I was extremely grateful that two very very busy men, Head Gardener Martin Timony and Assistant to the Head Gardener John Wallace agreed to give a tour to some of the Donegal ETB Fetac 5 Horticulture crew of the gardens and grounds of the 5 star Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel, located just outside Donegal Town. And I mean it when I say busy, these two men are responsible for the 40+ acres which make up the gardens and grounds around Donegals only 5 start hotel. The students were interested in how the management of the gardens accommodated the hotel guests, how the team manage the historical parkland and how they manage the modern menace of invasive species. The group were also treated to Martin giving an insight into what his development plans were for the gardens, with new planting schemes being planned to further enhance the visitor experience at Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel.
Visits like this are a wonderful way for the students to meet industry professionals and to discuss management issues and real-life scenarios. These all help to put the theoretical learning into practice. And I am extremely grateful for guys like Martin and John sharing their enthusiasm and experience with the group.
In the Autumn of 2013 I did a heritage tree walk with the great kids from Groarty integrated Primary School and St Pauls Primary of Boom Hall in Derry, around this time I gathered some conkers from the Horse Chestnut tree (planted around 1815 +/- 20 years) and here's how they're coming on, I've around 40 wee trees, all looking for homes if anyone fancies one? I can shake off the soil and post to you if you'd like one of these (just cover the postage), grown from a great heritage tree in Derry City!
Recently I spent a wonderful few hours exploring the near 300 acre estate which surround the Castle Grove Country House Hotel in Letterkenny. This site has been continually occupied since the Grove Family moved here in c.1695, the walled garden on the site dates from pre 1836, and since there are no brick walls, they are all made form local stone, it is more than likely pre 1820. Castle Grove benefits from a wonderful situation looking down on Lough Swilly and even in Winter the parkland and planting around the house was full of interest. Below enjoy a few pictures from my wee dander, but the best way to see for yourself is to pay a visit, explore the gardens and grounds and then enjoy a coffee in the Hotel.
Within the estate there are formal gardens, a sunken garden under restoration, the walled garden, woodland walks, parkland and famine walls. The architecture of the gardeners cottage, the Lodge, the Main House and the Land Agents House are well worth exploring. Mrs Sweeney who has been in ownership of CastleGrove since 1989 is full of historical information and stories and is a delightful host.
Now onto the walled garden which gently slopes South to Lough Swilly, this area is surrounded by completely intact 10' high walls, located in the walled garden is a commercial polytunnel, which supplies the Castle Grove Hotel restaurant with seasonal produce, also there is a sizeable amount of very mature fruit trees and bushes, a large area of new orchard planting, many raspberry canes and outdoor beds containing Rhubarb, Strawberries and Cabbages...
Around half the walled garden is covered in planted trees, mostly boradleaf, some conifer, which are relatively young and would be easily removed if space was required. Within the walled garden there are various buildings, including a delightful potting shed and the clearly visible footings of the greenhouse.
Located in the North end of Castle Grove walled garden is this delightful single storey Gardeners Potting Shed, on the back of this potting shed there was a sizeable South Facing Greenhouse, which was connected to the building at the side of the potting shed via a short walkway.
In a historical inventory of CastleGrove this building is described as a 'Bothy' (a place where unmarried farmworkers or gardeners would have lived), so the potting shed probably developed at a later date.
As mentioned above there is areas of the walled garden under cultivation for the restaurant, some can be seen in this picture. However was delights me in the pathway, this is one of the original path within the walled garden, and there is a good network of paths which would make a delightful walk through this heritage space...
For more information on Castle Groves gardens, landscape and the Castle Grove Country House Hotel, then please visit the Castle Grove Country House Hotel website.
Recently I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Well House in Gorey, the owners are embarking on a spectacular reinstatement of the Daniel Robertson designed landscape which would have surrounded Wells House c 1830-1850. Over the past few years I've been visiting a number of properties associated with Robert Adam (Newliston, Hopetoun, Culzean etc) and its reported that Daniel Robertson worked with Robert Adam early in his career. In Ireland Daniel Robertson designed many heritage properties and landscapes, most notably Powerscourt. The Dictionary of Irish Architects has a substantial list of key properties Daniel worked on.
The landscape at Wells House is in different parts of re-instatement, some areas such as the Daniel Robertson Terraced Gardens are in an advanced stage, with substantial planting and path work having taken place, the drive and passion of Sabine Rosler (owner) to reinstate the landscape is infectious, and with confidence and surety Sabine talks through the works on-going with such ease that you know the next time you visit it'll be ever more impressive!
Aswell as the restored landscape the outbuildings associated with Wells House have been converted into wonderful shops, in an area called the Craft Courtyard, which leads onto the Animal Farm - an area full of petting animals and kids fun!
The Daniel Robertson Designed landscape could be argued is part of the recent history of Wells House, indeed a house has been on the site since the later 1600's, and as such there are some wonderful trees on the site, some form part of the Parkland at the front of the property, and some are part of the Arboretum which is under restoration.
The Lady Frances Woodland Walk is just one of the trails you can take to explore the gardens of Wells House, although my visit was in Autumn, Sabine showed me some wonderful pictures of the Bluebells, Foxgloves and Daffodil sways around the woodlands and gardens...And if your a big kid at heart you'l love the Gruffalo features, the fairy doors, the woodland sculptures and the wishing well makes a lovely feature.
Thanks to Sabine and Uli Rosler for a wonderful tour (and thanks to Uli for a wonderful chat about Biodynamic Farming). and if your planning on visiting I whole heartedly recommend the House Special Burger in Mrs Stone's Tea Room, the sauce that comes with it was just wonderful! For a venue only in its second year the Horticulture on show in Wells House is stunning, and it'll only get better over the next few years with the reinstatement of the Fountain Planting, the pool being reinstated, the front roundabout being reinstated, more planting around the outside dining areas and much much more! Pictures like this can only at best give a flavour of what you can see, its hard to convey the scale and size of the gardens in writing, the best way to get the full impact is to visit Wells House and Gardens in Gorey, County Wexford. Connect with Wells House on Facebook and Wells House on Twitter.
Springhill House in Moneymore, Nr Magherafelt is owned by the National Trust of Northern Ireland, the gardens cover many acres and include herb gardens, parkland, beech avenues, woodland walks, rose gardens and more. I had the delight of exploring the gardens recently, I've put together a wee slideshow of some images from around the gardens. These gardens are undergoing large scale renovation works, so if its been a number of years since your last trip then now's a great time to revisit this Historic property
There was so much to see on the Bluebell Walk in Barons Court Estate (home to the 5th Duke of Abercorn) that its hard to put it all into context, so here is a collection of photographs taken on the day, from the giant anchor taken from Waterford Harbour, the amazing oak trees and more more more!! enjoy the slideshows below....
the Abercorn Estate is home to this amazing King Oak, with a girth of over 8m!! and these amazing Heritage Trees Cedar of Lebanon, Red Oak, Pedunculate Oak, Roble Beech, Scots Pine,
Check out the Abercorn Estate website
keep your eyes peeled for more posts on the Abercorn Estate at Baronscourt
Gardening on Radio Foyle
A summary of each weeks gardening on Mark Patterson Show and beyond