On a steep, 3 acre, south west facing site immediately adjacent to the building’s west-facing elevation, we have a historic meadow, hosting a wide variety of wild flowers and providing a range of habitats for wild animals, invertebrates, insects and small mammals.
The Meadow is lightly structured with mown paths and discreet wooden walkways and bridges to enable foot access from around the rest of the site and from a mown 'lawn' nearest the house. A natural stream runs down the meadow flanked by watermint, loosestrife, marsh marigold, meadowsweet and many native ferns. Meadow animals and insects include many butterflies, moths, dragonflies, slow worms, toads, frogs, badgers, voles, field mice, stoats and red and roe deer.
A restored dry stone wall runs along the eastern edge of the meadow, dividing it from the wardens' private Woodland Garden.
Towards the meadow's lower slopes is Robert's Walk, a beautiful route named in memory of former Wordsworth Trust director and a great friend, Robert Woof. It leads to a small but well-established woodland mainly of oak, beneath which late spring bluebells thrive and later – in a good year - wild cep mushrooms. More recent plantings in the upper meadow include some locally-obtained seedling damson trees and more native broadleaf trees (protected by temporary deer guards). Abundant brambles (blackberries) provide autumnal fruit. The meadow now houses a small wooden building used as a pottery, but originally built for a project by Laure Prouvost.
Further Wild Gardens are developed in woodland clearings and edges around the site, including George's Dell, an atmospheric area on the forest edge where gardener George Watson cleared trees and planted moisture-loving plants by a natural stream. This area was lost when the Forestry Commission felled this area of the forest in 2016.
The Cumbria Hay Meadows Project (run by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust) surveyed the meadow in 2008 and provided an inventory and advice on what is a very challenging site to maintain. In winter 2009 two Exmoor ponies grazed off most of the dead vegetation to help deplete the fertility. Most years we are able to scythe at least part of the area to encourage more wildflowers next season, and in early 2019 we introduced some parasitic yellow rattle plants to try to reduce the grass vigour.
The meadow is managed to encourage and sustain diverse wild flowers, wild animals and insect life, and to contribute to the Cumbria Biodiversity Action Plan for uplands meadows. We also want it to provide a year-round reflective and inspiring space for the household's occupants. The wild flora also serves to demonstrate which species may thrive elsewhere in the garden (for example, wild meadowsweet grows well in the meadow, whilst its more decorative cousin filipendula venusta does well in the borders).
A selection of plants
Karen Guthrie, Adam Sutherland, Lisa Stewart, George Watson, villagers of Toge (Japan), volunteers Jamie & Aiko Goodenough, Lisa Madagan, Simon Newby, Craig Sturrock and Meg Falconer.
About the designers/maker/s
Karen Guthrie, Adam Sutherland, Lisa Stewart, George Watson, villagers of Toge (Japan), volunteers Jamie & Aiko Goodenough, Lisa Madagan, Simon Newby, Craig Sturrock, Adam Hughes and Meg Falconer.
The dry stone wall was restored in winter 2006 by a volunteer work party, whilst some of the party also chipped timber and prepared mushroom logs. The villagers of Toge, Japan, visited the site in spring 2007 as part of the project, Return of the 7 Samurai and built the upper meadow's elegant timber bridge, which had to be replaced in 2018. Many volunteers have contributed over the years in tree-planting and mowing.
Adaptions / renovations
We have had a maintenance programme to encourage diversity and lessen vigour of grass species since 2007. The most successful has been 4-6 week grazing by fell ponies in autumn, every other year. Since 2016 we manually scythe certain areas as weather and time allow.
The felling of mature oak along the boundary with Brantwood over 2011 has opened up lake views but caused more wind exposure - in the winters of 2010 & 2011 we have planted silver birch and alder along the boundary at the foot of the meadow to counteract this.
In 2012/13 a small timber building was constructed over the stream, a film set for Laure Prouvost’s ‘Wantee’ installation. This work eventually won Laure the Turner Prize in 2013. The building is presently used as a pottery workshop.
In 2018, Karen Guthrie planted a memorial tree to her late father Ian – who first introduced her to the Lake District as a reluctant hiker in the 1970’s - in the lower meadow, as part of the annual planting programme of native species trees here.