Stepping through a creaky oak door into a walled garden is like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. The pages of the book replaced by four magnificent brick walls – each telling its own story of centuries gone by. Magical, enchanting places and quintessentially English.
Protected from the harsh British weather and usually nurtured by dozens of green-fingers, they are packed full of horticultural delights that will have your olfactory senses doing pirouettes through the finely manicured beds and richly-stocked borders.
And, where there are walled gardens there are usually vast estates, grand halls and stately homes, woodlands and so on, providing a great day out.
These are a few of our favourites, but we are simply spoilt for choice in Cheshire. Royal Horticultural Society, The National Garden Scheme, Great British Gardens, and of course The National Trust are all good resources and can provide details of many more.
Opening times and entry fees vary at each venue, with some only open by prior arrangement. Plus be warned some venues do not allow dogs, so please call ahead or check out websites before you set off.
Norton Priory is quite unique in its combination of history, archeology and nature. It has a beautiful 3-acre walled garden, which was built in the mid to late 1700s and formed part of the Georgian house estate. It was home to the wealthy Brooke family before it became derelict in the 1920s. However, their legacy lives on in the well-tended and tranquil gardens. There’s a kitchen garden, herb garden, impressive rose walk, orchard, herbaceous borders, wildflower meadow, secret summer houses and stream glades. There is also the famous priory ruins which sit proudly in the woodland gardens.
Settling here 900 years ago, medieval Augustinian Canons lived, worked and prayed. As a site of significant historical importance, Norton Priory has its own dedicated museum, with a host of events year round. It also has a dedicated tea room, which serves the famous Norton Priory brewery ale and Norton Priory ice-cream.
Tudor Road, Manor Park, Runcorn, Cheshire WA7 1SX, tel: 01928 569 895
The history of the walled garden at Grappenhall Heys began well over 200 years ago but has only been brought back to life in recent times, thanks to the tireless efforts of local residents. Unusually, the walled garden and grounds are all within the one boundary wall. The formal, rectangular kitchen garden grows vegetables, fruit and flowers, and the more informal gardens, or pleasure grounds as they’re known, contain three ponds and ornamental planting – a wonderful place for meandering, lost in thought. Don’t miss the colourful herbaceous borders, espalier fruit trees growing up the walls, many of them old varieties.
Extend your visit by exploring what would have been the larger estate. A number of estate buildings exist to this day, although the original Grappenhall Heys House has long gone. Stop for lunch, afternoon tea or just a coffee at the garden’s delightful cafe. Grappenhall Heys is open Friday to Sunday and entry is free.
Witherwin Avenue, Grappenhall, Warrington WA4 3DS, tel: 01925 213638
Arley Hall & Gardens has been a family residence of the Ashbrooks since the fifteenth century but was open to the general public in the eighties, and visitors have flocked here ever since.
Its gardens and grounds are said to be among the finest in Europe and are extensive. The is a fabulous walled garden, vegetable garden, herb garden, a scented garden, a flag and fish garden and a spectacular avenue of trees leading down to the Sundial Garden. More recently a less formal woodland walk and an area called The Grove have been created. The gardens at Arley are unique for their variety and historical interest and are particularly celebrated for the magnificent double herbaceous border..
There is also a wonderful cafe/restaurant which uses produce from the gardens, a garden nursery, a lovely gift shop and a Chapel. Plus, an extensive children’s adventure play area with zip wire, sandpit swings and slides is not to be missed, as is a visit to the magnificent hall itself, which is a must see for any wanna-be Jane Austens.
Arley is open extensively throughout the year but check the website for opening times. Also check out the What’s on page, as they host a great number of wonderful events throughout the year.
Northwich, Cheshire, CW9 6NA, tel: 01565 777 353
Hare Hill’s walled garden is set in the heart of a large woodland that is dotted with beehives, ponds, bird lookouts and the exciting children’s Hare Hill Nature Trail (10 wooden carved child-sized hares dotted around the woodland). It is also surrounded by rolling parkland and further National Trust land, which makes excellent and extensive walking terrain.
Accessed through large iron gates set into the towering cheshire-brick walls, the walled garden at Hare Hill has a magical quality, although a fairly informal example of a walled garden. It has only recently been restored to its former glory. With year-round white perennial borders providing a spectacular display and emitting a heavy floral scent and a pretty white pergola.. Midsummer is the ultimate time to visit, although it is wonderful at any time of the year. Look out for unusual varieties of Iris, Poppy, Echinacea, Lupin, and Phlox – and check out the bees on the white Catmint! The Bluebells in March are amazing.
There is no cafe at Hare Hill, although they usually have a pop-up mobile coffee van at weekends, but the walled garden is a superb place to layout a picnic. Tai Chi classes take place in the walled garden as well as other events.
Over Alderley, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 4PY. (Note that Hare Hill is closed for a short period over the winter months – check out their website for further details).
Henbury Hall is set in under 1,000 acres of undulating park and farmland with two magnificent lakes and 12 acres of gardens, including the 200-year-old walled garden.
The gardens contain many fine trees and shrubs including some rare specimens brought back from China over 100 years ago. The walled garden has recently been completely restored and is entirely organic, growing fruit and vegetables for the house along with cutting flowers. There are extensive glasshouses where you will find collections of exotics.
Several houses have stood on site and there is a house recorded here in the Domesday Book. Although not open to the public, the present house is a unique landmark, its design being based on Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotunda near Vicenza in Italy – pretty impressive!
The gardens are only open by prior arrangement to organised groups or during their exclusive open days or other events, which are listed on their website. Organic food is supplied from the walled garden, all home-made in the Henbury Kitchens.
Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 9PJ , Tel: 01625 422101
Technically this is slightly outside the remit of walled gardens, however Adlington Hall’s gardens and grounds, with their Shakespearean-style maze, are so charismatic and of such historical interest that we couldn’t leave them out.
One of the most beautiful and unusual country homes and gardens in England, it is set in an impressive 2,000-acre estate. The history of the place makes for thrilling reading. Originally a Saxon hunting lodge, claimed by William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest, the Norman Earls held Adlington for seven generations, until it passed to the crown in 1221. The Great Hall is now an unusual building of two-halves – half-timbered brown and white Tudor construction, and a much newer Georgian-style building, which replaces the original Tudor wings that were destroyed by fire.
The gardens are an absolute oasis of tranquillity and are thought to have been created in the style of Capability Brown – another reason to give this place a mention. Summer is the time to enjoy the dedicated rose garden with its heady scents. There is a formal flower parterre – this is where ponds, fountains and a water cascade creating a small serene island. Don’t miss the carpet of bluebells in May. Children and adults will also enjoy the spectacular and neatly clipped maze. A delightful and very interesting place.
The Hall, Gardens and Tea Room open every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, from 16 April until 24 September, from 2pm – 5pm, last entry to Hall 3.45pm.
Mill Lane, Adlington, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 4LF. Phone: 01625 827 595