Holehird Gardens: A Peek Inside A Walled Garden

Holehird: Inside the Walled Garden

There are so many excellent reasons to visit the English Lake District, but if you love plants, make Holehird Gardens part of the road taken – you won’t regret it. Holehird is home to The Lakeland Horticultural Society, and has an unusual commercial model. The members tend the gardens themselves, which means that visitors who don’t feel able to pay can be offered free parking and entry, though a donation to help with upkeep is much appreciated.

While there’s much more to Holehird than ‘just’ a walled garden, it’s this that draws me back. I can rarely resist the chance to see flowers tumbling together in a beautiful setting. Weathered brick walls provide shelter, make a backdrop for the plants and support several climbers, including roses and clematis. 

Holehird Walled Garden Border

While a neat, well-kept lawn might float your boat, I’m more likely to go all swoony at the sight of filled-to-overflowing mixed borders. Visitors to Holehird will find classic examples in the English Garden style, filled to overflowing with creative combinations of flowering perennials, shrubs and bulbs.

Keeping the garden looking this good must take patience and time. The Lakeland Horticultural Society acknowledges their debts to the past on their website:

In the Walled Garden a century of cultivation has produced a deep rich soil…

This time scale isn’t unusual for an English garden, but many home gardeners are not quite so lucky. In some parts of the world, yours might be the first spade ever to till that particular spot.

Daisies and daylilies in a mixed border

If that’s the case, and you want to recreate a no-bare-soil effect, you’d better like digging – or know someone who does. This style of gardening is the exact opposite of a quick fix, but these pictures, taken over a couple of visits in summer and autumn, show the rewards.

Orange border of heleniums, dahlias and crocosmia

If you can bear to step outside the walled garden, you’ll find many other elements a keen gardener craves. A stream bubbles up and runs down the hillside. Alpine greenhouses shelter tiny treasures (if there were such things as chocolate box greenhouses, these would qualify).

Explore a little further to find a rose border with a nice mix of old, shrub and David Austin varieties; enough hydrangeas to satisfy their biggest fan and four National Collections, including a breathtaking swathe of astilbes.

Holehird garden

But listing the ingredients misses the whole. Something unusual. Call it the essence of the place: its familiar spirit. Perhaps it’s just in my imagination – let me know if you feel it too if you have chance to visit.

Holehird highlights

For all its credentials, the atmosphere is relaxed. Holehird always feels like a private garden – your own even – especially if you chance to be here on a quiet afternoon. I’m not suggesting it’s small or domestic in character. Don’t expect to find a vegetable patch, or a chicken run, though they’d not be out of place.

It may be connected to a feeling of peace: it’s one of those ‘dripping slow’ places (with a nod to W. B. Yeats). Perhaps it’s something to do with the sublime setting on a hillside, overlooking the bustle of Lake Windermere, but far enough away that only the natural beauty remains. Regular readers may remember the view from my earlier post on Holehird Gardens. Stroll here for a while and tell me if you don’t briefly feel master (or mistress) of all you survey

Holehird Garden at Dusk

At the time of writing, the society has dawn to dusk policy, which means the garden stays open long enough for visitors to experience the transformational effect of the early evening light: an extra treat. If you’re planning to visit, please check the latest opening hours and accessibility information on their website (www.holehirdgardens.org.uk). The address is:

Holehird Gardens (The Lakeland Horticultural Society),
Patterdale Road,
Windermere,
Cumbria,
LA23 1NP

If you have a little free time to fill and live fairly close by, you might like to explore the benefits of membership, which include the chance to get your hands dirty in a good cause.

44 thoughts on “Holehird Gardens: A Peek Inside A Walled Garden

  1. Sketching on Whidbey Island says:

    Your photography skills fortunately capture the beauty of the different types of beautiful gardens in England enabling me to enjoy them from my computer screen in the U.S. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your posts

  2. Anabel Marsh says:

    We visited here a couple of years ago – hadn’t heard of it, just followed the sign. It was much earlier in the year so not as colourful as this, but we still loved it. The view is stunning too.

      • Anabel Marsh says:

        I think the walled garden was quite bare. Spring flowers elsewhere and (if I’m remembering the right place) the big rockery was nice. I definitely remember we walked round the pond and I slipped in the mud! I’d rather go when you went, but our Lake District visits are usually March / April before it gets too busy.

    • susurrus says:

      I’m sure you’ll love it – it’s perfectly suited to people who love nature and an outdoor life, other than our weather at times, of course!

  3. Oddment says:

    “All swoony”! Yes, that says it. A place like this would make even a non-gardener rubber-kneed, I should think. A world unto itself. Your photos are remarkable; I just looked out my window and saw snow, so these images were particularly stunning. Thank you!

    • susurrus says:

      Snow always seems wonderfully serene though I am sure it can be a massive inconvenience. I have heard that we may have snow over here for Easter.

      • Oddment says:

        My sympathies! I’ve had one or two snowy Easters, and I didn’t approve of them. But snow even in May has been known to happen here in the Midwest. It isn’t as much fun as snow in December. I hope your Easter weather isn’t that bad.

  4. Heyjude says:

    Sigh… I have always coveted a walled garden and this is a beauty. I only wish I had known about it when we visited the Lakes a couple of years ago. Next visit.

  5. Marian St.Clair says:

    I took a group there several years ago and it was a highlight of the tour, not just because of the beauty of the garden (which was stunning) but also because of the kindness and hospitality of the volunteers there to meet us. We had a program in the hall with an overview of the volunteer system and various areas of the garden, and then plenty of time to explore. A sign was posted saying, “Welcome St.Clair Horticulture Society,” which we all loved. It was a charmed experience.

    • susurrus says:

      Given all the wonderful places you visit on your tours of English gardens, that’s a high accolade. It was your recommendation that persuaded me to go the first time and, as you can see, you passed on that sense of charm.

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