Sunday, 7 June 2015

Redhall Walled Garden, Edinburgh

A couple of weeks ago, friends in Edinburgh asked would we like to come along on a visit to Redhall Walled Garden, in the western suburbs of Edinburgh, as they were having an open day.  The small boy was at first a bit reluctant but changed his mind and I am so glad he did.

The garden is run by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) as an employment and learning support service for people recovering from episodes of serious mental ill health.  They offer training and support but have also created the most magical haven.  It's partly funded from various public bodies, but as with so much these days is increasingly having to become self-sustaining and one of the ways they do this is through plant sales and fundraising on their open days.

The garden itself was originally the walled garden for the nearby Redhall House and served two purposes - firstly it was the house's kitchen garden.  In Scotland, summers can be short and the weather unpredictable, so sheltered walled gardens allowed fruit and vegetables that would otherwise not survive to be cultivated.  A greenhouse attached to a south-facing wall meant tender fruits and exotic flowers could also be grown.  Walled gardens also had a more leisurely function, for the occupants of the "big hoose" and included formal areas, water features and elaborate planting.  At Redhall there is also a summer house, currently being restored, which provided them with shelter, warmth (it has an impressive fireplace) and comfort to take in a view - in this case an avenue of trees down to the Water of Leith.  More recent additions are a replica neolithic roundhouse and a sandpit for kids, as well as polytunnels for cultivating plants.

Today, the gardens are open to the public on weekdays and on a number of weekend open days during the year - at which they also sell the most amazing cream teas.  About half the garden is devoted to raising plants and half is laid out as formal and informal gardens.  There are lots of areas to explore for kids.  The ground is gently sloping with firm gravel, firm grass and a few paved paths - all but the bottom level was easily accessible and I suspect had I explored further I'd have found a way down there as well.  It would benefit from a couple more paved routes from the bottom of the garden back to the top (there's one at the very end), just to make getting back up a bit easier, but I managed on the well-treaded and firm grass paths without help.

As a gardener, it's great place to buy plants as you know they've been raised to survive our climate - as opposed to those at the garden centre chains which have been shipped in from much further south.  I got a nice collection which will be making their way into the bed below my living room window just as soon as the painting work on the windows is finished.  

As ever I took far too few photos - I need to get back into the habit of this as it is much easier with the wheelchair.  I did get a couple of the kids - chasing each other round the herbaceous border and investigating the pond.

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