The ren­o­va­tion of the gar­dens at Dum­fries House since its pur­chase for the na­tion by HRH The Duke of Rothe­say has seen a star­tling re­ju­ve­na­tion and a new role at the cen­tre of the lo­cal com­mu­nity, finds

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS - An­toinette Gal­braith

The re­ju­ve­na­tion of the glo­ri­ous gar­dens of Dum­fries House

J ust over five years ago Alex Mac­don­ald, head guide and vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor at Dum­fries House, let it be known that help was needed to clear the over­grown fiveacre Walled Gar­den. Two hun­dred vol­un­teers from lo­cal schools and youth groups, as well as the lo­cal Provost, turned up and worked the whole week­end to clear the site. They also cleared the lime walk that leads along the Lu­gar Wa­ter or Pol­calk Burn to the Walled Gar­den. This was the first ma­jor step in the ren­o­va­tion of the gar­den at Dum­fries House.

Dum­fries House sits at the heart of a 2,000-acre mixed arable and wood­land es­tate two miles west of Cum­nock in Ayr­shire. Built for the 5th Earl of Dum­fries in 1754 by Robert Adam, it later be­came one of the homes of the Mar­quesses of Bute. The park­land sur­round­ing the house is backed with an­cient wood­land com­posed of oak and beech. The house came on the mar­ket in 2005 and its fu­ture was as­sured two years later when HRH The Duke of Rothe­say led a last-minute ap­peal to save the house and its con­tents.

Gen­er­ous spon­sors and donors ral­lied and restora­tion work soon be­gan on the house while ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­velop tra­di­tional skills were cre­ated. In 2012, an equally am­bi­tious plan was launched to re­store the gar­dens as part of

‘Two hun­dred vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing the lo­cal Provost, turned up and worked the week­end to help clear the site’

‘The Prince’s vi­sion is also very fo­cused on pro­vid­ing a vis­i­tor and amenity at­trac­tion for the lo­cal com­mu­nity’

His Royal High­ness’ vi­sion to de­liver train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Land­scape de­signer Michael Innes was com­mis­sioned to draw up the ini­tial plans and pas­sion­ate head of gar­dens Brian Corr is cur­rently in charge. For­merly a head gar­dener with the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land, Brian af­firms that ‘work­ing here is my dream job’.

For him, this is much more than a gar­den set within an 18th cen­tury land­scape. ‘To me ev­ery­thing is linked: ed­u­ca­tion, gar­den, her­itage, train­ing through the Prince’s Trust and the po­ten­tial for job cre­ation,’ he says. ‘The Prince’s vi­sion is also very fo­cused on pro­vid­ing a vis­i­tor and amenity at­trac­tion for the lo­cal com­mu­nity. It is a unique and amaz­ing achieve­ment.’

On a spring day the visi­tors in­clude mothers with push chairs, groups of chil­dren and adults to name but a few. ‘The gar­den is a real so­cial hub,’ Brian says, ’an open space for the whole com­mu­nity.’

The fo­cal point of the front gar­den is a foun­tain flanked by an el­e­gant box parterre sur­rounded with roses. This is just the first of the in­trigu­ing fea­tures that punc­tu­ate this gar­den. ‘The mazes were in­spired by the ones the Prince en­joyed so much as a child at San­dring­ham,’ Brian says, adding that the el­e­gant obelisks that bring height to the scheme are orig­i­nal.

Reached via a covered wooden bridge, the Wood­land Gar­den fea­tures the first in a series of the el­e­gant wood pavil­ions or struc­tures de­signed by Ju­lian and Is­abel Ban­ner­man, the de­sign­ers be­hind the Bri­tish Me­mo­rial Gar­den to 9/11 in New York. Here, Brian re­cently su­per­vised the plant­ing of Mag­no­lia, Acer, rhodo­den­drons, philadel­phus and hy­drangeas com­bined with a mix of herba­ceous wood­land plants.

The soil, he ex­plains, is heavy clay: wet in the win­ter and hard baked in the sum­mer. Find­ing plants that can sur­vive such con­di­tions is a chal­lenge but good qual­ity or­ganic com­post is be­ing ‘worked in’ to im­prove the soil struc­ture.

The path con­tin­ues to­wards the Rothe­say Gar­den, a Ja­panese-style gar­den com­plete with a struc­ture in­spired by a tea house. Fur­ther along is the lat­est ex­cit­ing in­tro­duc­tion, the re­cently un­veiled fifty-me­tre di­am­e­ter maze, planted with two-me­tre yews sur­round­ing a cen­tral wooden pagoda shel­ter and lily pond. Con­tinue on past the maze and you come to the for­mer laun­dry, now the Royal Draw­ing School, where artists

Left: Built in the 1750s for Wil­liam Dal­rym­ple, 5th Earl of Dum­fries, the house sits at the heart of the 2,000-acre es­tate. Far right: The Queen El­iz­a­beth walled gar­den in­cludes mod­ern and tra­di­tional fea­tures. Be­low right: Bright pink Phlox.

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