In 2012 we bought a collection of derelict farm buildings with a yard, canal tunnel and railway line: a post-industrial brown field site in a rural setting. The place was a glorious wreck: piles of smashed up concrete and remnants of industry enveloped by buddleia and 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 wildness. It was a site on the brink of ruin, brimming with the romance of a history lost and nature’s repossession. Two things were clear from the start: I didn’t want to lose the evident connection that the site has to both the immediate rural landscape and its own industrial past; nor did I want to lose the wild things that had made the site their home.
Naturalistic gardens (often within post-industrial landscapes) are becoming increasingly popular (The High Line; Sudegelande; Landschaftspark). In my opinion they are the gothic ruins of our age and are the product of a new movement in landscaping and environmental awareness. They are a reaction to the increasing urbanization of the world and our concerns about the environment. They are also 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 and appeal. They give us much needed hope in the Anthropocene age.
This type of landscape requires a gentler approach to gardening where naturalistic plantings are managed to produce a landscape that evokes an aesthetic ‘nature’ and is also better adapted to its environment, 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 organic minimal intervention principles borrowed and adapted from regenerative agriculture; agroforestry; planting designers and pre-industrial farming techniques. It consists of a large wildlife pool fed by recycled rainwater, a drought tolerant gravel garden and large tracts of indigenous wildflower meadow planting. We have tried to make a garden with what was here without using too many unsustainable resources or needing fertilizers or other chemicals to be maintained.
The concrete and rubble was broken up and buried under the small amounts of topsoil that was scraped and saved and the land was remodeled into the gentle slopes that you see today. We have deliberately chosen plants and plantings that can tolerate the erratic rainfall, no watering, low nutrients, a high PH, and a windy south-facing slope.
I do sometimes open the garden (please see the events page for details of this). The garden is also available for photography shoots and for gardening and landscaping workshops.