Turton Tower Kitchen Garden Project
A group of volunteers restoring a Victorian Kitchen Garden within the grounds of a Grade 1 listed house in rural Lancashire.
In 2009 the Turton Tower Kitchen Garden Group began the restoration of the Kitchen Garden. Initial clearance of trees and undergrowth took two years. This was followed by planning the layout, making beds and woodchip paths and eventually planting, which continues to develop to retain and increase both interest and structure. Turton Tower is a Grade 1 listed house and garden with Tudor and Victorian additions. The Kitchen Garden group was set up alongside the Friends of Turton Tower with whom we work closely, including our web pages on their site.
Since 2011 we have had a formal Constitution and Bank Account. We are run by volunteers led by an elected committee. Turton Tower is managed by Blackburn with Darwen Council and is a local tourist attraction with a cafe, and our garden very much enhances its offering to visitors.
We have 19 volunteers who come from the surrounding district and include both experienced and novice gardeners, retired and working. People with special needs are always welcomed and there are many tasks for everyone to do. We provide a learning environment for all volunteers. The group meets twice a week all year round and recently has had Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme students from the local school doing part of their course with us. Initially we relied on the volunteers and the local community to provide plants to start the garden, but now grow much of our own stock from seeds, cuttings and by division.
Our garden is open all year round and is visited by people on walks and by hikers who come from further afield. We hold events for parents and children and are involved in running Turton Tower Spring Fair, and have hosted occasional birthday parties with a gardening theme. For two years we were winners in the Manchester `Dig the City`. This was a large event for people in Greater Manchester. We constructed themed gardens on a small site in the middle of Manchester and manned them for the duration of the event.
Our group has made great progress in developing and implementing many new ideas in the garden. Visitors have commented very positively about the shady garden, fruit garden, spring bulbs, herb and vegetable beds. We also have a large herbaceous border and a small greenhouse. Our heavy clay soil and damp conditions are typical of the region so our progress is monitored by local people keen to develop, change or improve their own gardens. Recently we have begun to include more unusual varieties of plants to provide inspiration for ourselves and visitors. The Kitchen garden is now an attractive, functioning garden.
All can benefit from the physical, learning and social aspects of the garden. Our aim is to keep striving to enhance and develop the garden to make it more attractive for all, not least the volunteers.
How would this funding have an impact on your community?
The new Victorian area will complement the existing Tudor bed and will add to the historical interest and education already provided by the Tower itself. In the future other parts of the garden may reflect different eras in the history of the house.
The garden continues to enrich the lives of large numbers of people in the community. Many members are newly retired when they join the garden group and this enables them to make new friends. Our reputation as a friendly group brings in a regular flow of new recruits. The garden is a popular venue for local people to bring their friends, guests and children. Produce including fruit, vegetables and preserves is sold in several local outlets. We also sell surplus plants to visitors to supplement our funds.
If awarded a grant we will put the money towards the cost of the new Victorian sector of the garden which requires the purchase of some hard landscaping materials and some more expensive long term planting.
Our success with Dig the City led to valuable publicity and to visitors wishing to see the winning garden, though actual numbers are difficult to assess for a garden which is largely unmanned. Creating and promoting our new themed beds will bring people wishing to learn from and enjoy the garden. Our group intends to leave a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy by learning, volunteering or by visiting a tranquil garden.
"The group are renovating a once derelict Victorian Kitchen Garden at Turton Tower in rural Lancashire and making it into a productive and attractive garden or the community.
Anna Harvey, Chairperson"