Gardening and eventing in Kelsall

PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 September 2016

Louise and Dave Darlington of Mount Pleasant Gardens and Sculpture Trail

Louise and Dave Darlington of Mount Pleasant Gardens and Sculpture Trail


Kelsall is sculpting a successful future with help from talented locals, as Emma Mayoh discovered.

Mount Pleasant GardensMount Pleasant Gardens

When Dave Darlington and his wife Louise moved into their Kelsall property, they had ambitions to create a stunning garden to relax in and enjoy. They never expected to be sharing it with the paying public. But 20 years on, visitors travel from far and wide to see the flora and fauna at Mount Pleasant Gardens in Yeld Lane.

‘The house came on sale but it was the garden I wanted, said Dave, 66. ‘We were living in Kelsall before but we always said that if anything up on the hill ever came free, we’d have to go for it.

‘Well, eventually, a house came up. We bought it at auction. There was an old cottage which we knocked down. I gradually started working on the gardens and it’s developed into what we have now.’

Dave and Louise started with a third of an acre of land. Today the couple , after buying more land, now look after ten acres of land behind and in front of their home. There is a Japanese garden, lakes and ponds, traditional mixed gardens with thousands of varieties of plants that bloom into a marvel of colour in the summer. The tiered garden, which slopes down the hillside, gives incredible views of the Cheshire Plain. They also have a vegetable plot.

Dave and Louise’s success has earned praise from many different organisations including the National Garden Scheme and it is one of the RHS recommended gardens. It has also been commended by Sam Youd, who was head gardener at Tatton Park for many years.

‘Sam is a friend and he’s given me advice over the year,’ said Dave. ‘He has always been pleased with what we do here which is a huge compliment. We never set out for it to be what it has become today.

‘But we never see it as a job; if we did we would probably hate it because it’s such hard work. We both enjoy it.’

The pair have also showcased the work of talented sculptors and artists. Over the years the collection has gone from strength-to-strength and as well as the beautiful displays in the main gardens they have now also opened a special Sculpture Trail at the side of a beautiful wildflower meadow they also created across the road from their home. Cheshire artists are put in the spotlight along with other creatives from across the country. They also host different art and craft themed workshops in Mount Pleasant’s café in the heart of the gardens including Louise, who holds a felting workshop. This month they will host their Annual September Sculpture Exhibition that draws artists from across the UK and they are interested in receiving more applications. Resident artist, and Louise’s brother Andrew Worthington, who runs a regular sandstone carving workshop will also be exhibiting.

Mary Lofthouse of Crewe negotiates the first fence in the Cross Country event on Cappoquin JonMary Lofthouse of Crewe negotiates the first fence in the Cross Country event on Cappoquin Jon

‘It started with Andrew,’ said Louise. ‘We said he could display his work here when he was starting out. He has his workshop here too. It’s a real asset for us and people love his work.

‘We’re very lucky to have so many talented sculptors who want to show their work here. And there are so many talented people in Cheshire. It’s only when you walk around the garden and sculpture trail that you realise just how many local artists there are.’

What is remarkable about what Dave and Louise have achieved is that they have done everything singlehandedly. When we visited, Dave was clearing one area of the garden to plant up new plants and shrubs. And he can’t imagine giving it up anytime soon.

‘I’ll do this for as long as I can,’ said Dave. ‘It’s something that is hard work but I really enjoy it and it’s lovely to share it with other people who really appreciate what we have done.

Tarvin's Holly Davies on L ArmaniTarvin's Holly Davies on L Armani

Just a short trip down the road is another group of people doing their bit to put Kelsall on the map. Phil Latham is director of Kelsall Hill Equestrian Centre and co-organiser of the Kelsall Hill Horse Trials, along with Jane Whitaker. The popular equestrian event draws top class competitors as well as visitors from across the country. The course at the British Eventing trials is drawn up by course designer and Olympic gold medal winning Captain Mark Phillips. It is constructed by a team who have built courses across the UK and internationally, at the Beijing Olympics. Flowers on the jumps are put together by Ring Craft, a company that has a wealth of experience in fence dressing including at the London 2012 Olympic cross country course. Their experience coupled with the hard work of staff at Kelsall Hill has earned the event a stellar reputation.

Phil said: ‘We do pride ourselves on having a top class, friendly team to bring together the horse trials. We have a team with a breadth of experience at world class and Olympic level and we are very fortunate to have them.

‘The horse trials is something that takes a lot of organising but it’s something we all get a lot of pleasure from, particularly when we see things come together on the days of the event.

Kelsall Hill, part of Organsdale Farm, has been run by Phil’s family. It was originally a traditional farm but as the farming industry became more of a challenge they looked at other ways to work the site. It was then that Phil, along with his family, decided to set up the riding track on the rural site. Today, the centre offers quality facilities for riders of all abilities.

The horse trials, held in spring and autumn, are highlights of the centre’s calendar. Horse enthusiasts pour into the three day event. It has also expanded and will have a Pets on the Hill on the Sunday running alongside the trials. There will be dog shows, ferret racing, farm animals and agility and training displays.

Phil said: ‘We are incredibly proud of Kelsall Hill Horse Trials and it’s something we look forward to each year.

‘The way that the event is expanding and the fact more people want to be involved means that we’re doing something right. We would love to have an international status in the coming years. It’s good to have that to work towards. I’m very much looking forward to this year’s event.’

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