Cheshire Gardens - an endless acre in Malpas

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 October 2014

A mix of ideas

A mix of ideas

not Archant

Meet a couple who are so devoted to their Malpas garden that they never go on holiday. Clearly, their dedication is paying off

Twelve years after they bought a house surrounded by an acre of wilderness, Alan Bourne and Paul Philpotts can look back with considerable pride at their achievements. The property, just outside Malpas, had been empty for a year and suffered neglect before that. So the ‘garden’ was little more than overgrown grass sitting on a seam of clay which made it flood regularly.

By early spring this year, the flooding problem was still evident after a very wet winter, but the garden is a myriad of delights including wonderful scents and an endless chorus of birdsong. But Alan and Paul don’t dwell on their achievements, only their plans for the future. Knowing that all good gardeners look forwards, as you share their current success in this edition of Cheshire Life, you can be certain that they will be hatching plans for next spring.

They don’t do holidays because ‘the garden might run away from us and you have to keep on top of things.’ But then again, this isn’t just one garden: it winds its way around the bungalow and morphs into a succession of habitats: ponds, rockeries, lawns, glebes, vegetable patches, container gardens, more lawns, a daffodil dell…..so that as you meander around, it feels like an endless acre.

It’s quirky. It’s packed with statues of everyone from Andromeda to Big Ears, along with strange pieces of memorabilia. But all this gives a clear impression of a highly personal space which has been encouraged to develop its own identity and reflect its owners’ personalities. Some areas are formal; in others, conventions have been thrown out of the window. Most reassuringly, it’s completely without pretention.

Something to please the eye in every cornerSomething to please the eye in every corner

All gardeners have their crosses to bear. At the foot of this garden is a truly enormous electricity pylon: ‘If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the house!’ says Alan with a wry smile. The remarkable thing is that it’s so well camouflaged by the planting that I was hardly aware of its presence, even though my eyes were constantly pulled upwards by the intensity of the birdsong.

And every gardener has their favourites. With Paul it’s hostas which he propagates lovingly so that he has hundreds of plants in a multiplicity of varieties. They sell the surplus at garden open days which they hold for charity, and describe with infectious enthusiasm.

And every successful gardener works hard at it. Paul and Alan quietly reassure you that it’s not about having money to throw at your next project. In fact, they are just as enthusiastic about their compost heaps as they are about the magnificent camellia next door.

The fine English poet Douglas Dunn wrote that ‘only a garden can teach gardening’. They did most of the gruelling work in digging out the overgrown mess that they inherited, creating new features along the way. They’ve successfully worked around the existing trees, and it’s clear that they learnt about getting the best out of their eco-system in the process.

Packed with statuesPacked with statues

They’ve left their own stamp upon their landscape. And it shows. In spades.

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