Rockliffe Hall’s Walled Garden

A Look Around Rockliffe Hall’s Walled Garden

Something has been growing gloriously behind the scenes at Rockliffe Hall, and now it’s ready to share its beauty with the world.

Back in 2017, Rockliffe’s Estates and Gardens Manager, Phil Mennell, excitedly told us about the resort’s plans to develop a large area to the side of the hotel into a walled garden.

Unfortunately, the garden was left derelict shortly after construction due to many factors including the global pandemic.

Fast forward to 2022, we’re back in Phil’s company to hear about how his passion project has since come to life at Rockliffe.

“I’m incredibly proud of this space,” Phil smiles.

 

Rockliffe Hall’s Walled Garden

 

“It’s been ticking away in the background for a while, and having had a couple of setbacks in the early days, I’m delighted and proud to call it my workspace, but also a space we can share with other teams across the resort, as well as hotel guests.”

Rockliffe’s beautiful new Walled Garden has been in full bloom this summer, and it shows no signs of slowing down, with plans to grow produce all year round, as well as launching an event space for guests.

Packed with organic produce, this season has enjoyed a wholesome harvest of herbs, flowers and vegetables including: tomatoes, garden peas, cucumbers, green beans, chillies, onions, rhubarb, garlic, thyme and much, much more.

All of that, plus a whole host of fruit trees lining the walls, growing everything from redcurrants and blackberries, to gooseberries, raspberries, apples and plums.

The garden is a feast for the senses, and has been established for both chefs and guests.

“I wanted the Walled Garden to be as interactive as possible,” Phil explains.

 

 

“So people can come along, sit on a bench and take it all in. They’re encouraged to walk round every individual bed and get up close and personal with the produce. I wanted to make sure we had lots of smaller sections with different produce, rather than just growing loads of the same stuff in a confined space. It’s not an allotment, it’s a garden, which is why we’ve got lots of nice cut flowers, to make it look the part – and of course, encourage the bees.”

The garden is open for guests to enjoy every day of the week, but one of the most exciting things about this colourful new space is that it feeds directly into Rockliffe’s restaurants.

Whether it’s tasting menu specials in The Orangery, seasonal favourites in The Clubhouse, or good-for-the-soul, garden-inspired grub in Nu Sana, each and every chef across the site has a big role to play in Rockliffe’s new Walled Garden.

“Everything goes direct to the kitchens on a daily basis,” says Phil.

“The chefs are in the garden every morning picking fresh produce and they’ll come up with new dishes and specials at the drop of a hat. We can create a lot of dishes with what we’re growing on site, which is really great as we head further and further towards self-sufficiency.

“The chefs have quite a lot of say in what we grow in the garden,” Phil adds.

“They’ll ask if we can have more of something – or if there’s something they think they’re going to be able to work with in that particular season, we’ll do our best to grow it. Equally, they’re happy for me to grow things that I know are going to do well in the conditions – then they can take that produce and create something with it.

 

 

“There’s lots of planning that goes into what we grow here, but the chefs are happy for me to take the lead, and let them know what is going to work best at certain times.

“The kitchen teams use something in every part of the garden, so none of it is going to go to waste. We’re constantly thinking about what’s coming next. For example, we’ve got a little pumpkin patch which will come into its own this autumn. Hotel staff will use pumpkins for displays throughout the hotel, or we might invite guests with kids to come along and pick a pumpkin to take away with them for Halloween.

“It’s just about finding ways in which we can interact with our guests – whether that’s through hands-on stuff in the garden, or through the dishes they’re enjoying in our restaurants.

“We’ve got some stuff that you don’t normally see, like orange mint. It helps the chefs to be more creative as well, because the produce might elevate a dish, or even create a new dish. It’s all about pushing boundaries and creating unique experiences across the resort.”

Working closely with the estate’s chefs is just part of the day job for Phil and his team. When they’re not talking plant to plate produce, they’re busy priming and maintaining the resort grounds, encouraging and managing local wildlife, and planting and planning for the next season.

“If we’re not out and about on machinery, you’ll find us in our equipment shed or in the Potting Shed – this is where it all happens,” says Phil.

 

Rockliffe Hall’s Walled Garden

 

“It’s where we sew the produce and where we’ll get together to plan the day’s activities. It’s our hub and it’s where pretty much everything comes into fruition.”

Phil is particularly proud of this project, which he designed himself, as it is self-sustainable. Now it is set up and maintained daily, it pays for itself.

“Now that the garden is fully formed, it’s just about managing, maintaining and making the most of everything we’re growing,” Phil explains.

“Everything is organic. We clip our own seeds, which will then be reused back into the gardens for the following year. It helps us to be more environmentally friendly.

“Everything we grow, we use where we can across the resort – down to the cut flowers. Our front of house staff will come in and make up bouquets for guests and for table decorations throughout the hotel.

“We’re hoping to open up the Walled Garden for events and workshops. The Glass House is a fantastic space to host – there’s even talk about opening the space up as a coffee shop where people can come and relax on a weekend. I can honestly say, from my own experience, there’s nothing like finding a quiet spot in the Walled Garden and taking it all in with a cup of tea. Those are the moments when I can sit back and feel proud of what we’ve achieved.”

 

Rockliffe Hall’s Walled Garden

 

Phil is so passionate about Rockliffe’s homegrown produce, he can hardly wait to pack up a basket of garden goodies for us to take away with us.

We leave with a crate spilling over with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines, lavender and a whole host of deliciously smelling herbs.

We just need the chefs to show us a thing or two about how these ingredients can be brought to life on the plate.

 


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