Photographs: Charles Francis
July 2013: A conversation with owners Judy and Kevin Channer
Higher Trenedden is an intriguing mix of cottage garden, arboretum, meadow and wetland. Did you know from the start this was the kind of garden you wanted?
Judy: Before we bought this house, I liked the idea of living somewhere on the north coast, by the beach. We weren’t particularly looking for a garden — but when we saw this place, we fell in love with it. It was once part of a farm, and the framework for the cottage garden was already here, with lots of poppies and Japanese anemones. We’ve kept that framework, and also the laurel hedge and herbaceous border between the cottage garden and the croquet lawn. The cottage garden leads to a woodland walk, bordered by wild garlic and overlooked by camellias and rhododendrons. We cleared an area of nettles there, and we’re establishing things like periwinkle and cotoneaster. But the first thing we decided to do was create an arboretum in the overgrown orchard.
How did you decide what trees to plant?
Kevin: We kept some existing oaks and Cornish elms, and introduced some architectural trees and some trees which give us a mixture of colours and look good in different seasons, from amelanchiers in early spring to red, yellow and purple acers in the autumn. We sourced a lot from the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery at Lostwithiel, and others from BlueBell Arboretum in Leicestershire. Some are quite unusual, like a columnar copper beech; the rarest is probably a variegated photinia. In the arboretum, we also have a Chinese area with bamboo, Chinese fir and Gingko biloba — and an authentic warrior statue which we brought back from China. Beyond the arboretum there is a flat area which was once the farm’s chicken coop, and this was originally the end of the garden.
How did you go about extending the garden beyond this point?
Kevin: The farmer next door agreed to sell us a meadow and some marshland, which had been left to do nothing for years. We now have a pond there, with streams running round it. We put an aerating pondweed in it, but it’s taken over, so we’ve got to get it taken out — but we do have water lilies as well.
We had a boardwalk built over the wetland, because it’s very boggy; Brad Harper, who runs BH Gardens at Lanreath, did all the major construction.
The boardwalk leads to a raised summerhouse, and we sit there in the evening and watch the sun going down. It’s a moving mass of butterflies. We have a primus there, so we can have a cup of tea. We think it’s idyllic.
It must also be a haven for wildlife …
Judy: We put in some decoy ducks to attract mallards and it worked — we now have five. The first real duck circled round the decoy, wondering what it was. We also have Canada geese, who have made their own path through the wetland.
We’re hoping for newts, as we’ve been told there used to be some in the streams. Around the pond there are also damselflies and butterflies, and we frequently see deer at the end of the boardwalk.
Kevin: We have a movement-activated wildlife camera, which has captured foxes and badgers at night. We’re now looking into borrowing a water buffalo to graze the meadow, as they’re gentler than cows.
What can visitors see on your open day in July?
Judy: We hope the wetland will be full of wildflowers. There should be a lot of meadowsweet, which attracts the butterflies and is very pretty, and also tormentil, fleabane, devil’s bit scabious, trefoil, St John’s wort, hemp agrimony and ragged robin. There will probably still be some marsh orchids, as they’re late this year.
This is the first year Higher Trenedden has opened under the National Gardens Scheme. Why did you want to be involved with the scheme?
Kevin: What attracted me to the NGS is that they support the National Trust garden apprenticeship scheme, and I think it’s good to help bring on young gardeners. When we contacted the NGS, the idea was that we would open the garden some time in the future, but they were very excited because of the wild areas, and they wanted us to open this year. We don’t know how many people will turn up on the day so we’ve got a houseful of helpers. There’ll be a lot of baking going on the day before!