Thursday 24 May 2018

A tour of Renishaw Hall Gardens with the Head Gardener

Last week I was treated to a tour of Renishaw Hall Gardens with the Head Gardener, Dave Kesteven. Dave has been at Renishaw since 1997 and Head Gardener for the last 18 years. Although I have been visiting Renishaw regularly for the past couple of years there is still so much about it that I don't know.
One thing I have missed is as soon as you walk into the garden is this amazing hybrid. At first glance you may think that one branch is overlapping from a neighbouring tree but look closer...
It's all part of one tree. What a fabulous and unusual sight.

Just across is the Waterloo Oak. It was planted by long serving gardener Frank Elliot in 1815 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.
When you walk down to the Woodland Garden it's easy to think that this area has always been like this. In fact it was only created in its current form 18 years ago. Lady Penelope had always wanted a laburnum walk but there had never been the space for one. When a couple of trees came down in a storm the opportunity was taken to clear the area more. Now the laburnum walk has become an annual treat when it flowers for just a few glorious weeks each year.
There are also many magnolia and rhododendrons down in the Woodland Garden. Dave admitted that magnolias are one of his favourites and has introduced many throughout the gardens. One of the latest additions in on the top lawn and is an unusual yellow variety.

One thing I have always thought was missing from Renishaw was a walled vegetable garden, indeed any sort of vegetable garden. I was sure that estate of its size would have been producing its own food. This south-facing wall is all that is left of it now. Today this supports fig trees which bask in the heat of the sun.

A series of misfortunes led the second baronet Sir George Sitwell to close the hall due to financial problems. In order to make some money the great greenhouses which formed part of the vegetable were knocked down. The bricks used in the construction of the greenhouses were slimmer than standard house bricks and more importantly for Sir George, saleable. Most of the bricks were sold on but those that remain are currently covered in beech seeds.

The Sitwell family have a number of connections to Scarborough. They had property in Scarborough were many of the family were born and grew up in. The fourth baronet Sir George became MP for the town and when required made sure he supported his constituents when he was able to. A decline in the local fishing industry meant many local families suffered so he asked fishermen from Scarborough to come and work at Renishaw by digging out the soil to form the lake. By this time coal had been found at Renishaw and its mining bought money into the estate.
One of benefits of finding coal was not only to sell it on but to use it as cheap fuel on the estate. Down by the lake the remains of the sawmill can still be seen.

After going round the lake we came to the old gatehouse. This formed the original road from Eckington through to Renishaw. As it went past the front of house as the traffic increased the road was diverted lower down. Until the 1960s this gatehouse was lived in. The Sitwell family moto across the gatehouse translates as 'Yield not to misfortunes' but is amended to within the family as 'Don't sit well with evil'.
As we left we spotted one of Sir Reresby's old signs. Until he inherited the baronetcy in 1988 he was plain Mr Sitwell but had taken over the responsibility of Renishaw Hall in the 1960s. When he arrived the estate was it had been neglected for years but Sir Reresby loved it and brought it back to life again. Long may his legacy continue.

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