|The Granary basecamp.||The courtyard at Wallington. The rear of the basecamp is in the corner, along from the clock tower.|
|Wallington Hall, under renovation.||Dinner in the basecamp.|
|The whole group, together with Sandra, John and Harry. L-R: John, Katja, Anne, Ruth, Harry, Lorna (lying down), Sandra, Lynne (at back), Rebecca, Anna, Francesca, Janet.|
The estate consists mainly of woodland walks and vistas rather than formally laid out flower gardens. At one end of the central avenue, known as the Long Walk, is the chapel, which is still used, and at the other end is the Column of Liberty. Gibside Hall is a ruin, having fallen into disrepair after being vacated in the 1940s. The orangery is also a ruin, and the stable block is derelict. The National Trust is planning to restore the stable block - to house horses, NT staff and a new volunteer basecamp - and the orangery, and to make the hall ruins safe for visitors to walk round. There is also a large walled garden, but this is currently used mainly as a car park, with nursery beds for plants at one end. There are plans to re-create a kitchen garden there but the increasing number of visitors means that alternative parking arrangements will first have to be made. Visitors to the estate come in at the western end, by the chapel and orangery; in the 18th Century they would have entered at the eastern end but unfortunately this is not possible nowadays as a golf course prevents road access at that end of the estate.
On our first day we split into small groups and had a walk around the estate before starting work. Later in the week, Harry, the NT's regional archaeologist and prime expert on Gibside, took us on a guided tour which allowed us (with obligatory hard hats) inside the stable block, hall and orangery.
|The ruins of Gibside Hall.||The entrance to the hall.|
|Inside the ruins of the hall.||View from the hall.|
|The orangery.||The view across the valley from the orangery.|
|The stable block. The proposed new basecamp is going to occupy the upstairs front section, with staff accommodation in a flat next door.||Inside the stable block. Lottery grant permitting, the NT hopes to start work on the restoration later this year.|
|Carriage bays inside the stable block.||The remains of the original 18th Century stalls in the stables - a very rare sight.|
|Looking along the Long Walk towards the Column of Liberty from the chapel.||Katja and Francesca in the plastic overshoes we had to wear to go into the chapel.|
|Looking across the octagon pond (no plans for restoration as it's a wildlife habitat) and up to the banqueting house.|
|Francesca and Ruth taking up spring bulbs (I think) in the walled garden.||Lorna planting perennials by the entrance to the car park.|
|Rebecca, Katja and Anna preparing the ground for a cut flower bed.||Clearing scrub alongside the entrance road leading to the car park. (This had to be done on the Monday, when the property was closed to the public.)|
|Digging up trees from the nursery, ready for transplanting.||Weeding the beds around the family garden.|
|A fence earmarked for removal, by the car park entrance and family garden.||No more fence!|
|Cutting down suckers.||Taking a break by the octagon pond.|
|Tiff and Tara, Property Manager Tony's dogs (featured on NT tea-towels), doing their best to get a share of our lunch.||Sunbathing at lunchtime.|
One evening after work, Sandra's husband John took us on a tour of the East Wood and walled garden at Wallington. On another evening a few of us walked over to the wildlife hide in the East Wood, where red squirrel sightings are virtually guaranteed.
We also went into Newcastle one evening; part of the group went straight from the worksite to visit the Baltic art gallery, and the rest of us met up with them later for a drink.
|Lindisfarne Priory, with the castle in the distance.||Lindisfarne Castle.|
|Looking down from the town walls in Berwick-upon-Tweed, towards the minibus and the hospital (with the pyramid-shaped roof).||The main house at Cragside.|
|Red squirrel, viewed from the wildlife hide at Wallington.||Great spotted woodpecker, viewed from the wildlife hide.|
|The group (minus Francesca & myself) with John at the China Pond. L-R: Rebecca, Katja, Anna, Lorna, John, Anne, Ruth, Janet.||Part of the walled garden at Wallington.|
|On the waterfront in Newcastle: Rebecca, Lorna, Francesca and me.||The "wishbone" bridge in Newcastle, with the Baltic art gallery behind.|
|Lydia briefing us on our jobs for the day.||An example of a mouse-house.|
|Janet and Anne showing off their Easter bonnets.||Anne getting her face painted.|
|Decorating Easter bonnets.||About half of the bonnets made during the day.|
|Mouse-houses in the marquee.||This mouse-house was built by three generations of a family!.|
|This mouse-house features a pond and a hammock in the garden.||Stripping the decorations off the Easter bonnets so that they could be re-used the next day.|
|One of the winners of the bonnet competition.||One of the winners of the colouring competition.|