On a steep, 3 acre, south west-facing site that fronts the building we have an established meadow of local repute, hosting a wide variety of wild flowers and a range of habitats. The site is maintained and lightly structured with mown paths, 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 northeast edge of the
meadow, dividing it from the 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 spring bluebells thrive and later, wild mushrooms. More recent plantings here include some young damson trees, and abundant brambles (blackberries) provide autumnal fruit.
A few old hawthorns nearby are being pruned in the Japanese 'Niwaki' style.
Further Wild Gardens will be developed in woodland clearings and edges around the site over the next few years, 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. Elsewhere on the forest edge are some experimental mushroom spore-impregnated logs (no sign of action yet).
The Cumbria Hay Meadows Project (run by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust) surveyed the meadow in 2008 and provided some 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 and encourage more wildflowers next season.
Juncus effusus (Soft rush)
Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hair grass)
Sanguisorba minor (Salad burnet)
Centaurea nigra (Knapweed)
Rumex acetosa (Common sorrel)
Cardamine pratensis (Ladies smock)
Conopodium majus (Pignut)
Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet)
Angelica sylvestris (Wild angelica)
Lythrum salicaria (Purple loosestrife)
Karen Guthrie (Artist & film-maker) and Adam Sutherland (GA's director) have lived and gardened on site since 2001. The drystone 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. Volunteers have contributed over the years in tree-planting and mowing.
The meadow has been used for many varied agricultural purposes over the last centuries. David Walmsley - who helps maintain Lawson Park's beehives - kept a herd of Dexter cows there in the 1980's, whilst Sally Beamish of nearby gardens Brantwood kept her horse Sam there until 2005. Since then it has been allowed to grow naturally, apart from a brief period of sheep grazing in early 2006.
The meadow is managed to encourage and sustain diverse wild
flowers, contribute to the Cumbria Biodiversity Action
Plan for uplands meadows and provide a 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).
Developing further wild areas on the site that can be foraged for fruit, nuts and fungi is also a priority.
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.
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.