Day out: Herterton House Gardens, Northumberland

Early summer is the perfect time to experience the intimate artistry of this small but much-acclaimed rural Northumbrian garden, designed from scratch around a derelict 16th-century farmyard.

Published: May 9th, 2018 at 10:00 am
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It took 40 years for artists Frank and Marjorie Lawley to design and develop the exquisite Herterton House Gardens – a lifelong project that continues to flourish.


The Lawleys' knowledge and creativity with both hybridised and wild plants, and their understanding of form and pattern, are presented with a meticulous free-spiritness.

Herterton House Gardens
Herterton House Gardens ©Getty

Unusual white forms of wild rosebay willowherb and rose campions grow side by side among knapweeds and hesperis. Elegant veronicas, circiums and self-seeded poppies spill out over narrow paths, weaving their way past tightly clipped box swirls and buttoned columns. Hoverflies, butterflies and bees abound in the floral assortment, and even the walls grow green, covered by waistcoats of ivy that trace the edge of a window or door with utmost precision. No wonder it’s been described as a living work of art.

Looking through a doorway into Herterton House Gardens ©Getty

In June, Herterton’s unusual and ancient flora reaches its peak of glory, the delicate blooms protected from the harsh winds by mellow stone walls and towering yews. In the physic garden, clipped thymes and blocks of pink saxifrage are knitted into a fragrant tapestry of pinks and purples, and everywhere the Lawleys’ intensive garden craftsmanship unites the natural with the man-made to stunning effect.

Pink Saxifrage
Pink saxifrage grows in the physic garden ©Getty

From the gazebo you can view faded photographs of the garden in the making and look out on to gently undulating hills, trees and cattle.

Garden neighbours

A few miles south of Herterton Gardens is the National Trust estate of Wallington, where the Lawleys created their first garden. Its glorious parkland and woods are a haven for red squirrels, while the bordering River Wansbeck is popular with otters and white-clawed crayfish. Also nearby is Kirkharle, where Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was born and raised over 300 years ago.

The River Wansbeck rises in the Northumberland hills above Sweethope Lough, then journeys towards the North Sea near Newbiggin
Not far from he gardens, the River Wansbeck flows beneath Wallington Bridge ©Getty

Countryside walk

For a wilder walk, strike out north across Greenleighton Moor to Fontburn Reservoir, home to visiting ospreys and Bronze Age remains. From the gardens, it’s a five-minute drive to Greenleighton Quarry car park where the six-mile (2.5 hour) loop begins. Take the path uphill, keeping the SSSI limestone quarry on your right.

Go over the stile and head though woods, veering north across flowering moorland until you reach the western edge of the reservoir and a 3,000-year-old burial mound. As you near the water’s southern end, loop back south- west past shake holes and the cotton flower-decorated moor.


Now visit

Herterton House Gardens are open from April to September, every day except Tuesday and Thursday.


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