Ayrshire’s heritage gardens
Once, their spoils would have graced the tables of the landed gentry, but now fruit and vegetables from some of the region’s ‘lost’ walled gardens are back on the menu, and this time everyone’s enjoying them
Whether it’s the visitor centre chefs looking to showcase a property’s delights, or nearby residents eager to learn about and practise sustainable eating, the demand for locally-grown, good quality produce has led to some interesting projects aimed at reinvigorating and reusing these largely forgotten spaces.
At Dumfries House in Cumnock, the restoration of the five-acre walled garden, which for years had been a derelict dumping ground, has been a particular highlight of the estate’s transformation. One of the biggest of it’s kind in Scotland, the garden now supplies produce to the estate’s restaurant, cafe and shop, and is also home to the one-and-a-half acre education garden.
Over the water in Arran, Brodick Castle’s eighteenth-century kitchen garden is undergoing a restoration of it’s own, as part of the National Trust of Scotland’s multi-million pound upgrade of the castle grounds. As well as utilising part of the site to grow fruit and vegetables, both for the castle’s cafe and for visitors to take home, a further section of the lower walled garden is being opened up to public use as allotments.
‘I’d love to see the walled garden thriving again,’ says head gardener Tim Keyworth. ‘Much of the area had been overtaken by brambles and other invasive vegetation and we’ve already done a lot of the clearing work. Given the keen interest there is in gardening at the moment, I am sure there will be people on the island who would savour the chance to grow produce on such an historic site as this.’
The Brodick Castle estate is also home to another gardening-related initiative, run by local support organisation Arran Community and Voluntary Service. Having taken on an overgrown plot near the property’s Shore Lodge in early 2014, they’ve renovated the site to create a community garden which offers opportunities for people to build confidence and skills by participating in shared group activities. It’s an example of just how much the purpose of these gardens has changed over the years; as well as now filling the pots and bellies of the wider community, they’re playing an important part in it’s emotional and cultural wellbeing too.