(Photo: Neil Setchfield)
These spectacular 17th-century 2.5-acre walled gardens were created in 1682 by Sir Stephen Fox, Paymaster General of the Armed Forces and Samuel Pepys' employer. In the early 19th century the gardens were incorporated into the 6th Duke of Devonshire's estate at Chiswick House. What had begun as a fashionable 'wilderness' of shrubs and specimen plants evolved into a productive garden, finally falling into decay in the late 20th century.
Under the umbrella of Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, restoration works based on documentary research and archaeological evidence have recently transformed the gardens. The northern walled garden has been turned from an abandoned modern nursery into a cherry orchard. In the southern walled garden, lost paths have been reinstated and over 240 historic fruit trees and soft fruits planted by volunteers.
The appointment of a community gardener in June 2010 (funded by the Big Lottery Fund's local food scheme) has led to the recruitment of many more volunteers and on-going contact with local community groups and schools. As well as regular volunteering sessions, a schools education programme is running one day a week and therapeutic gardening sessions are offered to groups who benefit from 'hands on' horticultural activities.
The garden continues to develop. As well as our existing herb, flower, fruit and crop rotation a new fruit cage has been constructed with the help of volunteers. We have a colony of bees established through the London Mayor's Capital Bee initiative.
The walled gardens are reached via the Italian garden and splendid 300ft conservatory built in 1813.