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  • Writer's pictureCheri LaMay

Focus on a Sloping Country Garden near Harrogate: Example Design by Earthworks Garden Design

In 2008 I worked with Harrogate resident Ian to design the garden around his town house. I was so pleased when Ian contacted me again in 2015 to say that he and his  partner Claire had bought a tumble down farm in the Crimple Valley near Harrogate and were planning to renovate the farmhouse and barn; and that they wanted to work with me to design the gardens surrounding their new home.

We met up to discuss their needs and wishes and to look at the fields that would become the gardens; and to look at the architect’s drawings for the house and barn.

The fields around the house are steeply sloping in a lot of different directions, and it was important to design flat, useable areas of garden whilst working with the contours as much as possible to avoid having huge retaining walls! Ian and Claire showed me some pictures of what they wanted for the garden: simple dry stone walls, lots of beautiful Birch trees in rows, woodland plantings, and traditional cottage plantings.

When designing gardens I take inspiration from the Spirit of Place. This means that I refer to the local flora and fauna, folklore, building traditions, cultural aspects and any other aspects that set a place apart. Excitingly, this part of Crimple Valley is spanned by a Victorian viaduct which carries trains between Leeds and Harrogate. It is surrounded by rolling hills, sheep, and dry stone walls for the most part!

Tidy Concept

Above we see the Concept Plan that was drawn up and presented to Ian and Claire for their feedback.

I designed the front garden with ground level beds that run from the house to the outer wall of the garden, in order to draw the eye to the landscape beyond. Raised beds also feature in the front. Initially I set them out in a simple grid, taking inspiration from geometrically laid out animal pens which we had seen when first visiting the site. The idea was that these would be full to bursting with lovely wafty cottage plants, bring the plants up to eye level, and offer lots of informal seating on their edges.

FMF sketch 7

Above we see a sketch of the front garden when viewed from the house.

FMF sketch 01

Sketch of back garden when viewed from the house.

The back garden takes inspiration from the viaduct with a paved area immediately outside the house and a few steps leading up to a flat, arch shaped lawn. Raised beds tie in with the front garden and mounds of Hawthorn planting are trimmed to make divets, referring to the chunky ironwork associated with trains. I love the idea of these divets being made of dark twisted Hawthorn which will burst into white blossom in spring, come into bright green leaf, and then have cheerful red berries once the leaves have fallen. They will also offer nesting sites and food to birds.

A series of low retaining walls and steps leads from the paved area around the house to a Birch tree walk along the south-western and north-western boundary of the garden. This walk gives a feeling of intimate enclosure and privacy, and guides you up into the furthest reaches of the garden.

FMF sketch 04

Sketch of view from north-western corner to house and viaduct.

At the top of the hill in the north-western corner you can sit on a south-east facing bench and look over more Hawthorn divets to the viaduct.

Continuing along the Birch tree walk the hill descends and the path takes you to a firepit, which also looks onto the viaduct. This is at the edge of the garden and is designed to feel like an escape, a little bit wild and even a little bit edgey! A place to stare at the stars and the occassional passing train.

FMF sketch 5

The firepit is a secret- feeling place.

The area between the farmhouse and the barn was designed to offer visitors a welcome, and somewhere to park.

FMF sketch 6

View of the drive showing the front of the farmhouse and the side of the barn.

The back of the barn faces directly towards the viaduct. The arches in the design reflect those in the viaduct, and they are expressed as low hedging which borders on planting beds and seating areas behind the barn.

FMF Sketch 8

Sketch view to viaduct from back of Barn.

Further away is the Kitchen Garden, with vegetable beds and rows of fruit trees and bushes.

Once I had prepared the Concept Plan and associated sketches I met with Ian and Claire again, presented to them and got their valuable feedback. They were delighted in general but had a few changes. They felt that the grid pattern and straight lines in the front garden was too severe, so we sketched out a similar layout using curving lines. Certain other aspects changed too because the design for the house had changed slightly. I made a few sketches to reflect these changes.

Once Ian and Claire were happy that we had a shared vision they took some time to focus on renovating the buildings. A year later they contacted me again to ask me to make the detailed drawings for their own builder to work to. With the sloping site and changing levels throughout the garden during the work there were inevitably changes to be integrated into the drawings! Below you can see the detailed Master Plan which I drew on a CAD programme.

FMF Master Plan 01

Above we see the detailed Master Plan which includes cross sections of hte entire site, to show how the different levels relate.

And, finally, the planting, the icing on the cake! First a Plant Palette was made, showing photos of groups of key plants which were related to the plan to give an overall feel for the different areas of the garden. The plants were selected based on the unique soil, light and drainage conditions of the site. The Planting Plans were prepared showing the location of each plant on the ground, and included a Plant Schedule which specifies the number of required plants and the size of the pots.

FMF Planting Plan2 Birch Tree Walk and North of Back Garden

Planting Plan showing the Birch Tree Walk and associated planting.

FMF-Planting Plan-FMF Planting Plan House and Barn

Planting Plan showing various types of planting throughout the garden.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about this garden design project in Harrogate. If you are interested in talking to me about your own garden please contact me via my website at; or by emailing; or by calling me on 07958199403.

If you are interested in learning more about garden design please ask about the garden design courses that I teach at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate.

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