Garden to visit
With historic trees, a winter walk and listed walled garden, this magnificent estate has plenty of year-round interest
With its historic trees, winter walk and listed walled garden, Wallington is a gem
Wallington is a garden steeped in history that has something to offer whatever the time of year. Sulphur-yellow catkins brighten the garden above a carpet of spring bulbs; colour-themed herbaceous borders are packed with flowers for summer; fiery acers bring the garden to life in autumn; and the faded flowers of hydrangeas form wintry skeletons dusted with frost. Set among the moorland, woods and tumbling streams of the rugged Northumbrian landscape, the Wallington estate is dominated by a magnificent mansion. The building was home to two families – the Blacketts and the Trevelyans – for more than 300 years before it was gifted to the National Trust by Sir Charles Trevelyan in 1941 along with the wider estate and farms, the first donation of its kind to the Trust. Sir Walter Calverley Blackett had the grounds landscaped in the 18th century, following the style Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who grew up just a couple of miles away and attended a school on the estate. There’s little evidence of Brown being involved with the overall design at Wallington, though he did work on the plans for the West Wood pleasure grounds. The Palladian bridge (designed by James Paine, who worked with Brown) and the Owl House (a bothy in the walled garden) are very similar to those Brown designed elsewhere. Back then, the West Wood pleasure grounds offered a formal place to stroll among trees and water features. Today the area has a wilder feel – keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels scampering among the trees!
On the other side of the house, the East Wood was planted for year-round interest. Subsequent owners, the Trevelyans, added to the planting in the 19th century with newly discovered specimen trees such as the Western red cedar and nootka cypress from North America. In 1891 Sir George Otto Trevelyan started The Wallington Book of Trees in which he recorded the planting dates, girth, height and position of more than 300 trees. His daughter and granddaughter subsequently kept up the project, thus creating a fascinating record of these historic champion trees.
Follow paths through the East Wood and you’ll eventually come to the hidden gem of Wallington: its Grade II-listed walled garden. Enter through a gate, presided over by a statue of the Roman god Neptune, and you’ll discover a fabulous kitchen garden with an Italianate influence. Built in 1760 as a productive space to provide year-round veg for the Wallington kitchens, ornamental elements such as the Owl House suggest the garden was designed to impress visitors too. It’s an unusual walled garden – L-shaped and cut into the hillside, it follows the contours of the land and contains an elegant curving stone staircase (top left), which embraces the Mary Pool, named after Lady Mary Trevelyan. Sir George developed the walled garden in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He gave it an Italianate feel with imported urns and statuary, and a fabulous Edwardian conservatory built by MacKenzie and Moncur – one of the most prestigious glasshouse manufacturers of the time. The conservatory is packed with tender bougainvilleas and fuchsias. Heliotrope and fragrant lemon verbena impart a delicious heady fragrance to the warm, humid air, while Tibouchina urvilleana and abutilons put on a colourful display even in winter.
It’s an unusual walled garden ...cut into the hillside with a curving stone staircase