AMBITIOUS plans are under way to restore a 350-year-old garden near Durham City.
Old Durham Gardens in Shincliffe has fallen into disrepair but a friends’ group formed two years ago is confident the ornamental walled garden and orchard can be restored to its former glory.
More than 20 rare apple trees have been planted so far and now volunteers are needed to keep up the project’s momentum.
Friends’ group treasurer Colin Jubb said: “It has the bones of the original planting plan of a 17th century garden, which is rare.
“Our aim is to restore it to how it was. We are not aiming to compete with the likes of Crook Hall in Durham or Mowbray Park, Sunderland.
“The gardens have a colourful history; they were once owned by the Londonderry family who had a mansion, now demolished.
“They used to put on classical concerts, and had the Durham Choristers singing for their guests.
“We would like to put on concerts again but for the enjoyment of the public.”
In the 1920s there was a pub called the Pineapple on the site. It closed and by the 1930s the building was being used as a tea room. “There was an outdoor dance floor,” said Colin. “A lot of wives met their husbands there but the gardens fell into disrepair after the Second World War.
“They are now owned by Durham County Council, which is very supportive of our work but cannot offer a lot in the way of funding.
“Staff from Barclays Bank, Northumbrian Water, and the business school at Durham University have already helped us.
“More volunteers are needed, both for gardening and to be there when we open for visitors, which we plan to do one day in the week and every Sunday next season.”
Coun Neil Foster, county council cabinet member for regeneration, is backing the restoration. He said: Old Durham Gardens really are a jewel in Durham’s crown and should be treasured for future generations to enjoy.
“Helping us out by giving a couple of hours of your time will help keep the garden in good shape, and you will meet some nice people.”
Details of the project and how to volunteer are on the friends’ website: www.olddurhamgardens.co.uk.