Hidden Abbey garden returns to former glory

14/2/13- Beautiful Battle Volunteers planting a tree in the newly-opened Walled Garden at Battle Abbey.
14/2/13- Beautiful Battle Volunteers planting a tree in the newly-opened Walled Garden at Battle Abbey.

A HIDDEN walled garden, largely unexplored by Battle Abbey visitors until now, is being returned to its former glory by a band of volunteers.

Opening to visitors in June, the garden is located in a quiet corner of the medieval monastic precincts.

It may once have been used to grow herbs for the Abbey infirmary and was transformed into an orchard garden for the Duke and Duchess of Cleveland, who lived at Battle Abbey from 1858 in the days when it was a country house estate.

Planted with apple, pear, mulberry, almond and fig trees, the duchess used it as a private garden, guarding its tranquillity from visitors who flocked to the Abbey in the second half of the 19th century. After her death in 1901, the garden was turned into a vegetable plot before it became a works compound in the late 20th century.

Historic plans still in existence have enabled English Heritage to recreate the original Victorian layout. Old varieties of trees, including Sussex apples and pears from Northern France, set in a wildflower meadow planted with indigenous East Sussex flowers and grasses, will provide blossom and scents for visitors to enjoy in the spring, a colourful carpet and shady canopy during the summer and abundant autumnal fruits.

Beautiful Battle and the Battle Town Council Landscape Team helped English Heritage plant 68 fruit trees. Pupils from Battle Abbey School’s gardening club will be under-planting the trees with wild flowers in the spring.

Hives housing a colony of bees will be introduced in the summer, with the bees cared for by property manager Joanne Stewart, who is undergoing special training. She said: ”I am thrilled that our visitors will have this delightful new space to enjoy, which represents a little known period in the Abbey’s history. Although the garden has been largely ignored for many years, I am hoping it will become a popular addition to every visit, especially by those who would like to take a little time to stroll through it in peaceful contemplation, much as the duchess once did.”