Great Ayton is nestled just beneath Roseberry Topping, amongst the Cleveland Hills and just nudging into North Yorkshire. It’s a lovely part of the country but often overlooked by visitors. The weekend of 28th and 29th June however changed all that.
In aid of Herriot Hospice Homecare, the community opened up their gardens to visitors over the weekend. Independently of each other, Jackie Latham and I went along to see.
The first surprise for me was the sheer number of gardens open – fifteen. Thankfully I stayed the weekend with friends who happen to live there, so I didn’t feel pressured by time constraints and could take time to talk to the very friendly and hospitable house and garden owners. Many of them offered tea and cake – what more can you ask for?!
The next thing I noticed was the sheer range, individualism and ingenuity that went into the gardens. There were tiny plots out the back of the house, pared down to displays in pots at ground level and mounted on shared fences. There were formal borders with neat lawns, and there were plots with sculptural features. As you might expect, there were also the larger gardens and one or two were fairly grand and beautifully designed.
Each owner was justifiably proud of their patch of heaven on earth and there was no mistaking the abundance of hard graft, devotion and love poured into their gardens.
It was interesting to note how many plants were repeated throughout the gardens – sambucus nigra, lysimachia, lychnis, delphiniums, lupins, roses, hemerocallis and peonies to name but a few – all indicating how people have selected the plants that thrive in their soil conditions and micro climate. Despite this, each garden was very different from the other. It proves the point that you can give the same tools and materials to a group of people and left to their own devices, they’ll all come up with something unique.
A few stand out in my memory. Jackie and I were hard pressed to name our favourites – no way could we single out one winner from them all – but we both loved 58 Guisborough Road. The main garden space couldn’t have been much larger than my own allotment but my goodness they’d packed everything in! Hard landscaping to accommodate seating, with a wild life pond, a trained privet hedge, an orchard, vegetables, fruit, greenhouse, herbaceous borders …
Dykes Lane included a mature cottage garden with parterre, and differently planted beds on a steep slope leading down to a stream. Idyllic. The owner told me it hadn’t been designed, it had just evolved over thirty years and it wasn’t quite finished yet. Cliff Cottage included a reclaimed field which is now used to grown vegetables organically, with a garden very much in development but showing tremendous potential as the owners had a real eye for style and plants.
I could go on and on, but will sum up by saying the weekend was a real delight. The pride of the community was very much in evidence and it was obvious that although the neighbours of the open gardens declined to open theirs, everyone had made an effort and the whole village looked fabulous. There was obviously a collective will to display the village at its best and it did! I raise my cap to their hard work and enthusiasm, they have set a wonderful example to us all and it inspired me to come back to my own little patch of heaven on earth and look at it with fresh eyes. Which idea shall I pinch first?!