The Story of Our Garden
John and I bought Stillingfleet Lodge in 1975; it was an unloved farmhouse that had been empty for over a year. There was very little garden, mainly a vegetable plot with no shrubs or trees. The remaining three acres was grassland.
Our aim then was to live "the Good Life," by going organic and self-sufficient. I had read Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" and we wanted to do our bit to change the way food was produced. For 10 years the land produced our own meat, cheese, yoghurt, butter, cream and vegetables. Our family grew too, with two of our children being born here.
With all the developments in the garden, we have always had a central ethos of sustainability in the garden - a message which even more important today. We aim to inspire a new generation of organic gardeners and show that a garden can be both beautiful and environmentally friendly.
You can read more about how the nursery, garden and tea room have developed over the years here.
Peace and Tranquility
Most of the comments we get from visitors is how peaceful and tranquil the garden is. They love hearing the bird song and the bees buzzing or just relaxing on one of the many seats dotted around the garden. Throughout the garden you are likely to catch a glimpse of the birds and insects that we encourage into our garden. Our wide selection of trees and shrubs provide food and cover as well as year round interest in the garden. No wildlife friendly garden should be without a pond and ours is home to many native species. Our wildflower meadow is now well established and well worth a visit to see just how full of life a true lowland meadow should be.
Although most of the garden is informal, we added the very formal rill garden ten years ago. This is a beautiful place to relax and listen to the running water.
Trees and Shrubs
If you want to learn more about how to encourage wildlife in your garden I would highly recommend you either join us on one of our workshops or visit us with the family on the wildlife day. Our plant nursery is full of beautiful herbaceous plants that are perfect for encouraging insects to your garden; have a chat with one of us on your visit to find out the perfect plant for your garden. When you visit you can't miss the poultry that roam freely in the garden. Not only do they provide us with eggs, but they are an important part of our environmentally friendly garden management.
Workshops and Events
“We absolutely loved visiting this wonderful garden and nursery. We enjoyed looking at all the plants and trees as well as the pleasure of observing the chickens and wildlife, including seeing a woodpecker, lots of long tailed tits, coal tits, blue and great tits and a dragon fly. It was so inspiring and so nice to speak with the owners who are so knowledgeable and helpful.” Sarah, September 2019
“Little oasis only a few miles from home which we have discovered. Lovely walk round the grounds of a beautiful house. The garden has an abundance of ideas I have taken away with me for my own garden and to use with my patients at work to use in our recovery college garden to help with clients recovery from mental health conditions” Janette, July 2019
“Wonderful garden, peaceful and well thought out. Inspirational” – Paul Adams August 2018
More of our story
There were no trees when we arrived and we were very exposed to the south west gales. We planted a shelter belt of mainly native tree, this has been essential, allowing us to grow a wider range of plants.
To begin with the only part of the garden we developed was the Front Garden. This was surrounded by a hawthorn hedge and had at sometime been the farmhouse garden. After our fourth child was born in 1980 we extended this to develop the areas that are now the Pear Tree Garden and the Wattle Garden
When our youngest child started nursery school I went to Askham Bryan College. I started propagating, put up a poly tunnel and used to open a few weekends a year to sell plants. After taking redundancy, a Government Enterprise scheme supported me for a year allowing us to open the plant nursery on a regular basis. We bought two second-hand poly tunnels and even produced a small catalogue!
Stock beds became the border
The first of the borders in the Avenue was dug and planted up as a stock bed with the second border planted the following year. We never planned to have long double borders; they started out as a way of having more stock plants to propagate from.
As the children were growing up and leaving home, we no longer needed the livestock: our lives were changing.
We had always been interested in making the garden as wildlife friendly as possible. By now we had well established trees, shrubs and undergrowth for wildlife but no water in the garden. We asked the Farm and Wildlife Advisory Group for help, they took soil cores and found two suitable sites to locate a pond without using a plastic liner. Read more about our pond here
They also told us that where we had sheep was ancient lowland meadow and we ought to look after it. Read more about the meadow here.
Into the 21st Century
We removed the original poly tunnel near the house which gave us a rectangular space with hedges on either side. Here I decided to make a completely different garden and in 2007 the Rill Garden was the result. Read about the Rill Garden here.
We were asked where we grew our vegetables and so the Vegetable Garden was opened in 2011. It is a family garden so we only grow what we like to eat and there will be gaps and spaces where we have removed vegetables to eat,
The tea room was developed in the barn in the winter of 2007 after the wet summer had meant visitors having a miserable time with nowhere to shelter. We no longer needed the barn for livestock, so it made the ideal place to shelter and enjoy refreshments. Read more about the tea room here.
The Playing Area is an area of lawn with swings and games suitable for small children; my grandchildren have races and play badminton there. It is also where we have most of the activities on our Annual Wildlife Day as shown above.
For fifteen years I held the National Collection of Pulmonaria. There are still many unusual and rare varieties in the garden including P. 'Stillingfleet Meg' pictured. They make excellent spring flowers and can be bought in the nursery. Read our full list of Pulmonarias here.
Whilst we are not planning to develop anymore areas the garden is continually evolving. Each year we remove trees and shrubs that have outgrown their space and add more plants to the borders. The general maintenance of the garden is an all round job too.