Gardens

The gardens at Lawson Park are an integral part of Grizedale Arts. They influence and feed into much of our programme, and form the basis of ongoing research across a range of related disciplines. Of a site of circa 15 acres, around 5 acres is presently under cultivation, offering diverse growing spaces that provide us with the opportunity to experiment with different techniques and aesthetics, and to grow a large amount of food to eat, share and preserve on site. Uncultivated areas are carefully managed to encourage the site’s extraordinary range of wildlife, which includes red and roe deer, badgers, stoats, foxes, pine martens, newts, toads, frogs, grass snakes, adders, slow worms, lizards, voles, field mice and moles, as well as many bird species including buzzards and peregrine falcons.

When Grizedale Arts first relocated to the site of Lawson Park in 2000, there was no garden in evidence. Nearly two decades later, the site now includes extensive ornamental and vegetable gardens, soft fruit areas, orchards, farmland, water gardens and polytunnels. As challenging a site as it is beautiful, Lawson Park has high rainfall, a short growing season due to its altitude and is exposed. However, through ongoing experimentation and research it has proved possible to create a fascinating and productive site that continues to evolve and feed into the wider programme and activities of Grizedale Arts.

The gardens – and the work they demand of all of Grizedale’s staff and visitors - articulate the philosophical aims of the organisation and act as a test-bed for new horticultural and farming practices as well as for artists’ and architects’ projects.

To our knowledge there was previously a potato / vegetable patch which sustained the last farming family to occupy the Lawson Park 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. However, much of the site, an exposed south - west facing slope some 180 metres (600 feet) above sea level, 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 (already a keen gardener albeit an urban one) planted a hedgerow of native plants along a track boundary between the edge of Grizedale Forest and Lawson Park. Largely unplanned at this early stage, a compact  ornamental area on the eastern side of the farmhouse has developed from many seed-grown perennials propagated by Karen as time and finances allowed. Now the most mature area of the gardens, this original stock has over time been augmented with further selections from successful genera, and selected bulbs, trees and shrubs that have proven themselves able to withstand the demanding conditions.

Keen to avoid a traditional Lake District garden design of lawn and shrubs, Karen keeps this area’s experimental plantings in constant flux, influenced in turn by the modern European prairie planting style, Japanese garden design, and observations of the wild landscapes of the immediate vicinity of Lawson Park, of her trips to Japan and of her native Scotland.

Lawson Park’s gardens are divided into distinct areas and are classified as either 'Ornamental Gardens' or 'Productive Gardens'.

Restricted budgets – unfortunately – have never allowed for a large-scale landscape design to be implemented at Lawson Park, but we have benefited from advice from many talented and inspiring visiting designers and gardeners: Landscape architect Lyn Kinnear was among the earliest advisors, as was Becky Sobell, assessing the ‘blank canvas’ around the farmhouse as Sutherland Hussey Architects also began their revisioning of the interior spaces. From 2006 - 2008 professional gardener George Watson joined Karen and Adam part-time, moving from a traditionally-run local ‘estate’ garden. George was a disciplined and gifted ‘old school’ gardener, instrumental in teaching Karen and Adam about the necessity of efficient (some would say ruthless) maintenance and passing on a lifetime’s knowledge about overcoming Cumbria’s many challenges to the gardener. Many of the ideas and plants George brought us thrive to this day and we owe him a huge debt in helping us during the toughest years of establishing the garden.

Karen Guthrie has remained as Lawson Park’s Head Gardener, and in 2014/15 Stephen Rae gardened with us, with Grace Holland (now at Blackwell in Bowness-on-Windermere) and Ann-Catherine Andersson joining as part-time gardeners in 2015.

The present team working with Karen is Adam Hughes (who joined in 2016) with seasonal support from Pippa Martin. We generally encourage everyone working with us and staying at Lawson Park to spend some part of the day working outside on the land, alongside other domestic work needed on site. Work parties and volunteers are an important part of the annual maintenance regime now, and many volunteers opt to specifically concentrate on land work.

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, we welcomed over 500 visitors including the Hardy Plant Society and many local groups.

Insurance red tape concerning our access road prevents us from taking part in the National Gardens Scheme at present, but small groups and members of the public may arrange in advance to visit Lawson Park - email us at info@grizedale.org.

  • The Polytunnels

    The Polytunnels
  • The Farmhouse Garden

    The Farmhouse Garden
  • The Paddies

    The Paddies
  • The Orchard

    The Orchard
    From the Orchard, facing South
  • The Wildflower Meadow

    The Wildflower Meadow
    Summer 2010
  • The Kitchen Garden

    The Kitchen Garden
    Early summer glory
  • The Woodland Garden

    The Woodland Garden