Paradise from Scratch
Over the years the Hall has seen many changes but perhaps the most significant was the introduction of the much despised window tax by William 111 in 1696. Thornton Hall blocked up many of its windows at this time and we believe the walled gardens returned to being orchards.
When Mike and Sue Manners moved to Thornton Hall in 1989 there were no longer any orchards and the three walled gardens were just walled paddocks grazed by cattle and sheep.
In the summer of 1995, Sue decided that she would like to take the first paddock to make a garden and have an area for the children to play in that was free from cattle and sheep. With no gardening knowledge and a complete blank canvas Sue spent long hours removing the grass, a back breaking exercise considering she did it all by hand. The first borders were only two to three feet wide and filled with plants that Sue had either grown from seed herself which was both cheap,fun and satisfying or from many of the local nurseries she frequently visited. Trees and shrubs were bought predominately in the beginning from Egglestone Hall Gardens as Sue believed if they would grow up at Egglestone they would certainly grow on the lower land in Darlington. One small border a year was planted until in 1999 an ornamental pond complete with stream,rocks and waterfall was added which completely transformed the garden and brought it all together. With the seeds sown Sue was hooked and spent every spare minute she had developing the gardens into what you see today. "There was never any great master plan, the gardens just evolved and continue to year on year nothing stays the same".
In 2000 as Sue found that many of her plants in the first garden were either in the wrong place or had outgrown their allocated space she began to develop a second garden. Plants were continually on the move and many were now divided to make more, so instead of planting single specimens or groups of 3 she was able to plant in groups of 7, 9 or even 11 and this gave an immediate impact. A large wildlife pond was added in 2002 and is home to two beautiful call ducks who are marvellous at controlling the slug population.
Each year saw borders extended and new and unusual plants added, there is now a large collection of roses, clematis, delphiniums, peonies, hostas and heucheras to name but a few. A vegetable garden was added in 2009. Every inch of the endless curvaceous borders snaking along the stone walls is planted with colour, plant association, form and foliage taken into consideration. It is very much a plantsman's garden, with intimate secretive areas with quirky and unusual benches, seats, statuary and sculptures. The garden is well appointed for all to stroll at their leisure and enjoy the gardens flamboyant colour, imaginative plant combinations and vistas and to breathe in the wonderful fragrance that fills this magical garden.
Picture shows from the left Mother Rozetta, husband Michael, daughter Tory, son Will with Purdie, uncle Michael, father Peter, auntie Maureen.