Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shock over Closure of Popular Garden; TURFED OUT: Millionaire to Shut Down Key Attraction

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shock over Closure of Popular Garden; TURFED OUT: Millionaire to Shut Down Key Attraction

Article excerpt

Byline: Environment Editor

IT is one of the most beautiful visitor attractions in the North, the passion of one woman who made it her life's work.

Susie White has invested 23 years tending the Chesters Walled Garden, one of the main tourist hotspots along Hadrian's Wall that has been showered in awards over the years.

But now it is to close, leaving Susie heartbroken - and shocking heritage groups - after its millionaire owner decided to close it to the general public.

The garden is part of the Chesters House Estate - owned by racehorse-owning businessman Graham Wylie, one of the founders of software empire Sage.

The man whose estimated worth is pounds 150m, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List, has decided the 18th Century two-acre site at Chollerford, Northumberland, will revert to private ownership when the lease runs out in May. Susie, who leased the garden from the previous owners, said: "It is heartbreaking to leave somewhere I have spent nearly half my life working on.

"I have worked very, very hard and I have put a lot of love into it.

"The garden is very beautiful and has a special place in many people's hearts.

"It means a lot to a lot of people and many have been inspired by it, which is something to be proud of.

"Many people bring relatives and friends when they visit the North East and it is a main attraction on Hadrian's Wall," says Susie, who has written seven books on gardening and herbs.

"Its naturalistic planting has made it a place of peace and somewhere that people feel refreshed."

In May, The Journal reported how a readers' favourites poll in BBC Gardener's World magazine saw Chesters come second in a league table of 28 gardens in the North of England.

A near neighbour of English Heritage's Chesters Roman fort, it was the walled garden of the adjacent Chesters mansion, once the home of 19th Century lawyer, Newcastle town clerk and antiquarian John Clayton.

Now Susie is looking for a site to create a new garden and to save as many of her plants as possible.

Ideally it would be smaller than two acres and have been cultivated recently. "I have a lot of creative ideas and I am keeping a very open mind," says Susie. …

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