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Behind the scenes in the gardens at Lytham Hall

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 March 2018

Views of the hall and grounds from The Mound

Views of the hall and grounds from The Mound

linda viney

If you ever wondered what happens to the cash supermarkets charge for carriers, then pop along to Lytham Hall. Linda Viney reports

The giant echium pininana admired by members of the hall team The giant echium pininana admired by members of the hall team

When I visited Lytham Hall to see a huge echium pininana that had grown like Jack’s beanstalk, I was surprised to discover there is a lot more to the historic grounds than I had imagined. In particular, I was delighted to find a great regeneration of the gardens is being achieved, helped by an enthusiastic group of volunteers.

In the 20th century the estate was a lot larger, stretching about 20,000 acres including Home Farm, a kitchen garden, an orchid house and other areas which were sold off for building. What’s left is approximately 78 acres, mainly woodland, grassland and two lakes. One of them, known as the Lily Pond, is a haven for wildlife and you can just see the remains of a boathouse, which was used by the Clifton family for entertaining. Sadly, it fell into disrepair in the 1900s.

I met up with Marianne Blaauboer, who guided me to the new Kitchen Garden added last year and made possible with enthusiastic volunteers and funds from ‘Tesco Bags of Help’ – yes the 5p surcharge for plastic bags is worthwhile.

Bringing a smile to my face were scarecrows called ‘Aunt Sally’ and ‘Worzel Gummidge’ who appeared to be enjoying afternoon tea. Beside them was a collection of well labelled herbs and raised beds full of produce for the refurbished cafe. The greenhouse is used first to sow seeds to grow on for the beds followed on by tomato plants. This area is fenced off to hopefully keep the rabbits at bay.

The Clifton family initials in the one of the gates The Clifton family initials in the one of the gates

Moving on out of here we walk by the 17th century buttress wall, which is adjoined by the Monks’ Walk path and here herbaceous plants and shrubs are being planted alongside and traditional old varieties of fruit trees are being trained on the wall. This area is where I photographed the dramatic echium pininana last year and they are eagerly waiting to see if it has self seeded.

The highest local point is The Mount which was created in the 17th century with the soil removed to create ‘Curtains Pond’ which is now used for private fishing. The top provides a wonderful viewing point with a 360° degree vista of the grounds, which had a three mile gallop where the Clifton family exercised their horses. An ice-house which, essential before the days of refrigeration, was built into The Mount and the remains are still hidden and preserved under the soil.

Marianne, who has since moved on from her role at the Hall, said: ‘The South Prospect garden and parterre are also undergoing a transformation. Gone are the trees that have shot up over the past 70 years of neglect. In its place we are recreating a formal Italianate parterre garden to mimic the garden which would have been here before.

‘It will also be fit for the 21st century with plants for this climate and low maintenance needs as Lytham Hall can no longer employ hordes of gardeners and depends on many volunteers to tend to the gardens. With a tea room terrace overlooking the new garden and the Mount being accessible through new steps, this area is sure to become a favourite with visitors.’

The dovecote and stable yard date back to the 18th century, and are in need of restoration. The dovecote houses 850 nest boxes which would have been accessible to the game keeper via a rotating ladder, while the stables dating back to the late 18th century were the Cliftons’ pride and joy as active race horse owners, with several winners housed and trained here.

The trust looking after the hall and grounds hopes to restore these buildings in the future. Having remained with one family over 350 years each style has been incorporated in the design of the gardens from the Georgian to Victorian eras and now into the modern Elizabethan age. Joseph Paxton, who worked on many grand gardens of the time, including Birkenhead Park, had an input and the main driveway was the creation of Edward Kemp, who was a well known arboriculturalist and later consultant for the Liverpool International Garden Festival. The grounds first opened to the public in 1935 and without the support of visitors they would have to close the gates.

The Lily Pond is a must to walk round, although the path is sometimes cordoned off to protect nesting birds. Reflections of the trees in the water are always beautiful on a sunny day with the dappled light streaming through. Some of the volunteers have made use of the tree stumps by adding their own fun items where you will see owls peering at you.

Mown paths through the grass allow the wildflowers to flourish and as with nearly all woodland there are plenty of bluebells in season which follow on from the snowdrops and other spring bulbous plants. Planted urns add a splash of colour while roses add perfume. It is a place to visit for all seasons as the trees start budding and opening their fresh leaves, let’s look forward to warmer days ahead.

There are also many special activities held here and one of them is certainly tempting for gardeners is the one day course on the introduction to beekeeping. So if you’ve ever thought about becoming an apiarist you’ll find experienced beekeepers who will share their knowledge.

Lytham Hall also organise a plant fair where you will be able to pick up bedding and other plants, learn about the kitchen garden or join one of their outdoor tours of the Parkland. Watch their website www.lythamhall.org for details.

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