Gardeners in a race against time at Wynard Hall

 

Gardeners at what looks set to become a major North East tourist attraction are working around the clock to ensure it is blooming lovely when it opens to the public.

Head gardener Mark Birtle and his three-strong team at Wynyard Hall Hotel, Tees Valley, have been working flat out in preparation for the opening of the venue’s historic Walled Garden on Tuesday 4 August.

And for Mark, 48, who has worked for Sir John Hall at Wynyard Hall for 20 years, the project is the highlight of his gardening career.

Built by the Hall’s former owners, the Marquises of Londonderry, in the 19th century, the Walled Garden has undergone a £1.6m development overseen by multi-award-winning Royal Horticultural Society landscape architect Alistair Baldwin.

However, the planting - of yew and beech hedging, shrubs, 3,000 roses and a few thousand herbaceous perennials - is entirely down to Mark and his team at Wynyard Hall, which includes his 18-year-old son Leo and estate gardeners Paul Riding and Barrie Browning.

“Sir John has presented us with some challenges over the years, but this is without doubt the biggest challenge of my career,” said Mark, from Redcar, who trained and worked for Middlesbrough Borough Council’s parks department prior to taking the reins at Wynyard Hall.

“The planting is hugely dependent on us preparing the soil properly as roses are heavy feeders and need it to be moisture rich, but also free draining,” he added. “So, we’ve been using lots of organic matter, along with mycorrhizal fungi and bonemeal, to make sure the fertility levels are right.

“We’ve all the hedging in place and have started planting the roses so there’s still some way to go, but I was taught by the best and everything I have learned in the past 30 years is coming together to help me now.

“This is a prestigious project that will receive nationwide attention and, when the doors open on 4 August, I know I will be immensely proud of what the four of us have achieved.”

The Walled Garden development, to the north of the Hall itself and within the estate’s 150 acres of grounds, will also house a state-of-the-art visitor centre, shop and café, stocking and serving locally-sourced goods and produce.

It is the second stage in a rolling programme of work to create The Gardens at Wynyard Hall, which will eventually cover four acres and be one of the largest rose gardens in the UK.

The first stage, adjacent to the Walled Garden, was the £1.7m installation of a Grand Marquee and management suite, for weddings and large scale corporate events and further stages will include a £2m investment in the creation of a cookery school, children’s garden and designated walks through the estate. 

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