the council working together with the voluntary sector we can restore the Walled Garden to its former status and leave a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Stage 1 plan includes three areas shown on the photographs. (1) Replacing 160 bricks, see photo above, at a cost of £1,838.47. (2) A further 80 bricks to a hole, photo right, at a cost of £701.95 and (3) To “rebuild wall to full height, ready for a new gate”, below, £4,015.75. The other 4 schemes are similar and total in all £19, 490.59. The work is to be carried out by Bonsers, hopefully using bricks that can be recovered from other walls that have fallen down. We do not, as yet, have a proposed start date.
Your Chairman would add: The work clearly needs doing to save these walls from deteriorating further or collapsing. However although one of the walls near one of the gates is to be repaired no provision is to be made for a new gate, or securing the whole site. So how will this stop the vandals who enter, daub graffiti on the walls and push them over?
Steve Battlemuch talks about “a wide ranging consultation about the future use of the space and then develop an exciting and creative bid for funding. We agree with all that, but why hasn’t that happened over the last 4 years?
We support Stage 1, as this clearly is a step in the right direction. Fortunately we are able to put £1,500 towards the shortfall of £5,000 as a very generous Wollaton resident, who wants no publicity, has given us £1,000 towards the Walled Garden and we are committing £500 of our own funds. We welcome Steve’s positive comments and now expect the Council to start the consultation process and to hold regular meetings of the working party, which has met only once in the last eight months. It is only by working together that we may at last see some real progress.
FOWP Secretary Helen Mitchem says: "The Walled Garden Project: A chance for volunteers to get involved in clearing bramble, ivy and cleaning bricks to help the professionals restore this hidden area of the park. Typical gardening gloves and clothing needed. Thursdays: meet at the 508 cafe at 9.30am or join us by walking through the gate in the communities courtyard when you are ready. Sundays: second Sunday of each month (10th Feb; 10th March; 14th April; 12th May; 9th June) meet in the communities courtyard at 10.30am"
So if you would like to help other WHaCS members and friends with this work just turn up at session! The Communities Courtyard is accessed from Wollaton Road. Go through the entrance to Mr Mans Restaurant and turn left into a small car park. That is the Communities Courtyard and the entrance to the garden is through a gate in the metal fence.
Here are some images to inspire you:
Left, a good year for potatoes. Above, the Head Gardener's cottage
Overgrown brambles around the potting sheds, and the ever deterorating condition of walls
Whatever your abilities, you can help!
However much time you can spare, it will help!
If you want to get a bit fitter, this activity will help!
If you want to meet other people and enjoy being part of the team conserving this important part of Wollaton history, PLEASE COME ALONG AND HELP. It is great fun, as you can see from the photograph below.
Left a January 2019 Maintenance Session.
A booklet detailing some history of the walled garden, the current condition, past activities and the aims of the restoration project will shortly be on sale at £1.50 to raise funds to support this most valuable project.
FOWP Also organise maintenance sessions elsewhere in Wollaton Park, the Hall, gardens, woodland and courtyards. For details please contact email@example.com