The Tudor Garden at Trerice – an Update

by Pamela Long

In his article in the 2005 CGT Journal, James Breslin, the Assistant Property Manager at Trerice, told of the foundation of an experimental Elizabeth garden at the property. This was funded by a Guardianship scheme supported by Norwich Union and partially financed at that time by the Cornwall Gardens Trust education fund and the Central Cornwall National Trust Association. It involved the children from the top two classes at St Newlyn East Primary School and was part of a project devised by the National Trust. The aim of this was to involve children from local schools in a ‘hands-on’ experience of horticulture.

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One of Thomas Hill’s designs for a garden from The Gardener’s Labyrinth,showing ‘a great Squirt’ watering device on the left

The original inspiration for the design of the garden was taken from The Gardener’s Labyrinth, a garden manual written in 1594 by Thomas Hill. The design and construction of the garden was carried out by the children with the guidance of the Trust’s Gardener in charge at Trerice.

Three years on, there is a flourishing garden situated alongside the Great Barn (the restaurant) at the property. This is tended, with help, by the children from the school. Each year they spend a number of days every term working in the garden: digging, sowing seeds, planting out and harvesting a veritable feast of vegetables and herbs. Most of the plants are grown from heritage seeds sourced from reputable seedsmen such as Thomas Etty.

The children start the seeds off in pots in the adjacent refurbished greenhouse, while the sturdier ones are planted straight into the 11 beds in the central garden. Every year, a group of children are assigned to a specific bed and they are responsible for its planting and care. At harvest time there is much friendly competition between the groups as to who has grown the best/biggest/healthiest produce. The ‘goodies’ are then shared between the children for use in the school kitchen while some are retained for use in the Trust’s restaurant at the property.

As far as possible, the whole project is run in an ecologically sound manner. No artificial fertilisers are applied to the beds and only natural methods are used in dealing with pests. It is amazing how many of the ‘old’ remedies are coming back into vogue sharp sand and broken egg shells do help to stop the progress of slugs and snails, and many ‘crawlies’ will happily die in a drink of stale beer in a pot buried in the ground.

Over the last year, the area alongside the greenhouse has been recultivated and is now producing a good crop of the many herbs essential to traditional cookery. Old-fashioned cutting flowers are also being grown in this area and help to provide much of the colour for the attractive floral displays which decorate the Tudor house.

A further new feature has attracted much interest from the visiting public who are now encouraged to visit the area. A replica Great Squirt now stands by the side of the garden. This ancient wooden watering device really does produce a good squirt of water when pumped by hand as many of the very wet volunteers will testify!

Alongside all the activities in this area, the children from the school have continued to plant spring flowering bulbs which add colour to the grassed areas around the property. Now, each year the recently created sloping approach to the Tudor garden as well as the grass around the trees in the traditionally planted orchard area at the south side of the House have colourful displays of many varieties of Cornish daffodils.

All the outdoor activities are backed up by learning sessions both in the school classrooms and in the specially converted undercroft area of the Great Barn. Here, plans are drawn and decisions made (with the help of teachers and the gardening staff) on what should be grown and where. The aim is to give the children an all-round experience of seasonal planting.

The Tudor Garden project has come a very long way since its inception in 2003, when the children from the school first came to Trerice to plant 2,000 bulbs in the orchard. It was much encouraged in 2006 when the announcement was made that the school had won a prestigious National Arts Award for its innovative work with children and the arts in its ‘Tasting the Tudors’ project.

All those who are involved in this work, both at the school and at Trerice, very much hope that the whole scheme will continue to prosper and expand for many years to come. This will enable the children who are now moving up the educational ladder at St Newlyn East school to come to Trerice and find out how much fun it can be to grow and eat vegetables which do not come from a supermarket!

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The replica ‘great Squirt’, designed by Hill to water the garden gently as if with drops of rain(Photo: James Breslin)