Fourteen generations of the Cholmeley family have tended the incredible walled gardens at Easton. That alone would be enough to make current owner Ursula Cholmely pretty proud, but over the past nine years, she has slaved over a restoration of a garden which had run to rack and ruin between the 400-year-old limestone walls that enclose it.
‘The gardens were a wilderness of self-sown sycamore, elder and ragwort,’ says Ursula. ‘Bees struggled to find nectar early in the season and the swallow population was down to two pairs.
‘These gardens, which had been continuously cultivated for over 400 years had been abandoned for 50 years. Walls were collapsing and we had a five year window before the gardens would have been past restoring: even now we have a major challenge on our hands to restore the stonework.’
Contrast that now with the enormous vegetable plot, the ranks of 60 different varieties of sweet peas, a huge collection of irises and the meadows that this garden now boasts. The swallows are back, and dip in and out of the buildings as visitors tuck into their cream teas.
In the last five years, the Cholmeleys have created huge meadows around the site, as well as tending to a collection of rare lilacs, a David Austin rose collection and some fabulous trees, including a black walnut (Juglans niger), Atlantic cedars (Cedrus atlantica) and Wellingtonia (Sequoia giganteum).
The season at Easton starts with the snowdrops and yawns across spring into late summer with roses, grasses and wildflowers. There’s a yew tunnel, a turf maze, a canal, a pickery, a cottage garden and a veg patch. It’s the sort of garden to get lost in, which is why it is such a relief that it wasn’t lost forever.