"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 13 May 2019

Hill Close Gardens and Garden Nesting Activity


Hill Close Gardens (or the Hidden Hedged Gardens of Warwick) are a rare example of Victorian detached gardens used by residents of the town who lived above their premises in the town centre and had no room to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers in their own back yards which were tiny.

In the mid 1840's the owner of Hill Close divided his land into 32 separate plots and rented them out to towns people so they could use them as detached gardens. The Warwick Board of Health Map of 1851 shows that the gardens were laid out with hedges, entrances, paths and summer houses/sheds and there is also evidence of fruit trees and ornamental planting. The Summer Houses of which there are many in the gardens today were mainly wooden but some of the later ones were built in brick.

By 1860 the freehold of some of the gardens had been sold to individual families and this has helped their survival although only 16 plots are still in existence as the other plots were sold in Edwardian times for housing. Owners included William Sleath who had a bootmaking business; John Margetts who was an Auctioneer, Surveyor and Appraisor and the Chadblands who were butchers.

Some owners cultivated the plots themselves whereas others rented them out. Some of the plots were owned by the same family for many years and other plots were only rented for a short time. The gardens were used for both pleasure and production.

The gardens were cultivated until after World War2 when Warwick District Council began to buy the plots to use the land for housing. After this most of the remaining gardens became overgrown and derelict. In the 1990's a local resident spotted diggers moving onto the site of the remaining gardens and that marked the beginning of the rescue of the gardens with one important factor being that four of the summer houses were listed as Grade 2 buildings. A local committee was set up to fight the development and the Council agreed that English Heritage should decide whether the gardens were historically important. Research revealed the heritage value of the gardens and development was cancelled and eventually a trust was set up to secure the garden's future and restoration. Many volunteers have worked to bring the gardens back to the condition they are in today and continue to maintain them. The gardens were opened to the public from 1998. In Victorian times there were hundreds of detached gardens all around the country but Hill Close is now one of only five remaining.

I can't remember how I first found out about the gardens but I have wanted to visit for quite a few years and Sunday was such a lovely day that we decided Hill Close would be our afternoon out.

Timothy waiting to depart

We started off in the tea room as no-one had had lunch. The Pear and Ginger cake was delicious.

View towards the gardens from the tearoom terrace.

One of the plots today contains an area of plant sales, a greenhouse and a well.

All of the gardens are different and hidden from the others. It is like walking round a series of "secret gardens" and you have no idea what surprise is around the corner. There are around 16 small gardens.

Butterflies seen included Brimstone, Holly Blue and this female Orange Tip

Timothy made a new friend :)

The gardens were delightful and I certainly hope we can visit again at a different time of the year.

Some of the photos my son took.












We had parked by Warwick Race course - the car park is right next to the gardens.

Garden Nesting Activity

The final total of eggs in the Blue Tit nest was nine and on Saturday 3 little chicks had emerged - sorry not the best of photos - the nest camera is linked into the television.

Mother Blue Tit eating the egg shells.

Today Monday there seem to be six or possibly seven chicks. The parents are working hard at feeding and fortunately the weather has gone warmer.

*D Photos taken by my son with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera

Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera


Hill Close Gardens Guide Book
Leaflet on the Gardens


David M. Gascoigne, said...

It is interesting to note the egg shells being consumed after hatching. I am not quite sure of the adaptive significance of that, unless it is simply to get rid of the shells. We grind up egg shells and place them outside before eggs are laid, to assist the female in laying down calcium. They are avidly consumed.

Sharon said...

Looks like a gorgeous place to visit, and I love the idea of the series of "secret" different gardens!

Midmarsh John said...

Our respective Blue Tits seem to be working to the same timetable. Looks like all the eggs here hatched over the weekend and today the parents have been non-stop feeding for about 13 hrs..

Amanda Peters said...

It does look a lovely place and well worth another visit, reminds me a bit of York gate gardens with all the different areas. Beautiful photos as ever.
So pleased to see the chicks hatching I do hope they are all doing well.
Amanda xx

Rustic Pumpkin said...

Well, you do find some amazing places to visit, but this one is out there on it's own. I just love the idea of how the garden was divided up, and so happy to learn it is now being protected as the unique space it is. Pear and Ginger cake sounds utterly delicious too. Waving at Timothy!


Rosie said...

What a wonderful story about the creation of the gardens and the reason behind it, also that they were saved and are now being restored. It reminds me of some gardens in St Anne's in Nottingham we visited a few years ago some still in private hands and others used and worked by community groups. It looks as if you had a wonderful day out with lots to see and do. Lovely photos from both you and D:)

Pam said...

What a lovely place and fantastic they managed to save it from development, it was such a good idea for families, I suppose like allotments but more than that. The pear and ginger cake sounds so nice i've had to go look for a recipe for it!

Ragged Robin said...

David Gascoigne - Thank you re: the egg shells. I am sure I have read that they are eaten rather than ditched to deter predators but with Blue Tits nesting in holes I am not so sure. Also presumably female eats (as with hens) to replace calcium lost through egg laying. Perhaps it is a combination of the two?

Sharon - Thank you and yes it was lovely there.

Midmarsh John - Thank you and yes the timetable does seem similar. Glad to hear yours are doing so well - will check out your latest post later.

Amanda Peters - Thank you and yes I can see the similarity to the gardens you visit :)

Rustic Pumpkin - Thank you. From photos I had seen on the internet I thought the gardens would be good but they surpassed my expectations :) Timothy waves back! Not sure if you will spot this reply but I can't seem to access your blog any more :( If you don't see will mention it to you on Twitter.

Rosie - Thank you. It is so good that these gardens have been saved and the volunteers must work so hard to keep them looking so lovely and productive.

Pam - Thank you. The gardens must have been a wonderful place for the Victorians to relax (some lovely little summer houses) and grow fruit, flower and vegetables. I might look for a recipe for the cake too - it really was delicious!

Caroline Gill said...

Such a lot going on! I love those young Blue tits... do hope, RR, that these ones survive. The gardens look a wonderful place for an afternoon out (especially with that beautiful cake!). Timothy looks in his element - and I would be, too, with just one of the summerhouses! Lovely to see the butterflies: I keep hoping for more and am amazed at the ones folk have seen (Green hairstreaks, various Fritillary etc.) on Twitter and Instagram in the last few days.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thank you. Looks promising so far re: Blue Tit chicks - there are 7 and parents are feeding regularly so keeping our fingers crossed :)

The gardens really were a good discovery -very tranquil and peaceful and not very busy :)

I still haven't seen that many species of butterfly this year and I have never seen a Green Hairstreak! Last year we went to Ryton Woods and Country Park where I know they can be seen but could I fine one? No!!!

Caroline Gill said...

Well, I'm only one Green Hairstreak ahead of you, RR! It was lovely to find our first (and so far only) White-letter Hairstreak last year.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Ha ha - but at least you have seen one :) I've not see White letter or black hairstreak (think the latter is very localised in just one area) but have seen Brown (several times) and Purple (many).

CherryPie said...

The garden history is really interesting.

Lovely view of the Blue Tit :-)

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you.