BACKGROUND: When Grizedale Arts director Adam Sutherland came to live at Lawson Park in 2000 there was no garden in evidence. Nearly a decade later (garden enthusiast Karen Guthrie joining Adam there in 2002) the site now includes a wide range of gardens and growing spaces in around 5 acres, from a formal vegetable potager to a wildflower meadow.
Anecdotally it was said there had been a potato / vegetable patch which had sustained the last farming family to occupy the land in the 1950's, but by 2000 the near-derelict site had only a few hazel coppices, a rowan and some tumbledown dry stone walls bordered by Forestry Commission conifer plantations on one side and the Brantwood Estate on the other. However, the site - an exposed south west facing slope some 180 metres (600 feet) above sea level - clearly offered incredible potential, with its natural streams and uninterrupted views of the Old Man of Coniston mountain.
The present gardens were begun on a wet February weekend in 2001, when Adam and partner Karen Guthrie planted a hedgerow of native plants along a boundary between the edge of Grizedale Forest and Lawson Park. Largely unplanned at this early stage, a half acre ornamental area immediately in front of the farmhouse has developed from many seed-grown perennials propagated by Karen (a lifelong keen gardener) as time and finances allowed. Keen to avoid replicating a traditional Lake District garden, the experimental plantings are in constant flux, influenced in turn by modern European prairie plantings, Japanese garden design and observations of the wild landscape in the immediate vicinity. The garden areas are classified as 'Ornamental Gardens' or 'Productive Gardens'. As the plan to develop Lawson Park as Grizedale's head-quarters has emerged, the ambition of the garden has increased. It now seeks to articulate the philosophical aims of the organisation and act as a test-bed for new farming / horticultural practices and artists' projects. Landscape architect Lyn Kinnear was among the earliest advisors, and more recently designer Becky Sobell has contributed ideas. The gardens (both productive and ornamental) have now burgeoned to occupy some 5 acres and are a much-admired part of the local landscape. From 2006 - 2008 professional gardener George Watson joined Karen and Adam part-time. Work parties and volunteers are an important part of the annual maintenance regime now, with all residents and staff on site working on the land for a period each week.
In 2014/15 Stephen Rae gardened with us, and in 2015 Grace Holland joined as a part-time gardener.
VISIT THE GARDEN: The gardens were selected by the prestigious National Gardens Scheme to open to the public for charity in 2008/9/10 and despite the reliably awful weather on Open Days, have welcomed over 500 visitors including the Hardy Plant Society and many local groups. Though now withdrawn from the NGS we periodically invite members of the public to visit Lawson Park - email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.