Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Middleton Hall, Staffordshire.

Middleton Hall came to my attention a while back in a lecture at Birmingham University by Professor Ian Dillamore, who introduced the work of John Ray, an English naturalist (1627 - 1705) who stayed a while at Middleton. This post is to focus on the garden itself, not Ray, but I'd urge anyone who hasn't heard the name John Ray to at least read through the Wikipedia page dedicated to him; he made a significant contribution to botanical classification and deserves more appreciation.

The hall is located just off the A4091 in Staffordshire near to the Belfry and Drayton Manor, and is wonderfully secluded. A long drive approaches and to the right, a large pool of some 9acres is surrounded by grazed fields. The whole estate stretches to 40 acres, which is much reduced from its original 3600 acres*, and some of the area is SSSI. In addition to this, what couldn't be more engaging than a significant RSPB site next door - built in bird activity!
© Gary Webb
The buildings themselves exhibit styles from the centuries and are a real jewel if you enjoy 'reading' architecture. The hall and its connected buildings have seen a good deal of repair, and while much has been achieved, much hard, and expensive work is ahead. If you're able, do please visit to help support this treasure.
© Gary Webb
Where the garden is concerned, it really does have so much going for it. Much of the work is carried out by volunteers, although a new gardens manager should be recruited by late summer 2014. The range of garden spaces however, even allowing for the wildlife embracing nature of the site, are diverse and well cared for. I particularly liked the walled garden, which is layed out to a formal design with well stocked beds and borders. Above is a garden space adjoining the walled garden, with glasshouse and workshop spaces.
© Gary Webb
I'm guessing the cute little garden building was a gardeners bothy of old, and is so perfect with its views back across the garden. Outside of the walls though, whilst the grass is kept neat and trim, a more informal look is the norm, with sheltered lawn areas moving out into wooded walks around the perimeter of the grounds. The history peeks through wherever you look however, with old leaning walls, significant trees, and even a moat around much of the main residence.
© Gary Webb
I will stop waxing lyrical about Middleton Hall now, as I don't want to give the impression all is well. Despite valiant efforts to protect and preserve this gem, it remains, as many other locations like this in a state of balance. Without the larger reserves of some charities, maintaining, let-alone restoring the many elements will continue to be an uphill task. Having said this, so much has been achieved in the preservation of the buildings and grounds, which still remain there to be enjoyed.
Although a little way off my usual patch, I was so taken by Middleton Hall that I made some time to write this post in support of. Exciting times are ahead for the staff and volunteer team there, and I wish them all well in their efforts to nurture and enhance this treasure. If you're nearby do check the website and visit if you can, and support this remarkable place - if you can't visit, do share this post to help spread the word!
*Some information taken from website.

1 comment:

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

I used to live near the village in Essex where John Ray grew up. (Or maybe he just lived there - I will need to find out.) One of the local secondary schools was named after him.

Are you thinking of updating us on your Cedar Tree around the 7th? (Tree Following)