When Grizedale Arts director Adam Sutherland first came to live at Lawson Park in 2000, there was no garden in evidence. Nearly two decades later, the site now includes a diversity of growing spaces in around 5 acres. As challenging a site as it is beautiful, Lawson Park has high rainfall and an exposed location, yet it has proved possible to create a fascinating and productive site that feeds into the wider work of Grizedale Arts.

 Summer 2017Anecdotally 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 (a keen gardener) 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 half acre ornamental area immediately in front of the farmhouse has developed from many seed-grown perennials propagated by Karen 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 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, as was designer Becky Sobell. 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 and Ann-Catherine Andersson joined as part-time gardeners. Adam Hughes joined in 2016.

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, 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 to arrange.

  • 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
    Autumn light, looking North