In the very first post in our Britain’s Great Homes Series, Christopher Boyle QC gives us a wonderful insight into life at Kirklinton Hall. The intruguing site, steeped in centuries of history, was left prey to vandalism and dereliction before Mr and Mrs Boyle bought the hall in 2013. Their plans to turn the site into a family home once more are well underway.
October comes and, with a secret sigh of relief, we close our doors for the winter.
I love being open to the public. This is our third year of doing so, our second year of six days a week. The enthusiasm, the delight and the sheer good nature of our visitors make it a real pleasure to share this wonderful place with them. It’s the same, too, with our staff. We serve real tea in silver pots (not bags on strings), home-made cakes and locally roasted coffee. Our little shop has cards by local artists and the blackboard outside tells you which organic veg is in season; this you pick for yourself and carry home with the fresh earth still clinging to it. We’re not a National Trust identikit visitor attraction – we’re a private garden on a very special journey, and the sheer joy of the place flows both ways.
But come 1st October, there is that sense – like you might get when waving off lovely friends who have just been to stay – of a slightly guilty thrill in knowing we will now have the place just to ourselves again.
If the weather is fine – as it is this year – there is something extravagant about the October garden. Here at Kirklinton, sitting at 70ft AOD and in our own little micro-climate, we don’t expect real frosts for another six weeks. Last year we were picking great bowls of red and yellow autumn raspberries at the very end of November. The 120-yard ‘hot wall’ intensifies the warmth of even a dwindling sun, and the beech trees standing along the Faerie Glen send any unkind winds whistling harmlessly over our heads.
So autumn at Kirklinton is, generally, a gentle thing: golden colours, dewy cobwebs, the late summer harvest in the Walled Garden filling us (and our pigs) with hearty goodness. There are fat pumpkins by Tommy’s greenhouse. Late nasturtiums spill across the gravelled path in a Turkish carpet of golds and reds. The larches and birches turn their buttery yellow. The dark green of yew, holly and rhododendron stand out almost black against the colouring leaves above the beck.
It is not a time of complete idleness, however. Lawns still need their regular mowing, and weeds still thrive in the warm damp soil, but with no visitors, we can rest awhile to enjoy the view. It is also the time to plan and plant new projects.
I hanker, you see, for a formal parterre, in the manner of the early 18th Century. My taste is ‘Bridgeman-ic’. Garden designers Charles Bridgeman and Henry Wise are my heroes. I love the Formal English Garden before Kent ‘lep’t the fence’ and Brown demolished the walls, piers and pavilions we see in the engravings of Kipp’s Britannia Illustrata. I dream of yew pyramids and holly globes, wide gravel terraces, jets d’eau and parterres of gazon coupe.
But that leads on to more elaborate garden-making. Le Notre and his bosquets hold a thrilling excitement for me. Before my parterres, therefore, I am planning one such – a Maze.
This is, in fact, a special request from my 13 year old son. But as with everything at Kirklinton, there is a slight quirk to it: this Maze will be a ‘Rose Maze’. Bounded by a 6ft-high yew hedge, it will have a central fountain, playing enticingly at its centre. The Maze paths, however, will be bordered by tall trelliswork festooned with climbing roses. Thus the Maze will be both open – unlike a hedged maze, one can see though the trellis after all – but fiendishly difficult to trace a path through, as one is disorientated by layer upon layer of rose-covered boughs; successive layers being both visible and impossible to reach. One can see though, but one cannot get through.
I am thinking currently of David Austin’s ‘Generous Gardener’ as a trouble-free, endlessly-flowering and well-scented pink climber, maybe mixed with a white climber – to whip their colours and scents together like a summer syllabub. I plan alpine strawberries at their feet; tiny red fruit tempting the unwary to stray further into the labyrinth… and always there will be the plashing of the central fountain in its sun-lit bowl. But there will be a secret at the heart of this Maze (which of necessity, of course, I cannot here divulge).
Thus we spend our secluded autumns at Kirklinton – enjoying, planning, dreaming. When winter comes, it is the time to plant and when next April comes round once more, and we throw the doors open again to our (most welcome) visitors, we hope to have yet another thing of beauty to share with them in this delicious place.
To find out more information about Kirklinton visit the website!
All images sourced from Pinterest