A Fresh Challenge

It has been quite a busy few months as, like the classic song says, the times they are a’changing. My time at Hanbury Hall came to its conclusion in October and last month I started a new and exciting opportunity.

After three-and-a-half years in my second Hanbury stint, I accepted the opportunity to head back up north (though north-west rather than back to my north-east roots) to take on the challenge of running the Walled Garden at Netherby Hall in Cumbria.

Netherby Hall itself is a Grade II mansion located near to Longtown in north Cumbria, only a stone’s throw from the Scottish border in an area historically known as ‘the Debatable Lands’. At the heart of Netherby Hall sits a fantastic historic Walled Garden, around 1.5 acres in size and complete with two impressive replicas of classic Victorian greenhouses.

One of the glasshouses

The Walled Garden provides vegetables, fruit, flowers, and herbs for the Hall’s sister business, the Pentonbridge Inn. The former coaching inn holds three AA rosettes and is garnering a growing reputation for its stunning modern style of British/European dishes created with seasonal local ingredients. And, of course, that includes a steady stream of fresh vegetables coming out of the garden and taking the short journey to the kitchens for the chefs to lovingly prepare for the day’s diners.

The Walled Garden during a late-summer visit

The glasshouses also allow for the year-round production of micro-greens for the chefs (read here for a previous post about my experience with the world of micro-leaves).

That is where my new role comes in, to help take the productive garden forward and work with the chefs to choose, grow and deliver seasonal fruit and vegetables for their menus. It is an exciting prospect and the process has already begun to plan for 2022, while continuing to harvest and deliver seasonal delights like parsnips, kale, sprouts, and swedes for the winter menu.

The garden has undoubtedly lots of potential, with seven large central beds for growing in, wide borders for herbs around the walls, and also around a dozen raised beds attached to the Walled Garden. There are also two polytunnels for growing in, so that provides great opportunities for extending the season and also more undercover space as well as the glasshouses. There is already a good range of soft fruit present – including raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, and gooseberries – as well as perennials like asparagus, rhubarb, globe artichokes, and sea kale.

The strawberry bed – after a good weed and tidy-up

On top of that, there is a very large amount of fruit trees, mostly grown as espaliers around the walls and also growing over arches through the Walled Garden. So there is certainly lots going on and lots of opportunities to make improvements and take the garden forward. It is going to be a very different challenge from the ones that I faced at Hanbury, but one that I am massively looking forward to.

I really enjoyed my years in the Walled Garden at Hanbury Hall and also writing my Walled Garden Diaries during my time there. However, this new role allows me a long-standing career dream to specialise in growing edibles and take what I’ve done and learned in recent years to the next level, and beyond. I certainly expect it’ll be more pressurised, growing vegetables to a top standard for demanding chefs producing high-level dishes.

It is certainly an awesome opportunity and one I look forward to sharing lots of updates on, both on here and on social media.

The wintry Walled Garden

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