Out There column


Autumn is a bitter-sweet time of year in gardens across the land.

Plants such as sweet peas, asters and heleniums are putting on a final riotous display of colour while bees busily collect nectar from the fading blooms.

The transition from summer into autumn was particularly apparent when I visited Sizergh Hall in Cumbria on Sunday.

As I explored the magnificent gardens I felt slightly melancholic at the sight of the withering plants and leaves. However, such feelings didn’t last long as there was so much to marvel at.

I’d been to Sizergh before and I was keen to have a look around the kitchen garden to pick up some ideas.

I was delighted when a friendly gardener showed me around one of the glasshouses as I am about to put a greenhouse up in my own garden.

The kitchen garden is notable for the colourful and unconventional ways in which flowering plants are grown alongside vegetables, herbs and fruit.

After walking through the grounds and admiring the estate’s majestic trees, I explored the great house with its huge creaking floorboards, magnificent wood-panelled rooms, carvings of fearsome beasts and impressive paintings.

Sizergh has been associated with the Strickland family since 1239.

The solar tower of the castle was a potent symbol of the Stricklands’ power during the Middle Ages when they played a leading role in the wars with Scotland and France. Prominent as Catholic royalists throughout the 17th century, the Stricklands went into exile in 1688 with the court of James II in France.

They returned to Sizergh by the early 18th Century as impoverished Jacobites and the house was eventually given to the National Trust in 1950.

After more than 750 years in the hands of the Strickland family, it still feels like a welcoming family home; an impressive achievement.