Another day, another garden – Gresgarth Hall

More glorious weather last weekend was just too good to waste so on the Sunday morning I headed off up the M6 to Gresgarth Hall and its garden just outside the Lancashire village of Caton. Gresgarth Hall is home to landscape designer Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd and her husband Mark and the private garden is only open one Sunday each month between February and November. I’d only found out about it a couple of days previously and with the next open day being due it was a good opportunity for a few hours out.
Gresgarth Hall was originally founded around 1330, constructed as a fortified residence by Agnes and John Curwen. Successive generations of the Curwen family owned the Hall for the next 300 years then when the last Curwen died in 1633 the estate passed to the Morley family who eventually sold to the Girlingtons. The look of the house changed several times over the years, with the greatest change occurring between 1805 and 1810 when it was extensively remodelled and enlarged, softening its defensive characteristics and providing its current Gothic appearance. It then passed through several owners over the years until the late 20th century when the current owners purchased the estate in 1978, then after renovating the house Arabella Lennox-Boyd began designing the garden in 1980, developing it over the following years into that which can be seen today.
The name ‘Gresgarth’ is apparently Norse for ‘enclosure of wild boar’ and the sculpture of a wild boar greeted me on the formal lawn in front of the house – it was huge and it was ugly and not the sort of thing I would want to encounter on a dark night. From the front lawn box hedging bisected by several paths divided a large area into different garden rooms with a variety of beds and pretty herbaceous borders, and set in some of the paths were several cobble mosaic designs by Lancaster artist Maggie Howarth.
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My wanderings eventually took me to the side of the lake and from there a path led up to the enclosed kitchen garden where an arched door set in the wall immediately made me think of the book and film The Secret Garden. More cobbled mosaics were set into the paths and against one wall was a stone seat with a carved panel set in the back of it although there was no information to say what, if anything, it represented.
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A path from the back of the kitchen garden took me past some outbuildings to a ford across Artle Beck, a tributary of the River Lune, and though there were plenty of rocks around there was no way I could have got across without getting wet feet so I wandered down the path past the far side of the lake and crossed the river via the Chinese style bridge. Wavy box hedging lined both sides of a grassy avenue and at the end was rather a strange sculpture – or maybe it was a large lump of stone balanced on top of a smaller one, though there was nothing to say what it was supposed to be.
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Back towards the bridge and in the shrubbery not far from the end a movement caught my eye and there, only just visible, was a young robin. It seemed quite happy to have its photo taken and sat there for several minutes while I took a few shots of it. Back across the bridge steps on the right took me down to a small but very pretty rear garden with a trellised and rose covered arbour overlooking the river, though I could only go so far before the garden itself became private.
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Round the side of the house and overlooking the lake was a very pleasant terraced patio area with the lower level right by the water. A small dinghy, apparently much-photographed, floated at the water’s edge and two huge stone roaring lions lay within the colourful foliage though I had to walk quite a distance back round the lake before I could actually see them properly and take a couple of zoom shots.
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At around 12 acres this garden is only just over the size of the walled garden at Bridgewater which I visited the week before but the two couldn’t be more diverse. At Gresgarth formal and informal planting blend seamlessly together with soft lines and curves and there are so many lovely areas and winding paths to explore in such a relatively small area. Although I knew I hadn’t seen everything the garden had to offer I decided after two hours that I’d had enough – it was a very hot day and with too many people around photography sometimes proved to be a bit frustrating but I loved the garden itself and as I drove away I knew I would be making another visit in the not-too-distant future.

14 thoughts on “Another day, another garden – Gresgarth Hall

    1. If you like gardens BC it’s a lovely place to visit and well worth the drive up the M6 – or maybe you would go via the Trough of Bowland? The downside for me was too many people there but I suppose that just shows how popular the place is.

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    1. I actually thought the wild boar looked quite fearsome but the more I stare at it the more benign it seems to be. I still wouldn’t want to meet it on a dark night though ๐Ÿ™‚ I couldn’t photograph all the mosaics as people were in the way of some of them but hopefully I can get them when I next visit the garden.

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  1. I was lucky enough to visit the gardens on a non-open day, as part of my RHS course. It was wonderful wandering around sharing it with only six others and our tutor. We were there for most of the morning and I could have lingered longer – it was one of those gardens that the more you looked the more you saw!
    Glad you went and took lots of gorgeous photos – thank you for sharing! x

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  2. Lucky you being there and having the place (almost) to yourself. I loved it but with so many people getting in the way of my photos I needed a lot of patience – I had to wait ages to get that photo of the bridge with no-one on it. I know there’s quite a bit for me to explore yet so I’ll definitely make a return visit another time ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Thanks for the compliment Mike, I’m pleased you like the photos. Gresgarth is a garden it’s easy to lose yourself in but not as in not knowing where you are. Well worth a visit and I’ll certainly go back another time.

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    1. I didn’t know what to expect with this one but having seen a photo of the house and lake I hoped it would be nice and it was. It’s open on the second Sunday of the month and well worth a visit if you can get there. If you use public transport there are buses from Lancaster along the main road through Caton and a bus stop at the bottom of the road leading to the gardens.

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  4. Buses 81 and 82 to Kirby Lonsdale go from Lancaster, journey time 27 mins, and there are also buses from Preston. You need to get off at Quernmore Road in Caton then it’s just a few minutes walk up there to the garden. The garden is open from 11am to 5pm, adult admission ยฃ12, and there’s a coffee wagon near the pay desk on the way in though there was a really long queue when I was there so I didn’t bother – I went to the Co-op in the village and got a litre carton of chilled fruit juice and some Mr Kipling viennese whirls for a quid less than the price of a coffee at the wagon ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

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