The 2020 Lockdown has given us an unexpected chance to focus our effort on the garden at Isla Bank House. If you’ve been following our exploits then you’ll know that we spent year one refurbishing the house itself, but the years of neglect weren’t limited to the inside, so we quickly found that ‘Staying Home’ meant long and punishing days outside.
There are five and a half acres of gardens including an Italian garden, a bluebell wood, an orchard, a walled kitchen garden and a paddock as well as lawns and mature rhododendron beds, and although there were plenty of interesting mature plants, everything was overgrown and strangled by weeds, greenhouses rotting and smashed glass everywhere, The gardens have been neglected for the last twenty years at least. Oh and I should mention that neither of us has any more gardening experience than pushing a lawnmower.
In its prime, the walled garden (pictured below) would have been very formal with a static steam-engine boiler heating greenhouses all the way along the left wall to warm grapes, peaches and bananas, while stone paths defined long straight beds to feed the occupants and large household staff. Once we cleared away the jungle it was clear that the original walkways had subsided to the extent that they were quite unsafe, so we have used logs, shavings and mulch from our own woods to recover and define our own walkways and beds.
We inherited a very productive mature row of rhubarb, scattered blackcurrant trees and a few overgrown apple trees but all other food production had unfortunately died back some time ago, so we’re now trialling 28 varieties of food crop to see what kind of yields we can achieve up here and so far I’m quite impressed.
Over the next few months, I’ll be posting more specific updates but for the moment I just feel enormous pride when I stand back at the end of each day and look at what the two of us have achieved.