In 2012 we bought a derelict farmyard with a canal tunnel and railway line. The place was a wreck: covered in concrete with piles of rubbish that had become enveloped by brambles. It was my sleeping beauty:
I instantly fell in love with the ruined post-industrial landscape that had been reclaimed by a sheer untamed brutal wilderness. It was a site on the brink of ruin, brimming with the romance of a history lost and nature’s repossession. One thing was clear from the start: I didn’t want to lose this romance; the connection that the site has to both the rural landscape and it own industrial past; nor the wildlife that had made the site their home.
Naturalistic gardens (often within post-industrial landscapes) are becoming increasingly popular. In my opinion, they are the gothic ruins of the 21st century and are the product of a new movement in landscaping and garden-making. They are a reaction to the increasing urbanisation of the world and our concerns about the environment. And they can be a potent visual representation of nature repossessing man-made industry (it is often this tension between industrial architecture and naturalistic plantings that gives these gardens such dynamism).
This type of landscape requires a gentler approach to gardening: where naturalistic plantings are managed to produce a landscape that not only evokes ‘nature’ but also is better adapted to its environment and encourages biodiversity and restores habitat. This is the area of gardening and design that I am most interested in.
Our garden aims to be a modern wildlife garden and is gardened following the organic principles of permaculture and No-Dig. It consists of a large wildlife pool fed by recycled rainwater; a drought-tolerant gravel garden and large tracts of “meadow” planting. We have tried to make a garden with what was here; without using too many unsustainable resources or needing fertilisers or chemicals to be maintained.
The concrete and rubble (from the old farmyard) was broken up and buried under the small amounts of topsoil that was scraped and saved and the land was remodelled into the gentle slopes you see today. We have deliberately chosen plants and plantings that can tolerate erratic rainfall, low nutrients. a high PH, and a windy south facing slope.
I sometimes open the garden but please do contact me if you’d like to arrange a visit or tour. The garden is also available for photography shoots and workshops.