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A wonderful wildlife haven at Kelsale

PUBLISHED: 11:35 25 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:35 25 August 2015

Kelsale Garden

Kelsale Garden


Nestled into a natural organic farm landscape, is a nature-friendly garden which focuses on flora and fauna. Amy Gallivan asked Miranda Kendall and her gardener Brian Skilton about their inspiration. Photos: Marcus Harpur

Kelsale GardenKelsale Garden

Blending into natural surroundings and supporting ethical philosophies, has been the focus behind Miranda and her husband William Kendall’s Kelsale garden which has been created over the last eight years by gardener Brian Skilton, whose vision continues to guide it.

Miranda wanted to create a habitat which could blend seamlessly into the natural organic farm landscape of Maple Farm, Kelsale, that surrounds her Edwardian home, By The Crossways, which was built by her Suffragist ancestor Mrs Gerald Paget.

“It has evolved into a well-rounded and wildlife-friendly garden that reflects the aims of the owners,” said gardener Brian Skilton. “It is maintained organically without use of pesticides or herbicides and there are no bonfires.” He added. “All cuttings and trimmings are composted, mulched or arranged ornamentally in different parts of the garden, particularly dead branches and logs, to provide insect habitat and nesting areas,” he commented.

The two-arce space presents a different idea of gardening where wild areas are as important as formal areas. They are, for example, in some ways more complex to manage, claims Brian. “It is harder to manage wild areas than you might think,” he said. “Maintaining it year round to provide a range of habitats for wildlife such as nesting birds, means mowing at different levels at different times of the year and knowing which plants to allow to run free and which ones to control.”

Kelsale GardenKelsale Garden

Miranda and her husband wanted to share this vision with their visitors, many of whom may be aware of the farm for its vegetables, pork, eggs, honey and flour, but might not know that the garden lies behind the wall.

The pair will be opening their garden for the first time as part of the National Garden Scheme on Sunday, September 13 from 11am - 5pm when guests can view this wild wonder and enjoy afternoon tea.

Guests can run through the trees, wander wild in the hedgerows, meander by the mixed borders, grasses and take in the heady scents of the sub-tropical plants.

There’s also fruit, vegetables, medicinal herbs, cut flowers grown for the little farm shop as well as lawns and wild-flower meadows to enjoy.

“The garden is surrounded by traditional farm hedgerows and numerous mature trees, both ornamental and native. Many more trees and shrubs have been planted recently, some of which are pruned as topiary or to extend hedges and divisions,” said Miranda. “A few large dead trees are being left to rot and collapse naturally over time and have become features in their own right,” she said. “Much of the planting can be described as naturalistic, blending perennials, bulbs and grasses with ornamental shrubs,” added Brian. “Familiar plants jostle with their wild cousins and weeds are welcome if they add to the rich visual tapestry,” he said. “In the late summer and early autumn, perennials and prairie grasses such as miscanthus should be at their best,” he added.

The garden also plays host to a huge number of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, which mingle an dance in the different habitats perfect for a multitude of insects, especially for bees. It is also a haven for birds such as woodpeckers, barn owls, tawny owls and little owls, all of which can be seen soaking up the wonderfully wild greenery.

“Nightingales nest most years on the farm, and there are hedgehogs and rather bigger mammals such as red deer, roe deer and muntjac who come in from the surrounding area,” commented Brian.

There is also a very old crinkle-crankle wall which separates the vegetable garden from the driveway. Brian said: “It has become a showcase for heat and drought-tolerant plants such as the bottle brush tree and unusual fruiting trees and shrubs which can use the heat of the brickwork. This is Miranda’s favourite part of the garden, but Brian likes the wild areas, the parts which other people may not notice. n

By the Crossways, Kelsale, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 2PL. Open Sunday, September 13, 11am -5pm. Entry costs £4 adult, children free. Visitors are also welcome by arrangement March to December for groups of 10 during the week. Light refreshments available.

Tel: 01728 602044. Full details on the NGS website at


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