THE head gardener of a major Cumbrian tourist attraction has spoken of the challenges of maintaining the estate without her team.

Bethan Pettitt only took on the role in January at the 250-acre Brantwood estate, and has been thrown in at the deep end due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The estate, which overlooks Coniston Water, consists of the historic former home of poet John Ruskin, a museum and arts centre - and 20 acres of gardens.

But despite the hard work, Bethan took time out this week to photograph the gardens and share their beauty with the public in Cumbria..

“There are so many beautiful spring flowers out, I would love to share these with more people. I think the horticultural arts are very much part of culture,” she said.

“It is lovely here but quiet as well. As a gardener one of my favourite times is 8am before we are open. The light is beautiful and the birds are singing. The tranquillity is delightful. But I work in these gardens because I want to share it with the public, and at the moment I can’t.”

Bethan, who is from Pembrokeshire in Wales, and son Ianto, 11, who is also Welsh, wrote a list on their blackboard this week of all the plants that are starting to bud, before then they ran out of space - but it’s not the plants that have been most affected in the current situation.

“Bird song is the most unusual thing,” said Bethan. “You can’t hear them most of the time because of the traffic scaring them away.”

At the estate’s heart are eight unique gardens - the professor’s garden, the fern garden, the trellis walk, the moorland garden, the zig zaggy, the high walk, the harbour walk and the hortus inclusus.

At present Bethan and Ianto are doing all the gardening, including potting, pruning, planting and wedding, while Bethan also has admin work.

“There are some trees which need pruned so that is a task to do right now without worrying about the public being in the area, so we are going to make the most of a bad situation there,” she said.

“I am cycling in to avoid having to go to petrol stations, and I have my son, Ianto, who is helping. I am the only one here in the team, so it is quite difficult, there is an awful lot to do, but on the other hand, it is so delightful here right now, it is amazing.

“I will definitely know the gardens a lot better by the time this Covid-19 is over.”

Bethan spent a number of years working for the National Trust and English Heritage, before starting at Brantwood on January 6 - which she described as her dream job.

“The previous head gardener, Sally Beamish, was head gardener here for a long time. The gardens were completely overgrown when she started, but they are now a tribute to her work.

“Unfortunately she died a few years ago. They didn’t replace her for some time, because it is very difficult to replace someone who has had such a profound effect on the gardens. It is quite an honour taking on Sally’’s legacy.

“We used to have a lot of volunteers here but not since Sally passed away. We are hoping to build up the volunteers again when we have the opportunity.

“There are eight areas in the 20 acres that are considered gardens, and then you have the rest of the estate. It is a very small team for that size!”

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