The River Boyd, Terraced Gardens, Flood Meadows and Industry
The Falls, two 18th century workers cottages alongside the River Boyd between Bitton and Wick, only 8 miles east of the centre of Bristol, features terraced gardens, kitchen garden, native woodland and flood meadows intimately entwined amongst its industrial heritage of mill ponds, sluice gates and wiers. Edwards Garden Services is beginning restoration work on the gardens, which have recently been somewhat neglected, looking to balance the designed landscape and house gardens, its industrial heritage with the wider semi-natural landscape of woodland, flood meadow and river bank.
One of the joys of being contract gardeners is the variety of gardens and properties we get called in to manage and maintain. From one day to the next we can be working with the architectural formality of Barrow Court in North Somerset, to be followed the next day by the industrial heritage and semi-natural landscape of the River Boyd in South Gloucestershire.
The Falls recent history has led to the gardens becoming somewhat neglected. The fertile flood plain of a river needs little time for nature to reclaim a previously managed landscape. The riverside planting quickly loosing out to comfrey and willowherb, itself soon giving place to Alder and Willow. The Hemlock Water-dropwort always deserves a mention – not least for its name alone, and its gruesome history of ritual killings.
In some ways it is easy to enter a site and clear it – mowers, brushcutters, hedge cutters and loppers can make short work of clearing thickets of tree saplings, brambles, nettle, willowherb and sedge. The skill with garden restoration is working out what happens next;
- What resources do you have to maintain the restored garden
- What features are significant and need prioritizing
- What are the short term and long term goals
The short term goal was to reclaim the principal garden areas from encroaching nature. Here the armoury of machinery plays its part, though its amazing what you can acheive with a good pruning saw and a length of rope. The terraces around the house feature lawns and ornamental borders, but the largest expanse of grass is along the flood plain that greets you as you enter the property so it was felt that the immidiate areas of grass should be returned to routinely cut lawn. Henry seems a bit dwarfed by this photo but a combination of ride-on (not pictured) and pedestrian mowers made short work of the rough grass.
Our clients hope was to return the borders around the house to a more colourful cottage border scheme with a mix of flowers and shrubs. Unfortunately the recent neglect of these borders had allowed Ground Elder, Couch Grass and Hedge Bindweed to become firmly established amongst the easier to remove Great Willowherb, Nettle & Alder trees.
These borders are too close to the river to allow the use of herbicides, an option not favoured anyway, as the high value placed on the natural history of the site favoured an organic approach. So, no pesticides. Hand weeding to control these perennials weeds would occupy all the available maintenance time at the expense of the rest of the site – which is extensive. The advice was therefore to use a weed membrane, thick layers of wood mulch and block planting of coppiced willows and dogwoods and some marginal ornamental grasses.
It has become almost a expectation to see coppiced willows and dogwoods with their brilliant red winter stems fringing rivers and lakes. Its an immidiately effective and attractive solution but will need to be in place for some years for the pernicious roots to die off sufficiently.
Clearing the Alder and Pendulous Sedge from the sluice gate and mill pond walls required more than thick garden gloves and a good pair of secateurs. Lost amogst the Himalayan Balsam covering the old otter enclosure was a WWII landing craft. The perfect vehicle for accessing those difficult to reach places.
The recent history of the Falls is very much grounded in its natural history, being the location for the absorbing Halcyon River Diaries chronicling a year in the life of the river with its otters, kingfishers, crayfish and mink. My background as a field botanist and ecologist makes this restoration project a particularly exciting one, looking to restore a natural landscape as much as a designed landscape.
The garden terraces above the river, a tangle of dead Viburnums and bramble will be the focus ove the coming visits.
Can be quite a special place to be…….
Would you like us to help you with this service or do you have any questions?
If so then do get in touch and we look forward to hearing from you.Contact us