Visit Winchester > Blog > Gardening in a historical setting at Winchester College

Gardening in a historical setting at Winchester College

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Believed to be the oldest continuously running school in the country, Winchester College is well known for its academic achievements and rich history. We chat to Head Gardener, Alan Smith, who gives a picture of the stunning features and the inspiration behind the gardens…

“Gardening at Winchester College is a privilege and a pleasure, working in the shadow of a school built in the fourteenth century is a rare and treasured opportunity. But it is so much more than providing a beautiful setting for the school and its medieval buildings.

As the present custodians, in a long line of gardeners, we have the fascinating and delicate job of balancing past, present and future, as one does in all gardens but sometimes on quite a large timescale.

Flowers in the Winchester College grounds

 

Within Winchester College we have medieval courtyards with lots of green, which works so well against the old stone and flint walls. A stunningly beautiful War Cloister built after the Great War was planted to give a simple sense of order and calm after the chaos of war. There are quads and formal gardens accommodating school activities, a recently planted, peaceful garden that provides teachers with space for a moment’s contemplation, and a more vibrant, modern planting scheme to complement the glass and London brick of the music building extension. Currently we are trying to encourage wilder areas at our hidden edges to give a haven in a busy place for nature to relax and be less manicured. Winchester’s main palette of greys and greens gives a calm and peaceful backdrop to the school’s everyday life, with the brighter and more floral areas tucked away for people to discover.

Flowers in the Winchester College grounds

One of our recent, exciting projects has been the planting of cuttings taken from the College’s old and venerable London Planes, planted around 1780. Hopefully, our small cuttings will mature into magnificent trees that will be with us for the next three hundred years!

It is an enormous privilege to garden at Winchester and when, in the middle of winter, our toes and fingers are freezing from the cold, we have but to look up and see where we are and it lifts our souls and makes us smile.”

Flowers in the Winchester College grounds

Visit Winchester would like to thank Alan Smith, Head Gardener at Winchester College.