Our latest tale comes from HF Holidays’ Country House in the Lake District, Monk Coniston. In spite of Storm Abigail looming, 60 volunteers arrived at Monk Coniston and worked tirelessly to make a huge difference in the gardens.
“It was another monumental day’s work and, with the threat of torrential rain, everyone put in a massive shift before lunch, while the weather allowed. However, the storm continued to hold off, allowing even more to be achieved in the afternoon.
The youngest participant was 7 and the oldest was 90. Two National Trust employees with chainsaws also gave up their weekend to be involved.
Three massive bonfires which were fed all day and never ran out of stuff to burn! In fact, one of them was still burning 48 hours later in spite of 11 inches of rain! Two 9 gallon barrels of beer were donated – one from Barngates Brewery just up the road and the other from Butcombe Brewery in Somerset.
This was our third annual volunteer gardening weekend, which picked up from where we left off last year, continuing to open up entire areas of the 14 acre grounds, allowing guests to see the majestic Arboretum which surrounds the house, no longer swamped by brambles, rhododendron ponticum and self-seeded trees.
The path leading from our Country House to Boon Crag, where HF Holidays’ guests pick up the coach in the morning to take them to their walks, was opened up last year, allowing a view not just of the sky but also of some of the specimen trees and shrubs. This year, we cleared right up to the base of the wall immediately by the main House, extending the open vista of ancient conifers, beech trees and rhododendron cultivars by removing an impenetrable ‘jungle’.
Meanwhile, another team set about the slope behind the Counting House running from the main drive right up to the start of the Tree Trail. Half the volunteers started at the bottom and the other half began by the Giant Sequoia at the top. By the time they met in the middle they had removed a massive tangle of brambles and overgrown laurel, allowing air to circulate around the building and making it possible to glimpse the tops of specimen trees further up the estate.
John and Helen Croxford, House Manager and Head Gardener at Monk Coniston, said: “Each year we are amazed by what is achieved on the Gardening Weekend. The event seems to have a winning formula, capitalising on a potent mix of enthusiasm and energy, which translates into an incredibly focused ongoing restoration project, bringing a beautiful Victorian garden and Arboretum back to life. It has become a real illustration of the HF Holidays’ ethos – a winning combination of enthusiastic activity and sociability.”