The Walled Garden
When the Cunliffe-Lister family bought back Swinton Park in 2000, the walled garden had fallen into decline. Up until the mid 1970s the garden had been maintained by a team of 11 gardeners, growing produce for the house, but once the house was sold it was used for pheasant rearing and later as a Christmas tree plantation.
Once the trees had been cleared and roots dug out, the four acre garden was a blank canvas. Susan Cunliffe-Lister had already masterminded the restoration of the award winning gardens at Burton Agnes in East Yorkshire, and she set about designing a garden that would be productive, easy to maintain and capable of delivering produce into the hotel and cookery school kitchens that could be put to good use.
Initially, four main perennial crops were planted : asparagus, artichokes, blueberries and autumn fruiting raspberries. The aim was to produce something unusual and not readily available, with low maintenance and a long fruiting period.
Since then over 60 varieties of fruit and vegetables have been planted such as squash, courgettes, rhubarb, strawberries, alpine strawberries, Jerusalem artichokes and a very wide range of herbs.
Over an acre of the garden has also been planted out with flowers, to be cut fresh for the hotel or dried, and that are over ten varieties of apple trees. A combination of sheep fleeces and permeable membrane laid over the soil ensures that this is a well fertilized and virtally weed and spray free garden.
Throughout the year, seasonal produce from the Walled Garden regularly features on the restaurant and cookery school menus, and the Cookery School day course, The Kitchen Garden, includes a tour of the walled garden and the opportunity to pick the ingredients for the day’s course. Susan also runs the Garden Design Day which includes a talk about the history of the parkland and restoration of the walled garden at Swinton and at Burton Agnes, planting and design ideas, a tour of the garden and lunch.
As we bask in the sunshine of high summer, the Swinton Estate and Yorkshire Dales provide a heavenly venue for walking, cycling and riding. Closer to home, the Walled Garden is brimming over with soft fruit and young vegetables, providing delicious ingredients for our Garden Lunches and Estate Produce Lunches.
The darkening leaves on the turret remind us that Autumn is coming, but also herald the coming of game, wild mushrooms and other seasonal treats.