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August 2011

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Rolling restoration

Shirley Lanigan was delighted to see a garden restoration get under way

These days, it is great to come across someone doing new things. The gardens at Kilruddery House in Bray, Co. Wicklow were created over four hundred years and began opening to the public in the mid-1800s. Killruddery has been a favourite among garden visitors since. But for all that is wonderful about the place, there was always one disappointment at Kilruddery - the handsome but permanently locked gate into the walled garden. I spent a few minutes looking through the locked gate whenever I visited. The thought of what might be inside those walls was always tantalising - all the more attractive because it was beyond reach.

All that changed a few weeks ago when, for the first time ever, the gates were thrown open and the walled garden was accessible to visitors. For a garden anorak, to step through those gates brought on the same sense of satisfaction a gossip gets when finally let in on a juicy well-kept secret. The first thing that came into view was an impressively long and elegant sweep of curved wall, running along the garden. It was built to face south so that it could soak up the warmth of the sunshine. Its soft red bricks give a glow to the place on a sunny day. In a display of beauty and practicality, these slim little bricks first absorb and then release heat by night onto the long deep vegetable beds, full of thriving fennel, lettuce, potatoes, French beans and peas.

The newly opened walled garden is not yet a fully restored feature. The Ardee family, Earls of Meath, are doing things in a different way. The restoration on the huge space has been only recently started and its progress will be seen as it goes along. So the old fruit trees in the middle of the garden have been pruned and sharpened up. The vegetable beds are handsome. There is an area close by being cleared by some hard-working pigs, going about a systematic clearance using their questing snouts in the way that only pigs can.

In the centre is the greenhouse being worked on by Anthony Ardee, the next generation. So far he has repaired the floor and re-pointed the bricks, which are the same soft russet shade as those in the long south wall. Replacing the upper wood and glass sections is next on the agenda. I asked how long that would take."Oh, about five years maybe!" came back the answer. This is no quick-fix job. The garden has been here a long time. It will take time to roll back the years and return the walled garden to its former glory. But it was a delight to see it started and, along with other visitors, I will see the progress every time I call.

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