Hidden gardens of Newbiggin to show their midsummer glory

Diane Howarth, left, in the garden of her home in Newbiggin, with neighbours Ann and Jim Hawkins.

By Betsy Everett

Newbiggin-in-Bishopdale, home to 80 souls, 42 dwellings, and whose ’phone box is its main community space, is about to open its unseen back gardens for a rare midsummer peek.

An open gardens day celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first such event in 1992 will be held on Sunday, June 25, from 11am to 5pm when 12 of the tiny hamlet’s gardens will be on show.

They range from the small, deliberately unkempt plot of one resident who prefers the wilderness approach, to the more formal three-quarter acre site at the back of the nation’s top self-catering cottage, The Byre, and its owners’ adjoining farmhouse.

The mainly 18th-century houses which flank the half-mile long main street show their faces to the world but hide their varied gardens at the back of the properties.

The revival of the Hidden Gardens of Newbiggin was the brainchild of long-time residents, Ann and Jim Hawkins, and Diane Howarth who with husband Andrew has the distinction of owning the nation’s favourite holiday cottage, as chosen in April by Visit England from a host of competitors nationwide.
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Part of the three-quarter acre garden at Eastburn Farmhouse

All agree that Newbiggin, with its extensive views of Bishopdale both north and south of the main street, is not just a hidden gem but a largely unknown one, occupying as it does a street that goes nowhere, east to west.

“A lot of people don’t know Bishopdale, let alone Newbiggin. It has no through road so it’s not a dales village you drive through: you have to seek it out,” says Diane.

“We wanted to revive the hidden gardens tradition which has not been done for a few years,” said Ann. “It’s not about grand and fancy gardens but about the variety and the interest and the different approaches that people bring to their pieces of land.”

Residents have not only opened their gardens but have helped with the planning and preparation that has gone on since January and neighbouring villages have also offered support: marquees from West Burton, crockery, cutlery and chairs from Thoralby village hall committee.

“We’ve had so much support from so many people, it’s been amazing,” said Jim, whose cottage garden, maintained mainly by Ann, will be one of those on display.

There will be will be a tea room in Diane’s garden, a kids’ trail, cake and plant stalls and free parking. Proceeds from the £4 entry charge (under 16s go free) will go to the Great North Air Ambulance service.

Earning its keep: the productive vegetable plot