Amateur Gardening

Get the look: classic style in the Old Vicarage garden near Manchester

Restoring a historic house and its garden eight miles from Manchester has been a labour of love for Neil and Susan Kinsella, as Sue Bradley explains

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THE garden at Astley Old Vicarage holds happy associatio­ns for people living in the parish, not least Susan Kinsella, whose mother was once crowned May Queen there.

Yet for many years both this long piece of land and the historic house it belongs to were neglected – a far cry from the important role they had once played within the village.

Many were upset by the ongoing decline of the property, not least Susan and husband Neil who, despite having busy careers and a young family, took the brave decision to plough their savings and energies into rescuing and restoring it.

Just over 30 years on the garden surroundin­g the Old Vicarage has a new lease of life as a fitting backdrop to the Grade II*-listed house, parts of which date back to 1590. The garden is a space for displaying garden art and a means of raising funds for charity through its open days for the National Garden Scheme.

Neil and Susan’s approach to restoring the plot began with an inventory of its existing features, which included a small arboretum and a narrow stream known as the Eleanor Brook, and these have continued to contribute to the wilder feel towards the back of the gradually tapering site.

Closer to the house the couple have gone for a more formal feel, with a paved parterre planted with columnar Italian cypress and box-edged beds. A leylandii hedge, chosen due to its ability to grow quickly, is kept in check and sculpted in a way that produces a series of arches, one of which is used to accommodat­e an alcove seat.

The focal point for this area is a circular ring of box and ‘Celebratio­n’ roses surroundin­g a statue.

The shape of this bed, inspired by its original use as a fish pond, is used

“It’s a space for displaying garden art”

elsewhere in the garden, acting as a unifying device tying different parts of the plot together.

Other repeated features include yew hedging, some of which was grown from saplings found nearby, and the use of artistic pieces, including many made from wire by Neil.

“It all started with a Robin Wight kit I was given,’ laughs Neil. “Once I had made one, I started to do more and

people asked me to make one for them, too. We enjoy having art in the garden; it personalis­es the space and brings a little bit of soul to various areas.”

The formal parterre around the house has a room-like quality – something that was especially important when the couple’s children were young. As the years have gone by, the family has made the most of the entire space, opening it up with pathways and setting up tables and chairs for alfresco lunches and outside entertaini­ng.

Taking on an old garden isn’t without its challenges, not least the degree of shade from neighbouri­ng properties and mature trees. In some cases, Neil and Susan have had to gain permission to remove unwanted features, such as a rampant laurel hedge and trees that had reached the end of their productive lives.

“We’ve always had a rough plan for the garden, although restoring a historic house is not cheap, which meant we were always gardening with a strict budget back in the early days,” says Neil.

“Astley Old Vicarage was a wreck when he came here and restoring it is an ongoing project. We know how much it means to people here and how it’s long been a focal point for the village.”

“The vicarage was a wreck when we came here”

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 ??  ?? Set up a table and chairs to enjoy al fresco lunches in sunny spots. A curtain of flowering rhododendr­ons make this spot even more alluring
Set up a table and chairs to enjoy al fresco lunches in sunny spots. A curtain of flowering rhododendr­ons make this spot even more alluring
 ??  ?? Grow black elder Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ for stunning dark leaves with contrastin­g white flowers
Create ‘rooms’ within the garden to enjoy intimate spaces with their own tempo. The shaped hedge allows views of a holly cut into a dome and the beautiful blossom of a laburnum
Grow black elder Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ for stunning dark leaves with contrastin­g white flowers Create ‘rooms’ within the garden to enjoy intimate spaces with their own tempo. The shaped hedge allows views of a holly cut into a dome and the beautiful blossom of a laburnum
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 ??  ?? Take a tip from the Italians and use columnar cypress to accentuate the feeling of formality outside the house. Stone paving makes this area easier to access during wet spells
Take a tip from the Italians and use columnar cypress to accentuate the feeling of formality outside the house. Stone paving makes this area easier to access during wet spells
 ??  ?? Make room for an area for entertaini­ng: this decked space close to the woodland is used for barbecues. Metal posts support wires used to train wisteria
Make room for an area for entertaini­ng: this decked space close to the woodland is used for barbecues. Metal posts support wires used to train wisteria
 ??  ?? This tall pot planted with blue Festuca glauca is one of six that lights up a dark-green expanse of yew hedging
This tall pot planted with blue Festuca glauca is one of six that lights up a dark-green expanse of yew hedging
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 ??  ?? Use garden furniture, such as a sundial or table and chairs set as focal points. A series of arches bring a new dimension to the leylandii hedge, which helps to mask a neighbouri­ng property
Use garden furniture, such as a sundial or table and chairs set as focal points. A series of arches bring a new dimension to the leylandii hedge, which helps to mask a neighbouri­ng property
 ??  ?? A mirror contained within an ecclesiast­ical-style frame provides an unusual dimension to this jasmine-clad brick wall. However, be mindful of birds when using mirrors
A mirror contained within an ecclesiast­ical-style frame provides an unusual dimension to this jasmine-clad brick wall. However, be mindful of birds when using mirrors
 ??  ?? Place pieces of art in unlikely spots. This ceramic Puck, made by a local artist, looks like he’s taking a cheeky peek from behind an echinops
Place pieces of art in unlikely spots. This ceramic Puck, made by a local artist, looks like he’s taking a cheeky peek from behind an echinops
 ??  ?? Use a row of cut-up tree trunks to create an attractive and wildlife-friendly boundary and a handy way to display succulents
Use a row of cut-up tree trunks to create an attractive and wildlife-friendly boundary and a handy way to display succulents
 ??  ?? Grow hostas in pots to deter visits from slugs. These metal ducks are a fun addition to this area of paving
Grow hostas in pots to deter visits from slugs. These metal ducks are a fun addition to this area of paving
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 ??  ?? Inject artistic pieces into the garden to add height, as well as an element of fun and quirkiness
Enjoy the privacy provided by the foliage of willow, a plant that loves to grow next to streams. A pathway of stone chippings provides a firm footing
Inject artistic pieces into the garden to add height, as well as an element of fun and quirkiness Enjoy the privacy provided by the foliage of willow, a plant that loves to grow next to streams. A pathway of stone chippings provides a firm footing
 ??  ?? Add potted topiary to introduce a sense of Italianate formality to a garden. These box spirals flank a rose bed planted with white ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’ roses that surround a statue of ‘The Huntress’
Add potted topiary to introduce a sense of Italianate formality to a garden. These box spirals flank a rose bed planted with white ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’ roses that surround a statue of ‘The Huntress’
 ??  ?? Enjoy the glorious foliage of acers. Japanese maples prefer sheltered spots. This Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ looks great next to a white table and chair set
Enjoy the glorious foliage of acers. Japanese maples prefer sheltered spots. This Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ looks great next to a white table and chair set
 ??  ?? Bring the reflective qualities of water to an open space by installing a wide dish. This one is made of Cor-Ten steel and guarded by a wire fairy sculpture
Bring the reflective qualities of water to an open space by installing a wide dish. This one is made of Cor-Ten steel and guarded by a wire fairy sculpture
 ??  ?? Light up a border with white flowers. These white lupins shine like lamps against a leylandii hedge
Light up a border with white flowers. These white lupins shine like lamps against a leylandii hedge

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