Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sockburn Garden

For any one who did not read the previous blog, I would advise that you do so now. It will put this blog in contest.

The 18th Century house, Sockburn Hall, is built just above the Tees. Its East side is parallel with the river. The Billiard Room runs much of the length, and the side of the drawing room. There is a reasonable width between the house and the beginning of the slope down to the river. The next level had a track made for my Grandmother's wheel chair. After that the slope is fairly steep down to the water.

To the South, there was/is a large lawn/grass area sloping down to the field beyond. There was a path that took the wheel chair fairly near the house and then the lawn I think, though there may have been rose beds. My Mother remembered a pony pulling the lawn mower here, with special boots on its hooves to prevent it from damaging the lawn. The Drawing Room and the Library look out that way.
Round on the West side, we have the sweep of the drive - a gravelled area, now grass covered mostly. It is out on this side that the "lost garden" was to be found.

Standing at the front door (picture in the last blog), you looked down the lime avenue. The volunteers, saving the gardens, have cleaned up the avenue, It was blocked by both the suckers from the base of the elms and all the "weeds" - brambles nettles etc - that were growing everywhere in the old garden.

As you came down the drive to the front door there was a lawn area on your right, with a lovely herbaceous border (full of magnificent delphiniums) and a yew hedge behind. There is a little of the hedge left. Much of it had died but there are some large yews that were originally part of the hedge.

Behind that was the beautiful rose garden and water feature. There is nothing left of the rose garden apart from the odd picture. The volunteer workers have found most of the water feature. This consisted of a series of small round ponds (really small), with a narrow stream joining them and ending in a larger pond, with a raised stone structure in the middle, which was the drain. There was a pump in the bottom pond which raised the water to the top. As the household water was extremely hard, I think there may have been some sort of catchment for rain water, but I have no recollection of this and they have found no sign. the current recovery stops at the top at a mini bridge. There has been a seedling tree above this, which I think may have distracted them from the signs of the top bowl. I could see a slight depression with two stones proud of the ground. I am absolutely certain that this was the top bowl, which I remember. Having pointed it out, I look forward to hearing that they have unearthed it.

Beyond the rose garden and the water feature, there were two tennis courts. It is still possible to see where the path went along the top (at a higher level) in front of the summer house. It was broad and allowed for tea to be taken if the weather was good enough. And guess what! In my memory it was sunny and warm! As I stood in that semi desert, I heard the sound of tennis balls, and voices calling. I came nearer to the past in that sad place, than anywhere else.

There was a gate, the posts are still there, which ends the path past the summer house. You can see it, with the gates in place, in the old picture above.

Sadly, I could go no further. The property stops there and the owner of the farm, where Wordsworth met his wife, owns the wall garden. It is in a field in front of the farm that there is a stone that is said to cover the grave of the Sockburn worm - but that is a different story!


Pipany said...

It has a rather sad, melancholic air to it Withy, though I do think this dull weather doesn't help with that. Very beautiful. I have enjoyed reading the previous posts to get up to speed xx

Withy Brook said...

It is saad and melancholic, Pipany. It was once so beautiful and now there is nothing but devastation. But there is hope.

KittyB said...

A fascinating portrait of a lovely house left to decay. What a great shame. Let me know when the next volunteer day is as my sister and I would love to come along and help, it's only minutes away from us here.

Frances said...

One more hello to you, Withy.

I saved reading this Sockburn post after the other two posts, and think I am glad of that. I feel truly sad to think of what was once there, and what you saw last month.

Trying for a brighter side, I am sure that the volunteers will definitely benefit from hearing your memories of the design of the space.

On an even sunnier side, I again want to compliment you on your very own garden. What you have created may have had its roots in those childhood visits to Sockburn Hall.