TO some it is one of Warrington’s best kept secrets, while to others it is the perfect place for a family digital detox.

Grappenhall Heys Walled Garden has been enjoyed by people in the area for more than a decade.

Visitors can search for a bit of inner peace while walking for free in the pleasure garden with its herbaceous borders and ponds or learn about growing your own in the kitchen garden and glasshouses where all manner of fruits and vegetables are cultivated.

Now the team at the Green Flag award-winning four acre site, built by Warrington banker Thomas Parr in 1830, are working hard on opening up the walled garden to a much broader range of people.

As well as regular visits from school groups and uniformed groups, there are activities for people of all ages from bread making to bushcraft, all set against the walled garden’s picturesque backdrops.

A jazz festival – the first live music event at the gardens in years – is also in the works for July 20.

“I wanted to broaden our appeal and expand what we were offering,” said community outreach officer Kate Fitch.

“That was the wish of the parish council, which manages and owns the site, as well.

“Using the garden as inspiration we’ve started doing things like willow weaving and painting.

Crewe Guardian:

“We started letting out space as well and now people are finding us such as Kirsty from The Little Art House. She had been an art teacher for a number of years and found us when she decided she wanted to work for herself. She really loves it here as a venue with the gardens as a backdrop. It’s a fantastic place to do her workshops.”

Moore resident Kate started working at the walled garden in October 2016.

She added: “There were two community outreach officers before me and there was quite a lot going on for youngsters but I got a sense we were missing a trick for adults and older people.

“I started a group on Wednesday afternoon called the Have A Go group. It’s all women at the moment so I do have plans to start a ‘men in sheds’ type project.

“The Have A Go group has gone from strength to strength. I’ve now got a big waiting list for people who want to come on that.

“They do all sorts from card making to felt making. It’s basically a friendship group to give people an interest and inspiration really.”

Guided walks have also become popular among the area’s history groups and gardening groups.

Kate, a former Appleton Hall County Grammar School student, said: “Our head gardener Graham can talk to them about the points of interest and the history of the site.

“Because of the link with the Parr family, a lot of people across Warrington particularly find the site really interesting.

“People also like learning about the fruit and veg following the rise of the grow-your-own trend.

“We’ve also had a massive upturn in garden volunteers. We’ve got a lot of Duke of Edinburgh students at the moment.”

Grappenhall Heys Walled Garden has around eight to 10 activities a month on top of a flagship event about every two months, such as the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch in January and the popular plant fair on Sunday, April 28.

Kate added: “I also get schools coming for things like pond dipping and themed craft activities.

“We also work with uniformed organisations like Beavers and Rainbows.

“That’s often in an evening. We’re quite flexible. We’re just trying to make use of the garden for the community in the widest sense.”

On top of that, families can often find drop-in activities during their visit.

Kate said: “It’s really nice to see people really happy with themselves after they’ve picked up a new skill or spent time as a family.”

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Willow weaving for children, Thursday, April 11, 1.30pm to 3pm - with Kath Jones from Woolly Willow Creations, £10 per head, ring 213638 to book
  • Lino printing with Kirsty Rae from The Little Art House Tuesday, April 16 - ring 07736 221236 to book
  • Bread making for beginners, Tuesday, April 23, 4.45pm to 8pm - with Jen Perry from Room Forty. Costs £50. Call 357940
  • Willow weaving – bees, Friday, April 26 - with Kath Jones from Woolly Willow Creations. £40 per head – ring 213638 to book
  • Plant fair, Sunday, April 28, 11am to 4pm, free entry - chance to buy rare and unusual plants and garden crafts
  • Bread making for beginners, Tuesday, May 14, 4.45pm to 8pm - with Jen Perry from Room Forty. Costs £50. Call 357940
  • Iced buns and tiger bread, Tuesday, May 21, 4.45pm to 8.30pm - with Jen Perry from Room Forty. Costs £60. Call 357940
  • Willow weaving – obelisk, Friday, May 24 - with Kath Jones from Woolly Willow Creations. £40 per head – ring 213638 to book
  • Bread making for beginners, Tuesday, June 11, 4.45pm to 8pm - with Jen Perry from Room Forty. Costs £50. Call 357940
  • Willow weaving – dragonflies and butterflies, Saturday, June 15 - with Kath Jones from Woolly Willow Creations. £25 per head – ring 213638 to book
  • Random Weave Basket, Friday, July 12, 11am to 2pm - with Kath Jones from Woolly Willow Creations. £25 per head – ring 213638 to book
  • NHS Retirement Group Fellowship afternoon tea at the garden, Thursday, July 18, open to all
  • Jazz in the garden with The Kraken Saturday, July 20, 7 to 10pm - tickets are £10 per head