A ‘secret garden’ a thirty minute drive from Stockport offers an ideal beauty spot for a relaxing stroll on a Sunday afternoon. Hare Hill, near Alderley Edge in Cheshire, is a tranquil woodland with a walled garden at its heart.
Visitors can see Manchester’s skyscrapers towering through the sky from the garden, bordered with rare and exotic rhododendrons and azaleas. A number of ponds can be found dotted around Hare Hill garden too, buzzing with dragonflies and damselflies.
Small in size, the garden is not very well known compared to other National Trust sites, and also features wooden carvings of hares and metal sculptures of horses. Families can also explore the play area which is a haven for children, and take a visit to the little charity bookshop, while bird watchers can head for the bird hide to spot blue tits, tree creepers, and even a woodpecker from time to time.
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TripAdvisor reviewers recommend an hour’s walk around the land. One visitor – ‘dean b’ – described the garden as “an excellent hidden gem”. Another visitor – ‘PBPG’ – shared a snap of the vantage point overlooking Greater Manchester and wrote on the travel platform: “This place is in the middle of nowhere but has some great views towards Stockport.
“Interesting place to walk round, sculptures of horses in the walled gardens and a collection of ponds. £9 to get in but worth it”
A third local – RazzyBthefirst – said she had been meaning to visit for a while and was left more than impressed. She suggested visitors become a member of the National Trust to avoid the £9 entry fee each time. “We walked through the woods, some beautiful and unusual flowers, so many different rhododendrons,” she said.
“We crossed over what appeared to be an ancient pond, using a picture-postcard wooden bridge. The walled garden is idyllic, we sat on a seat by the Wisteria in the sunshine, very peaceful.”
The site dates back to the late 18th century when William Hibbert purchased the land from the Leicester family and created Hare Hill as his country estate. In 1904, the last owner of Hare Hill – Colonel Charles Brocklehurst – was born, along with his twin brother Patrick.
Charles divided his time between Cheshire and his house in London, where he worked for Christie’s Auction House as a silver expert. He was an Army infantry officer in World War Two and after the war, he worked in the North West and Midland areas for the National Trust.
Both the Brocklehurst twins were keen horsemen, with Patrick joining the Royal Scots Greys, a mounted regiment. However tragedy struck the family in 1930 when he was killed in an Army steeplechase at Tidworth.
By the 1960s, following the deaths of his parents, Charles was spending increasing amounts of time at Hare Hill. He had developed a keen interest in horticulture, and through his influential circle of friends in London, he had made contact with plantsman James Russell.
Together they planned to improve and restore the overgrown and neglected area at Hare Hill, planting many species of shrubs and trees. However work on the dilapidated walled garden did n’t start until the final years of Charles’ life.
A letter from Russell dating from 1975, obtained by the National Trust, states: “The wall garden itself… and here there are 23 panels to be filled along the walls… you wanted pairs of plants, and all-white flowered.” To complement his white borders, and in memory of his brother, Charles commissioned the two impressive equestrian sculptures by Christopher Hobbs that grace the walled garden today.
Charles never married, and having no heirs, decided to leave the entire Hare Hill estate to the National Trust upon his death in 1977. The Trust worked to restore the garden as per Charles’ requests and maintains the gardens to this day.
Now, various events are held there, with some taking place during the upcoming half-term holiday, including a theater production of Alice in Wonderland. For those wishing to visit, it’s important to note that ball games, bicycles and scooters are not permitted in the garden.
Dogs are also not allowed anywhere in the garden, apart from assistance dogs. The last entry to the garden is 4.30pm.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.