When we purchased Redmain House in 1993 it wasn’t just the house that needed to be completely refurbished, the garden, totalling around 3 acres, hadn’t been touched. It had been used as a dumping ground. Ash and Sycamore trees had self-seeded everywhere and the dry stone walls were in a bad state of repair. The large field at the rear had been grazed by sheep and didn’t look in bad condition, but in its first year of non-grazing produced an enormous amount of weed. In particular thistle and dock. There was no alternative but to go around the 3 acres and remove them by hand. It was all I did that first year and it seemed to work as the following year there were very few that came back. However, I now had a problem with hogweed! Hundreds and hundreds of them appeared everywhere. As anyone will know hogweed has a long tap root, so digging them out was a long and difficult job and I simply couldn’t do them all, so, of those I could not dig up I made sure to cut off the tops so they would not seed. It seemed like a good idea at the time (and it probably was) but it meant that the following year the taproot was twice as big and twice as difficult to get out! I just kept at it for the next couple of years and finally got them under control, but they continue to pop up from time to time so I am still vigilant about getting them out!
THE WOODLAND COPSE
During that first year my son and I planted a copse of trees on a gentle slope behind the house. According to an old map dated around 1810, there was a copse of trees here before so we decided to replace it. We planted aspen, alder, birch, hazel, elderberry, holly, hawthorn, wild cherry and field maple alongside the two remaining sycamore (one came down the first winter and kept us in wood for the fire for over 2 years). Now, in 2008 the woodland area is one of my favourite places. The wood is mature with a stepped area that leads down through a mass of ferns, geraniums, primroses, aquilegias, Jacobs ladder, dog rose, foxgloves, gunnera, and other native species during June. In Spring it is underplanted with bluebells, daffodils, primroses, wild garlic, forget-me-nots and ground elder!
We have made an area available to sit under the trees when it gets too hot (yes we do get hot weather!) and it is a favourite place for a lot of our visitors and us. We have also erected a tee-pee in this area, made of willow taken from the area around the wildlife pond which was created during the second year of the garden. A bust of Aphrodite also rests here snuggled in the hollow of the sycamore tree trunk that fell during the first year, surrounded by aconites, geraniums, foxgloves and purple bugle.
Since the woodland has matured we have encouraged the birds to come and have put up an owl box in one of the large sycamores and although we can hear the owls at night we haven’t yet been lucky enough to have one make its home here. However, a beautiful thrush decided to make its nest in the tee-pee! There are now so many birds here we never have problems with slugs and snails. Over the last couple of years we have had the pleasure of welcoming a family of lesser spotted woodpeckers into the garden and the cheeky but very sweet red squirrel.
THE VEGETABLE AND FLOWER CUTTING GARDEN
This large area has been developed gradually over a number of years. It was part of the field directly behind the house to the right of the woodland area and tilts south-east. Originally a local farmer tilled the soil for me with a tractor as it was mainly rough grass. The soil wasn’t much and weeds were endemic for a couple of years. I planted only potatoes and onions at the beginning. Hours of weeding and tons of manure have now turned the soil into a great place for growing my treasured veggies and flowers.
This area has progressed from a few beds dug out of the soil with muddy paths to a very formal area with 20 boxed deep beds, gravel paths and seating areas and the whole is surround by an 8foot high privet hedge for shelter. My husband made some cold frames at one end and some lovely obelisks for the sweet peas at the other end. There are three entrances to this garden through arched gateways, the middle being the main entrance, which has a large urn filled with Gypsophilia (Baby’s breath) which froths out in all directions during the Summer.
We now grow all kinds of vegetables in 6 deep beds and raise flowers for planting out and for cutting in the others along with strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, blueberries, and currants.
It is a beautiful place to sit in summer and provides excellent views over the Derwent valley towards Skiddaw mountain. We often have our dinner in this area at night and watch the sun go down behind us.
Oil fired central heating, electricity, towels and bed linen all provided free of charge.
Broadband 24/7 internet access cable (Cat 5 Network) and Wifi wireless access point for connection to your own computer equipment is available free and is now unlimited so guests can stream television and music.