The estate was left to the National Trust in 1951 and the house was leased to the Youth Hostel Association shortly afterwards. Much of the garden has been in disrepair for many years but recently a National Trust volunteer group has taken ownership of the garden and cleared back areas of rhododendron and unearthed much of the original path network.
You can see in the photograph above some old steps in urgent need of repair. Much of this original work has at some point been dismantled and the stone removed, presumably to be used elsewhere on the estate. This is not uncommon, as slate is an expensive resource, so as the garden evolved, pathways would have changed and it would have been decided that the stone could be put to better use.
We decided that the work should be in keeping with the rest of the garden, so it was on obvious choice to use slate from the nearby quarry.
The slate was all hand picked at the quarry and loaded into our trailer. From there we drove it the short distance up to High Close where it was then moved by power barrow to each of the areas that needed to be worked on.
To build the steps, we used two or three large rectangular stones as the front of each step. These were filled in behind with smaller stones built in courses, much in the same way as a drystone wall. All of the slate had to be hand finished with hammers to make it all fit together tidily.
It's been slow work, with each step taking roughly a day to construct, but the effect looks really good and in a few years time it should blend in seamlessly with the rest of the stonework in the garden.
There's still plenty of work to be done in the gardens, and we're likely to be spending more time here in future years. To see some of the fantastic work that the volunteers have been doing to help restore High Close gardens click on the following link...Album of High Close garden restoration work