Walmer Castle’s Broadwalk

By 1865 Lord Granville had succeeded William Pitt and he and his young wife began to make their mark upon the gardens at Walmer Castle, which had become unruly. The overgrown trees and shrubs were tackled, opening up places that had become dark and dismal and creating one of the glories of Walmer, the yew-lined Broadwalk.

The Broadwalk with cloud yew hedges looking towards the croquet lawn and paddock beyond, at Walmer Castle

The Broadwalk with cloud yew hedges looking towards the croquet lawn and paddock beyond

The Granvilles, in thrall to the fashion for long vistas in the Italian style, commissioned a professional landscape gardener, William Masters, then in his seventies. He reacted with enthusiasm, drawing up an elaborate design for the border with flowering plants running in zigzags, like ribbons, along the entire length of the 80-metre border. It was to be backed by a high clipped yew hedge to set off the plants to their best advantage.

The Broadwalk at Walmer Castle in full bloom in summer

The Broadwalk in full bloom in summer

The Cloud Hedge

However, what you see today is something quite different. The geometric green wall of yew has evolved into an organic, undulating 'cloud' hedge, a result of a happy accident. The hedge was neglected during the Second World War, but the heavy weight of snow brought by the hard winter of 1947 made it even more misshapen.

Faced with radical pruning to pull it into line it was decided instead to follow the hedge's new contours and sculpt it into what you see today, an exuberant backdrop which compliments the relaxed planting of herbaceous perennials. The double border is superb throughout the summer with drifts of plants such as Bear's breeches ( Acanthus spinosus), spiked blue Echinops ritro, Goldenrod ( Solidago) and dark pink Persicaria amplexicaulis.

The yew cloud hedge and Broadwalk in summer at Walmer Castle

The yew cloud hedge and Broadwalk in summer

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