Capheaton Hall’s gardens have long been known across the region for their astounding beauty and the way they capture the essence of the Grade I-listed Jacobite house between Belsay and Wallington. This year, the garden will open on two dates across the summer: on 1st July for the Red Cross; and on 12th August as part of the National Garden Scheme initiative.
‘You want to give people the best experience as they walk around, so they get views of this garden they don’t usually get access to,’ explains Eliza Browne-Swinburne. ‘It’s opening at the beginning of July so you get a sense of the garden in very late spring, then it’s opening again in August and by then everything’s in full flourish.’
Though two gardeners work on Capheaton Hall’s walled garden and its environs, Eliza and husband Willy also like to get their hands dirty by helping tend to the plants there. ‘We’re in there as much as possible from April onwards,’ Eliza explains.
The garden manages to maintain elements of its history, while also constantly evolving with the times. A recent project saw the garden wired up with its own electricity so that they could grow a more interesting range of plants. ‘We needed to move forward with the times a bit and ensure the garden gets some more light,’ says Eliza.
However, in amongst the technological advancement, Capheaton Hall hasn’t lost its character or charm, which Willy told The Telegraph is ‘the most beautiful working kitchen garden in Northumberland’.
‘It looks very traditional,’ says Eliza. ‘That’s what people like to see; how it looked originally. It retains its history with the ranks of vegetables we grow here, and the borders remain flower borders. There are fruit trees – plums, pears, apples – all trailed beautifully around the walls.’
Eliza focuses on designing and planting the borders with Jane Armstrong, one of the gardeners at Capheaton. ‘We try not to do too many big projects, because the garden is quite big on its own,’ she says.
One of Eliza’s favourite views is from a gate at the south side of the garden, looking up through the long, large border and the greenhouse which once housed one of the country’s first pineapple plants back in 1834 (a painting of which remains today to mark the occasion).
The greenhouses were once the main part of Capheaton Hall’s renowned gardens, in order to feed the entire staff and the whole house. Today, the greenhouse has been slimmed down, but is still full to the brim with hundreds of tomato plants and peaches, nectarines, figs, apricots and strawberries ripening, which is a ‘fantastic vision of the height of summer’, says Eliza.