Seven steps to perfect garden for residents

August 2009

A photo of the new gardener, David Richardson

Residents at Middleton Hall Retirement Village will have the chance to be involved in all aspects of gardening under the guidance of new head gardener David Richardson.

Since taking charge of the 35 acres of land at the retirement complex between Darlington and Yarm, the former Estates Manager at Pinchinthorpe Hall has prioritised seven projects which will not only improve its appearance but also the way in which it is used.

Middleton Woods apartment owners have already become keen composters since David created five different sites for food waste around the ground and, next spring, he will be encouraging them to grow their own fruit and salad items in windowsill containers.

“Many of the residents here came from homes with fairly large gardens and miss not being able to grow things so I am going to provide them with lots of opportunities to do so,’ said 31-year-old David. “In the meantime, they are welcome anytime to help with the weeding!”

Enlarging and enhancing the existing allotment area is another project on David’s list so that he can supply not just the Middleton Hall kitchens with ultra fresh and organic vegetables but grow enough to sell in the on site shop too so that Middleton Woods residents also benefit when cooking their own meals.

During the winter months, David has plans to lay footpaths through Middleton Hall’s woodland. Using bark chippings, he will create several circular walks of varying distances and erect bird-feeding stations at various points along the way for added interest.

And he hasn’t forgotten the less mobile residents of Middleton Grove (assisted living suites) and those in Middleton Gardens which offers residential care. One of his first jobs was to restock the pond at the front of the main hall.

“The goldfish have already bred and the plants are now attracting dragonflies and damselflies, making it a really interesting area for residents to sit around,” he explained.

David is even planning to make his mark inside the retirement village’s various accommodation schemes by growing lots more perennial flowers, such as chrysanthemums, in the grounds and greenhouses especially for use in displays around all the communal areas.

It’s a far cry from his previous job where, for nine years, he was in charge not only of the gardens at the hotel near Guisborough but a 150-acre farm comprising 120 Dexter cattle, 40 Swaledale sheep, rare breed pigs and 250 chickens – all bred for meat to use in the restaurant.

But for David, who has a degree in Environmental Management, the job at Middleton Hall is, literally, a welcome return to his roots. He spent his childhood helping his father on the family allotment.

“My Dad used to show his produce at national level so I have very high standards to live up to,” says David. “I have eight projects on the go at Middleton Hall and can’t wait to see them all come together to achieve my main overall aim which is to enable residents, visitors and staff to all to enjoy the garden in whatever way best suits them.”

Middleton Hall MD, Jeremy Walford, said the grounds at Middleton Hall were a very significant part of the retirement village for residents, families and visitors.

“David’s appointment will ensure that, now all the development is complete, we can take the grounds to the next level. I expect we should be winning awards for the gardens very shortly!” he added.