Historic “lost garden” marks 20th anniversary

Lincolnshire’s very own “lost gardens” celebrate 20 years of restoration in 2021.

From dereliction to a nationally important garden, the revival of the 450-year-old Easton Walled Gardens, between Stamford and Grantham, is a story of determination and survival.

Owned by the Cholmeley family for over 400 years, by the 1900s the original Tudor styled gardens had become so admired that they even drew praise from future US President Franklin D Roosevelt. who described the gardens as ‘a dream of Nirvana… almost too good to be true’.

The original gardens contained several walled enclosures around a mediaeval manor house, but over the centuries the design of the gardens changed and by the Victorian era they were filled with bedding and borders, ornamental stonework, glasshouses, and even melon pits.

But after Easton Hall was demolished, the gardens were abandoned to nature for 50 years, until in 2001 passionate gardener Ursula Cholmeley began restoring them to their former historical importance, but with contemporary twists.

Over the last 20 years the gardens surrounding the site of the old Hall and its surviving buildings have been lovingly recreated and are now open to the public on selected days, from February to October each year.

Today the gardens are well known for their snowdrops, sweet peas, borders and flower filled meadows and they have a well-earned reputation as a natural, very English garden filled with colour and movement.

Easton Hall was home to the Cholmeley family from 1592 until the 1950s when the house was demolished because of extensive damage. The Hall had been used as a convalescent home during the First War and then, during World War II, as a military barracks.

In 1951, Sir Hugh Cholmeley made the difficult decision to pull the house down, but after Sir Hugh’s grandson, Fred Cholmeley, moved back to the village with his new wife Ursula in  the 1990s. the story of the great garden revival began – and in 2001, Ursula Cholmeley began work on the gardens, with the help of family and friends.

By 2010, there were two gardeners again, for the first time in three generations, while five years later, the gardens had become well known for their snowdrop displays, meadows and sweet peas.

By 2018, the roofs and walls of the surviving buildings, such as the stables, had largely been repaired, or stabilised, and hedges and borders were maturing.

With 20,000 visitors a year, 2020 looked set to be the best season ever, but then came flooding in February followed by the pandemic. However, the gardens plan to again welcome visitors for the 20th anniversary year, reopening for its annual Snowdrops Season on 12th February 2021.

Nestled within the Easton Estate – a traditional rural estate, set in the rolling countryside of the Lincolnshire/Rutland borders – there is also a chance to enjoy the historic ‘lost garden’ all to yourself.

Anyone staying in the Estate’s self-catering accommodation – three loft apartments in a converted stable block or one of three holiday cottages, including the Gatehouse Lodge – has free access to Easton Walled Gardens during their stay, even when the Gardens are closed to day visitors.

For more details about visiting the gardens in 2021, and staying in the accommodation, as well as the latest updates on any restrictions in line with Government guidance, see www.visiteaston.co.uk