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.
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Thank goodness the sun has now come out and we seem to have finally put winter behind us! The Parkland has burst into bloom with clouds of blossom and a colourful carpet of daffodils and bluebells around the trees.
The Walled Garden is also getting going, with bright tulips swaying in the breeze and home grown asparagus bursting forth. Asparagus is at its most delicious when eaten closest to home, so dishes featuring home-grown asparagus are now on all our menus, including the bar and lounge. The garden furniture is out and soon it will be time for afternoon teas on the lawn and evening drinks on the terrace at sunset. English summertime at it’s best.
Please click here if you are making plans for 2013 and want to see our Events and Activities Calendar to book a cookery course, themed lunch or family event. Our inspirational Themed Lunch and Dining Experiences page includes Wine Appreciation Lunches, with talks and tastings led by our new sommelier David Borwick, together with our Gardening Lunches, which include a talk and tour with garden designer Susan Cunliffe-Lister.