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Hutton-in-the-forest

Historic house and gardens 6 miles north of Penrith. Some fruit trees in the walled gardens.

Hutton-in-the-Forest claims to be the legendary Green Knight’s Castle in the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Its forest was the second largest Royal Forest in mediaeval England. The oldest part of the current house is the Pele Tower, dating from the 14th century, built as defence against the Scots. The highlight of the gardens and grounds is the 17th century Walled Garden. The walls were built in the 1730s and were then planted with peach, apricot, plum, pear and apple trees. Yews were added, both here and on the terraces around the House, in the 19th century to reflect the revived interest in topiary by the Arts and Crafts movement. The Walled Garden has been successively an ornamental Dutch Garden, a kitchen and cutting garden and, during WWII, a market garden. The current layout has evolved over the last sixty or so years although many of the fruit trees are much older. There are 75 year-old apple, pear and plum trees espaliered or fantrained against the south and west walls, and three Morello cherries in an adjacent courtyard. The senior resident tree is a 120 year-old Bramley grown as a free-standing espalier which still carries a huge crop of fruit. Other espaliers continue an east-west line from the Bramley. Going south from the Bramley toward the House are a line of free-standing apple trees. In total there are about 25 apple trees, 9 pears, 4 plums & gages, the 3 cherries and a damson. Rootstocks are unknown but clearly vigorous, so possibly M2. There is some scab, but not enough to require spraying, also some canker but the trees vigour enables them to outgrow it. The major pest is woolly aphid, typically on the shady undersides of main limbs which can be rubbed out with a brush from time to time. Pruning is mostly done in the winter simply for reasons of spreading the workload against priorities throughout the year, but the 120yr old Bramley has to be summer pruned also otherwise it would be impossible to manage because of its vigour. The other free-standing trees are also summer pruned because they can be done quickly from ground level. The espaliers against the walls involve ladder work which takes much longer. A fair proportion of the apples at Hutton-in-the-forest are earlies which have to be picked and used as they ripen. The fruit is used for a range of purposes, some in the kitchen & Tea Room, some (eg Lady Sudeley) for decorative purposes in the public rooms of the Hall, some for juicing, while Egremont Russet is Lady Inglewood’s favourite. There is an apple store upstairs in an outbuilding where Cox and Bramley are stored in single layers on paper over wooden trays to Christmas provided the mice don’t get them first. Amongst the varieties, the Cox seems to do fairly well without too much scab or canker despite the Cumbrian climate, although the rainfall at Hutton-in-the-Forest is lower than in most of Cumbria. The biggest disappointment is the Crawley Beauty which rarely crops, in fact rarely has blossom.

Gardens open end March to end October daily except Saturdays 11am – 5pm. Gardens & grounds admission £6. Location: 3 miles north-west of M6 junction 41 on B5305. Postcode for satnav: CA11 9TH. Tel: 017684 84449

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