Weeding to the extreme – keeping the castle walls tidy

Gardeners abseiling St Michael's Mount in Cornwall

Gardeners abseiling St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall

Having a head for heights is a pre-requisite for the four strong team of gardeners at St Michaels Mount, located just off the south Cornwall coast.

As part of the work to conserve the 12th Century castle, the granite stone walls need weeding three times each year to ensure the walls are constantly kept clear.

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Harry’s Story tells how the First World War changed the future for Stourhead

Sir Henry, Harry and Lady Hoare

Sir Henry, Harry and Lady Hoare

Harry Hoare was a young man born to inherit his family’s country estate and trained to manage it, but his privilege brought with it the responsibility that the estate should be used so others could enjoy the beauty as well. The place was Stourhead but the time, just before the First World War, was to cause the shattering of the plans and dreams of the Hoare family.

Harry’s Story is now being told across Stourhead by the National Trust to show how war affected the lives of the Hoare family and many others who lived and worked on the estate. But the story also shows how Harry’s mother Alda, opened up the house and estate for soldiers recuperating from their injuries at a military hospital nearby.

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Making Saltram fit for the future

Family visitors in the garden at Saltram, Devon.

For almost 60 years the National Trust has cared for Saltram and welcomed hundreds of thousands of people into its splendid Georgian house and surrounding 180 hectares of Grade II listed parkland.

Just 3.5 miles out of Plymouth, the number of people spending time in this tranquil place has almost trebled in the last 25 years, and now vital work is planned to not only safeguard the future of this historic site but also to make everyone’s visit as enjoyable as possible.

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Work starts to save Stourhead’s Pantheon

Stourhead Pantheon (c) National Trust / Allan King

Stourhead Pantheon (c) National Trust / Allan King

Work has started to restore the Pantheon, perhaps the most important feature in the world-famous landscape gardens at the National Trust’s Stourhead in Wiltshire

Scaffolding now clads the building and the restoration team are making a start to repair the building’s roof – putting right damage caused by water leaks – and to restore some of the stonework. Continue reading…

‘Get down and dirty to experience a Valentine’s bloom this year’


The Snowdrop has been voted the top spring flower in the South West, with the gardens at Cotehele, Lanhydrock, Trelissick and Kingston Lacy being the most popular places to see spring blooms

It may come as a big surprise, but the recent unprecedented wet weather seems to have had very little affect on our gardens. In some cases things are a little behind; but the milder conditions, albeit very wet, have not had huge affects on our blooms.  Many flowers, however, are still holding back for drier and brighter conditions. Continue reading…

Tiptoe through the snowdrops at Fyne Court

The unusually mild winter has brought out snowdrops earlier than normal at Fyne Court, the National Trust property nestling in the Quantock Hills.  The mild weather has led to early snowdrops being spotted in December, and throughout January clumps of the popular bulbs at Fyne Court have been seen.

Early Snowdrops at Fyne Court, Somerset (c) National Trust / APEX

Early Snowdrops at Fyne Court, Somerset (c) National Trust / APEX

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Stourhead celebrates Autumn

A wet September could hold the secret to spectacular autumn colours at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

After a dry summer, National Trust gardeners reported that dry trees were more likely to shed their leaves quickly, before the colours fully developed. However, following the wet spell in September, hopes are higher that the full spectacle of autumn colours will be seen at their best this year. Continue reading…

Garden academy student training scheme

Jane Hammacott

The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) is a charity which gives away more than £2.5 million each year to nursing, caring and gardening charities. Each year it funds 12 Garden Academy students who undertake training within National Trust properties.

 This scheme was set up in 2001, in response to the shrinking pool of qualified gardeners from which any private or public owner could recruit new staff.  We are grateful to the NGS for recognising this need and for funding this scheme which has since seen 200 individuals train as gardeners in National Trust properties.  Many now work as full time, professional gardeners at National Trust, private and other major gardens at home and abroad.

The National Gardens Scheme is currently training four aspiring gardeners in the South West through the academy scheme.  Trainees are currently located at Hidcote Manor Garden, Stourhead, Tyntesfield and Cotehele. 

Jane Hammacott used to be a science teacher and researcher in a microbiology lab before she started her National Trust Academy training at Cotehele. She went straight into the training post following 18 months of volunteering at Cotehele and has been full-time for 5 months. 

She says: ‘I am on a steep learning curve at the moment, but every day brings something new. For me, the most important thing I am learning at the moment is to identify plants in the garden.  We have a collection of some 2000 species at Cotehele and there are a large number that are entirely new to me.  I am also learning propagation techniques and how to use and maintain garden machinery as well as some garden design methods.’

Jane has been inspired by those she works with at Cotehele; people who have a real passion for what they do and are keen to share their knowledge.  ‘Cotehele has a very special atmosphere – it is tucked away, high up above the banks of the River Tamar and has the feel of a lost world.  It is very tranquil and is known and loved by many locals. It is a fantastic place to work because it is a place people visit to relax and it is nice to feel that I have made a contribution to people’s enjoyment.’

‘I would love to think that I have a career ahead of me in the National Trust.  As an organisation it stands for many things that I think are important and it has the vision and initiative to make things happen.’

Please support the NGS so that we can continue to train the gardeners of the future.  There are hundreds of beautiful NGS gardens open throughout the country so there’s bound to be an open day near to you soon.  See http://www.ngs.org.uk/ for more details.