More work needed on Hackney’s Breaker’s Yard

Just opened a month ago, the National Trust’s Breaker’s Yard garden still needs a bit of work to give it polish. Tyre planters remain unplanted and more than a few corners look untidy.

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Unplanted

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And untidy

Although the theme is interesting and novel, the details need attention. For example, the public gates to the street remain closed and only those brave enough to walk through Sutton House (without paying an entrance fee) can gain free access.

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Gates to the street remain locked

None of the plant containers, which include not only tyres but trolleys and metal troughs, is a show stopper.

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Plantings not spectacular

The main space is dominated by two vehicles – the caravan-like The Grange and a 1980s ice-cream van. These are perhaps a little old and tarnished. Is the Breaker’s Yard just a resting place for two old artworks on their way to dereliction?

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The Grange and a 1980s ice-cream van

One point that needs attention are the custom-built gates, which allow toy cars of the matchbox size, to be bolted in for ornament. But there is just too few of them to be interesting  And visitors might also like to be made aware that Sutton House is less than a mile away from where the factory that made Matchbox toys once stood.

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Just too few Matchbox cars

Another thing is the irrigation system, which includes water tanks and an unfinished channel which runs the length of the garden. It finally empties its flow into the Tudor house’s well. Exactly what this achieves – perhaps rainwater recycling or aquifer recharge – remains a mystery.

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Empties into the Tudor well

There are some interesting things to be seen at the garden, but a few of them are in Sutton House’s long standing front garden and over the fence in a neighbouring garden, which includes vegetable plots, beehives and espaliered fruit trees. The Breaker’s Yard is as yet only a minor addition to Hackney’s growing gardening tradition.

Scotney Castle in late summer

Scotney Castle has been fully in the hands of the National Trust for only a few years since the death of its last owner Betty Hussey in 2006. She lived in the large Victorian mansion at the top of the hill overlooking the valley of the river Bewl at Lamberhurst, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. One of her predecessors built the house in 1837, having decided that the medieval and Georgian moated castle at the bottom of the valley was too damp and unhealthy.

The Victorian house is open to the public and it looks comfortable and old fashioned inside.

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The house, built 1837

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The study

But perhaps its greatest interest is the view across the valley and down to the old castle, which the family decided to turn into a picturesque ruin once their new mansion was completed.

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The view from the house to the castle

The Hussey family came to Scotney in the 1770s having made their money in the early industrial revolution in Worcestershire. The estate has chestnut coppice woodland, partly used for charcoal production, and a history of hop growing.

The grounds of the castle in late summer lack the flowers of the rhododendrons which dominate much of the garden between tne old castle and the house. But the beauty of the estate is also in the landscape and the waters of the moat which are bursting with life, including pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus).

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Pontederia cordata

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Lythrum salicaria

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Lycopus europaeus

There is an old quarry where the stone for the castle was extracted, now well planted up and apparently containing a dinosaur footprint.

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The old quarry

There is also the vestige of a medieval lane where once monks walked to a nearby abbey and peasants hearded pigs into the woods to find acorns and beech nuts.

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A medieval road?

Of interest to gardeners though is the National Trust’s efforts to revive the large walled garden of the Victorian house. It is remarkably tidy and, in late summer, is full of various varieties of runner beans, pumpkins, courgettes, brassicas and dahlias for picking. Some of the last are fine varieties with good long stems for flower arranging including, Mary Evelyn, Arabian Nights and Pink Princess.

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Pumpkin ‘Jack of All Trades’

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Brassicas and the glasshouses in the walled garden

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Dahlia ‘Mary Evelyn’

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Dahlia ‘Arabian Nights’

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 Dahlia ‘Pink Princess’

The very strange South African plant in the Apocynaceae called Gomphocarpus physocarpus also grows in the garden. It has small delicate white flowers and large prickly fruits like hairy balls up to 8cm in diameter. It adds a fascinating element to any flower arrangement.

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Flowers

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And fruit of Gomphocarpus physocarpus, also known as the balloon plant