Army of volunteers restore rock gardens

An army of volunteers helped replant Burnby Hall's Rock Garden.
An army of volunteers helped replant Burnby Hall's Rock Garden.

For over a year the scene down at the Rock Garden at Burnby Hall Gardens has been a quiet one.

That was until a few weeks ago when an army of volunteers helped staff at the Gardens to re-plant the Rock Garden with around 25,000 alpines, including 10,000 bulbs.

The beautiful kaffirlily (Hesperantha) stream-side in the rock garden.

The beautiful kaffirlily (Hesperantha) stream-side in the rock garden.

The Golden Jubilee Restoration Project, funded by National Lottery Players has seen Burnby Hall Gardens embark on an ambitious project to restore the Rock Garden to how the Stewart family would have envisaged it.

The story began in 2016 when the Rock Garden was stripped of all overgrown trees and deep-rooted weeds such as Mares Tail, Couch and Ground Elder to name a few.

Since 2016 gardening staff have been painstakingly turning the soil to encourage weed seed growth and removal, treating the soil in preparation for the replanting.

The replanting scheme has been inspired by the original Backhouse nursery plant catalogues from over 100 years ago. The Rock Garden at Burnby Hall was designed by the Backhouse Nurseries of York in 1910 for the Stewart Family. The Backhouse’s were renowned horticulturists of the Victorian and Edwardian era, designing Rock Gardens for wealthy clientele across the country. The replanting was completed over two weekends in October thanks to the involvement of over 50 volunteers, who without all their hard work would not have been possible. Staff at Burnby Hall Gardens were overwhelmed with people’s generosity and dedication as volunteers travelled from as far as Hull and Wakefield, all giving up their weekends to get involved.

Estate manager Ian Murphy with volunteers in the rock garden.

Estate manager Ian Murphy with volunteers in the rock garden.

Paul Pemberton, one of the Rock Garden volunteers explains his reason for getting involved. He said: “My family and I have been visiting Burnby Hall Gardens for many years, so when I saw the poster asking for volunteers I thought it would be a great opportunity to give something back. It will be great to visit and watch the Rock Garden mature and grow knowing I was one of many who helped to reinstate the Rock Garden.”

As well as volunteers from the local area, Burnby Hall Gardens have also worked with Sight Support Hull and East Yorkshire as well as the gardening club from Wilberfoss Primary school who also enjoyed an afternoon trip to Burnby Hall Gardens to help with the replanting.

The replanting is now complete but as Estate Manager Ian Murphy explains: “This is just the start of the adventure.

“As the Alpines begin to establish themselves, we will continue to work with the local community by recruiting a team of dedicated Rock Garden volunteers to ensure this special feature of the Gardens is protected for future generations to enjoy.”

This restoration Project has been two years in the making, with the replanting complete we have now began the horticultural journey of returning the Rock Garden to its former Edwardian glory and a place for visitors to enjoy.’

The Rock Garden restoration will now move onto the next stage which will see the improvement of the paths throughout the Rock Garden to make them more accessible.

This work will commence around Monday 19 November, with the Rock Garden area being closed to allow for this important work to be completed.

On Tuesday 13 November, Burnby Hall Gardens will be running free guided tours on at 12pm and 2pm the tour will last approximately 40 minutes.

If you would like to find out more about the project or history of Burnby Hall Gardens, then please do come along. Booking is not required and entrance to the Gardens is free however donations are welcome.