News from Leo Walmsley for January 2014

  • Replacing steps at High Close

    13:29 03 January 2014
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    After completing our work at Allan Bank we recently moved on to some path repair work at High Close gardens, just outside Grasmere. The house and gardens at High Close date back to the mid-1800's when they were purchased by Edward Balme Wheatley-Balme, a Yorkshire merchant and philanthropist, and planted up with many rare trees and shrubs from all around the globe.

    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.

    Steps in need of repair.

    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.

    New steps after a few days work.

    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.

    Steep incline where new steps need to be added.

    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.

    New section of steps

    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.

    Starting work on another section

    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.

    Shaping a stone

    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