Garden archaeology doesn’t come much more exciting than finding something pretty much every time you dig. I’ve been visiting Warley Place for thirty-odd years and every time I go something new has been uncovered by the dedicated team of volunteers.
Sometimes it’s a bit of brick wall, sometimes a cobbled path. It might be yet another underground chamber (much of the area around the now-lost house seems to have had an underground layer, including vast basement kitchens, now a haven for native ferns.
One volunteer was wading through the old horse pond and discovered an entire wrought iron five-bar gate.
Another regularly fetches up metal plant tags, complete with the original varieties and dates. Horticultural history-gold.
Ellen Willmott’s garden was full of every gardening geejaw imagineable, from exotic plants to gorgeous – well, gorges. Volunteers are trying to map it all, but the annual jungle that Warley turns into means they can only work on a little bit of it at once. It is so very rich in archaeology though, they sometimes literally trip over something new and exciting.
Take last week.
I went to see the daffodils, as everyone does – and was beckoned over to see their latest find, unearthed a couple of days earlier.
A charming, circular tree-surround, done in flint cobbles. When it was lain, the tree must have been a sapling. Maybe it had a little metal circular tree-bench. Now the tree is a giant and its roots have pushed up some of the stones, but other than that it’s in fine nick, covered for the past 70-odd years by layers of undergrowth, now cleared away and added to the map.
What a place to volunteer at – where discovering forgotten rubies in the dust is an everyday occurrence.
Warley Place is open to the public. Just remember that it’s a wildlife haven, so leave the pup at home…