Westonbury Mill Water Gardens

   
Town/City : Pembridge
County : Herefordshire
Country : England
Post code : HR6 9HZ
Phone : 01544 388650
Web Site :  www.westonburymillwatergardens.com

"The garden is transported into quite a different league by the series of dotty and delightful follies that the owner has built" RHS Garden Finder

 

 

Purchase: In 1969 I was working on an agricultural project in a remote part of the Libyan desert. It was exciting and beautiful but hot and dry, and on a whim I asked a friend to find me a water meadow with a stream and some sort of building. He did just that, buying 17 acres and a bramble-covered, tumble-down old mill for an absurdly small price. Behind the mill was an almost impenetrable jungle of scrub and nettles, now the garden. After a little work on the house and the excavation of a pond to surround an island where an alder hosted the children's tree house, I kept the place as our holiday cottage while I continued to work overseas as a hydrogeologist.
Early days: I moved here on my own in 1997. After living for two years with the beautiful views from the mill and its tangle of streams I had decided to make a garden. It would be for my pleasure but I would also open it as a much needed business. In comfortable ignorance of the whole subject of gardening I set out to follow my impulses and hired a digger and a dump truck which I soon learned to use. The large pond was extended and, having time left from my week's hire, I rather randomly sculpted the channels of what is now the Boulder Garden and the high banks around it.

The new gardener's garden: Getting to know moisture lovers was achieved by planting one of everything in a bog plant nursery's catalogue. Most survived and within a couple of years they combined with the native red campions, meadowsweet and comfrey in cheerful wildness. Another week with the digger resulted in a small water lily pond, the realignment of a rill and the soil mounded to form a good-sized bank which I planted with unfashionable small conifers. They were usually viewed in tight-lipped silence.

Follies followed: With memories of life on the Red Sea coast of the Yemen, I constructed the African Summer House mixing timber of elm re-growth and ethnic-looking thatching using bull rushes from the pond. Because the rushes rot far too quickly, frequent reworking is required but it does look the part. A little later I found the old iron water wheel which had been used to pump water to the neighbouring farm after milling ceased about 1900. Although the buckets had rusted away the frame was lovely and obviously had to be used. The only place it could be visible and use the flow of water from above the house was just below the weir so there it went. A bit of 3 a.m. musing and a few evening stone carving classes led to the Stone Tower as it stands, useless but quite charming, I hope. One folly led to another, and having the new Cuckoo Clock Tower looking at home in my mini-'Black Forest' perhaps brings the right context for those conifers which only I had ever loved.

Further development: In 2005 I was lucky to be able to buy from my neighbour the triangular meadow which has become the Wild Flower Meadow. This extended the garden from the previous boundary line of huge alders to the weir which diverts water from the Curl Brook to the leat which, in turn, feeds down through the middle of the garden to the mill. This gave us a whole new setting for shrubs and trees and the opportunity to excavate the Canal and make the Spiral Mound.
Just over a year later I married Sally, whose knowledge and enthusiasm has been a huge help and support. A birthday gift from her one year was the parade of populus tremula - 'Quaking Aspen', an American variety of poplar now growing along the leat in the meadow.

The future: There will be no more follies – all the focal points are filled. I now want to concentrate on gently nudging things in a direction of further variety in the planting while maintaining a loose and naturalistic style. And maybe hang a hammock. I might imagine finding a young couple with the enthusiasm to take over and carry on.

by Richard Pim

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