Sugnall Walled Garden & Ferme Ornée

Posted on May 18th, 2010 by Charles Boot
Oct ’10
11:00 am

Sugnall walled garden & ferme ornée

Saturday 16 October

A visit to the home of David and Karen Jacques. An introductory talk will be followed by lunch (in part grown in the restored walled garden). To be followed by a tour of the restoration work in the walled garden and an exploration of the ferme ornée, where David has been re-planting the hedges (see Garden History 9:1 Spring 1981 p26).

Cost £29. Send cheque and SAE to: Pamela Paterson, 25 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6HR

This article describing the changes at Sugnall appeared in our  NEWS 85, Spring 2010

Sugnall Walled Kitchen Garden

David Jacques

The Sugnall walled kitchen garden has been written about in Garden History, 9/1 (1981). It was created in 1738, is just over 2 acres in extent, and was taken in hand at the start of 2006 with restoration in mind.

The aims were to repair the historic framework of walls, paths, etc., but to create a twenty-first century kitchen garden within it. Fortunately the historic walls were virtually intact. The path layout remained, being a cross intersecting at a central dipping pond, and others adjacent to the wall fruit borders. However the last vestige of the original box was uprooted about 1995, and the path surfaces had been badly damaged. There had been over 200 dwarf pyramids around the quarters, but only a handful remained in 2006. There had been about 50 wall fruit, but only one pear survived.

Brian Dix found a number of original path edges which fixed the geometry. The new paths were finished off with a hoggin of local materials, a mix of gravels bound with a marl and sharp sand matrix that has certainly been strong, even if the marl has gravitated to the surface requiring remedial action. The intention is to recover the box edging, and cuttings are being taken from migrants in tenant’s gardens. Lavender is temporarily being used, and is highly decorative as well as popular with a cloud of bumble and honey bees.

The dwarf pyramids were replaced with a full complement of new trees, 50 pears, 100 eating apples and 50 cookers. The supplier, Nigel Dunn of Frank Matthews of Berrington Court near Tenbury Wells, suggested the best of the old varieties and the best of the new. The wall fruit includes a few pears, but otherwise is entirely stone fruit, with peaches, nectarines and apricots on the warmest walls, plums and gages on the next warmest, and morello cherries on the north facing ones.

The newly planted Pear Walk, Sugnall

The newly planted Pear Walk, Sugnall

Modern plants and methods are being used in the quarters. There was severe weed infestation, and there might have been water problems if it had not been for the recent wet summers. Hence permeable membrane has been used extensively. The vegetables and soft fruit are planted along the joins. Fifteen water taps were installed so that nowhere is more than 50 feet from a tap, the length of pipe that can be carried around easily on a reel. On the vexed question of ‘organic’, it was decided to use organic principles in most respects, but not to forego the use of glyphosate. Most of the six new bunkers round the back of the garden are for composting and there is one for sand, and another for woodchip, invaluable in improving the appearance of the areas of membrane.

The cost so far has been substantial. Repairs and infrastructure have been only part of them, because labour costs over the four years to date in bringing the garden into production have mounted up. On the income side, it is accepted that modern methods and imports will always be cheaper. A handful of walled gardens have survived with continuous production to the present, but as loss-making elements of a wider estate economy. Restorations have been few, but have been embarked upon at some places open to the public such as West Dean, Tyntesfield and Shugborough.

The nearly restored Walled Garden at Sugnall, Staffordshire

The nearly restored Walled Garden at Sugnall, Staffordshire

A private owner could never justify a walled kitchen garden, let alone meet the costs of restoration, unless it is linked to other enterprises such as a tearoom or plant sales. Starting them off incrementally is not an option because of the heavy initial investment in the walled garden startup. Grants, though, can help to alleviate the capital costs. The National Trust has been highly successful in attracting them for Tatton. The private owner can apply for EU grants for farm diversification, channelled through the Rural Development Programme for England.

At Sugnall a number of income streams are being started which revolve around the walled garden. The produce is being converted into jams, chutneys and soups in a kitchen on-site. A shop which is also a tearoom is the principal outlet. Plants and garden furniture from a forge within the garden are also sold there. There are guided tours, rooms or the garden can be hired out, and schools parties are being catered for in a classroom and with teacher’s packs. The EU grant would enable us to have a restaurant.

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