+ How can I generate income?

This depends on your main purpose. Experience so far suggests that you can generate a reasonable turnover from the sale of produce, or from visitors, or training activities, enough maybe to (just) cover revenue costs. But you’re very unlikely to cover the capital costs, particularly for extensive restoration or rebuilding of structures such as greenhouses. And you’re likely to run into difficulties if you try and do everything in a chase for pounds and pennies. The main principle is to focus on one or two main income streams, and do them well. Contact us for more advice on funding and generating income.

+ How can I make it a successful visitor attraction?

What makes your walled garden unique? You need to identify this, then look at ways you can make this uniqueness accessible to people, ie. ‘Tell the story’. Then you need to market it appropriately – there’s no point in spending all that money if you don’t tell people about it! Innovation is important from the start, continually re-inventing to keep the concept fresh. And then it is all about attention to detail: keeping the plants and displays looking pristine, designing good interpretation, and looking carefully at layout, flows and zoning. If in doubt go and look at other visitor attractions, walled gardens and otherwise, and judge what makes them work.

+ How do I decide what my objectives are?

This is the big question, and it’s important you clarify your purpose, and stick to it. Walled garden projects can become very expensive, and they are generally complex, especially if your aims are unclear. There are four main choices:

  • educational – eg. for children, gardeners, people with special needs
  • productive –growing high-quality food for sale locally, maybe certified organic, and/or cut flowers and pot plants
  • visitor attraction – eg. horticultural and social history, attractive garden
  • heritage restoration – historically accurate (you need to decide precisely what era/date to focus on)

These choices are potentially conflicting; the more you try and fulfil, the more complex he project becomes. Achieving a perfect balance is not easy. Please contact us if you’d like advice on deciding what is best for your walled garden and defining your aims.

+ How do I get help in planning and project management?

This is another important area: walled kitchen gardens require a wide range of expertise and linking these all together, providing the overview, is a skilled job in itself. Above all, be realistic in what you can achieve, and in deciding what your main purpose is. Please see our advice section to see how we can provide support in the planning and management of your project.

+ How do I research the history of a specific walled garden?

You may have to be a bit of a detective, but there are often many potential leads. Look at old maps in your local library. They may also have reference material on the garden, especially if attached to a house of significance. Try the local historical society, or county Gardens Trust (see http://www.gardenstrusts.co.uk/contacts.htm): they may already have undertaken some research, or be willing to help.

See the links section for national organisations that can help, and publications that will have general information but could also have specific detail of relevance. We may also have information: contact advice@walledgardens.net And don’t forget, ask around: local knowledge is often the most valuable.

+ How do I work out the original layout and structures?

Familiarise yourself by reading more about the history and practice of walled kitchen gardening (see publications). Old maps will indicate structures and boundaries, and archive material may include lists or details of what was there. Look for signs of old structures, such as recesses for roof flashing, white painted walls, soot blackening suggesting furnaces or vents, or different types of brick. Many of the secrets of the walled garden lie underground, but when excavating take care not to destroy important features: take it gently! Try some smaller test digs, or even dowsing to locate underground pipes or tanks. Please contact us if you’d like us to assess the historical significance of features in your walled garden, and advice on restoration.

+ What about freehold, leases or informal agreements?

Owning the freehold is usually the easiest for restoring and developing a walled garden. However, if the garden is not for sale, or you don’t have the funds, a lease/tenancy is the next option. Clearly you want to avoid a vast capital outlay on a short-term lease, but you could write in clauses specifying arrangements for valuations and compensation in the event of the freeholder refusing to renew the lease. Depending on the extent of structures (existing and planned) you will need to decide between an agricultural tenancy, a commercial lease or licence arrangement. But sometimes it’s just easier to take on a walled garden through an informal agreement and let the project grow slowly, building a good relationship with the owner as you transform his asset and making him aware of its potential.

+ What about restoring structures and other features?

The heritage value of old walled gardens is slowly becoming recognised, but many of the remaining examples are have now deteriorated and are in danger of being lost. Restoring structures is likely to be your biggest capital expense. Key questions are which structures to restore as priority, and to which era, as the remains of historical treasures often lie beneath more recent additions. You also need to think of their future use, so that you can ensure their sustainability. Local council archaeologists and public sector agencies such as Historic English can provide advice, and we’d be grateful if you’d also contact us so we can keep abreast of restoration projects, and provide advice as required.

+ Where can I get funding?

Private owners will find it very difficult getting funding for a restoration project, unless there are clear arrangements for public access and a sharing of control and management of the project.

Funders invariably support charities, voluntary and community-based organisations. Therefore, if you own a walled garden you may have to develop a partnership with other organisations to secure funding for restoration. The Heritage Lottery Fund may fund restoration projects, and there are a number of other government and other funds that will fund projects that have other aims but that could be located in the walled garden and so provide funds for restoration and management.

The Historic Garden Bursary Scheme

Would you like help to advance your horticultural career, acquire practical skills and knowledge in these kinds of areas: propagation for historic and botanic gardens, record keeping for plant collections, management of veteran trees or the restoration of walled gardens?

The Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme enables enthusiastic and committed horticulturalists to increase their horticultural and other technical skills through practically based training placements, in a range of historic and botanic gardens.

Find out more by going to www.hbgbs.org.uk

+ Where to buy heritage seeds and plants?

Recreating an authentic historic walled kitchen garden will require old varieties and cultivars. Fortunately there are now a number of specialised suppliers of plants and seeds, too numerous to list here. The HDRA Heritage Seed Library is a good start: www.hdra.org.uk/hsl/ HDRA and some of the other national organisations linked to the Walled Kitchen Gardens Network can generally advise their members on sources of plants and seeds. See also Heritage Vegetables under publications.