Garden of ancient hall at Mitton set to open to the public

Jean Kay in her garden at Great Mitton Hall.
Jean Kay in her garden at Great Mitton Hall.

It’s the time of year when green fingered enthusiasts the length and breadth of Britain open up their normally private gardens to visitors in aid of good causes as part of a national scheme.

Last year alone the National Open Garden Scheme donated £2.7 million to a number of charities, many of them cancer related.

The parterre - knot garden at Great Mitton Hall.

The parterre - knot garden at Great Mitton Hall.

One such garden to open within the scheme, which this year opens for its sixth successive year, is that of Great Mitton Hall at Mitton near Clitheroe.

The view alone from this medieval styled garden surrounding the 1380 grade two listed former manor house is one not to be missed.

Almost adjoining the ancient church of All Hallows, you would think the church, a sight in itself, is actually part of the garden as you enter. Then, as you turn to the right, get set to have your breath taken away. For there before you lies a stunning view over the Ribble Valley to Pendle Hill, down to the gentle curve of the meandering Ribble and valley below, to the Aspinall Arms and bridge over the river.

Jean Kay, 68, has been transforming the garden since moving to the hall with her husband Ken eight years ago.

She says: “I wanted a period house. It is my love. I have redesigned the garden to link with the church as it would have been like that in the past. The monks from Cockerham Abbey lived here for a time and I also wanted to keep the planting low because the views are so beautiful and so people can see the church.”

There is a parterre - knot garden, terracing, herb borders, lots of topiary, chickens, flowers, but not too many, as Jean says they would not have had much flora in times past, vegetable and lavender gardens, quirky features and plenty of seating areas to admire the view or just sit in a quiet corner.

Birds are encouraged and each year Jean likes to add a new feature. This year there is a new flagged patio. Also, try and see if you can spot the new owls carved out of oak.

In fact, everything Jean believes would have been “fitting to the house” has gradually been added.

Jean, who ran an antiques and craft shop in Great Harwood for 30 years, describes the garden as “a passion”.

She likes to “create areas and displays” and says: “When I am planting I plant a lot of white. There is a lot of white in the garden, but I like to plant colours too. It is a summer garden rather than a spring garden. I don’t have any bedding, everything I plant is perennial.

Over the years Jean says her open garden event has become a meeting place for local people and visitors and on average she welcomes 600 people over the weekend.

Over the years Jean has raised £15,000, with three quarters going to the charities of the National Garden Scheme and one quarter for her own choice, Help for Heroes.

Jean, who ran Whalley History Society for seven years, will be opening her garden on Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25 from 1pm to 5pm each day and admission is £4 for adults and children are free.

Lights refreshments are also provided and there are book and bric a brac stalls.

All Hallows is also open throughout the weekend with guided tours of the tower.

Jean, who leads tours at nearby Browsholme Hall, adds: “I feel that I am very fortunate to live here and I feel it is good to share the garden and view with other people and equally to help the community.