Tracy visited the Plankbridge workshop in Piddlehinton this week to see the special shepherd’s hut they are building for Chelsea.
The Plankbridge Shepherd’s Hut garden is a nostalgic, relaxing, Dorset wild flower garden, featuring the first shepherd’s hut to be exhibited in a show garden at RHS Chelsea.
The garden design was inspired by the Dorset countryside and elements of the Plankbridge Hutmakers’ private garden at Waterston Springs, near Dorchester, which includes disused watercress beds and a chalk stream within a wildlife haven.
The shepherd’s hut has been adapted as a writer’s retreat in honour of Thomas Hardy, Dorset’s most famous writer. Scenes from Far From the Madding Crowd, including those with shepherd Gabriel Oak, were set in fields near Plankbridge Hutmakers. On Press Day, the hut will be used by best-selling author Tracy Chevalier, who has a home in Dorset. Tracy will be working on the manuscript of her new novel, which is set in Dorset and America.
The shepherd’s hut
The shepherd’s hut was hand built to fit the garden area by Richard Lee of Plankbridge Hutmakers. He used Plankbridge’s authentic Victorian designs with some unique design additions, including the curved door and two inch thick steam bent oak ceiling ribs. The shepherd’s chair is crafted from French oak and upholstered in sheepskin. The hut colour on the exterior is ‘shepherd’s shirt’, from the Valtti range of paints, inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite painting called ‘The Hireling Shepherd’, painted in 1851 by William Holman Hunt. The hut was weathered to suit the garden scheme by scenic artist Jonathan Holbrook, who has worked on major film and TV projects including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Golden Compass and Lark Rise to Candleford.
The show garden is designed by triple RHS Gold Medal winners Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith. They specialise in naturalistic planting and beautiful, nostalgic gardens. Woolcott & Smith share the same love for craft, beauty and attention to detail as the Plankbridge team. Adam and Jonathan have included their ‘secret weapon’ lucky stinging nettle in the design, which has featured in their previous three Chelsea award-winning gardens.
Plants to look out for include the Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), which grows abundantly at Plankbridge, plus rare heritage vegetable varieties grown from seed kindly donated by the Heritage Seed Library, part of Garden Organic, the UK’s largest organic gardening charity. Varieties include runner beans ‘Blackpod’ and ‘Fry’ plus ‘Convent Garden’ beetroot. The ‘Convent Garden’ beetroot was first described in 1885.
Photocall at Chelsea
On Press Day at Chelsea, best-selling author, Tracy Chevalier will be writer-in-residence in the shepherd’s hut. Tracy has a home in Dorset and has published six novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was famously adapted for film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson. Two of Tracy’s earlier books feature Dorset characters and settings and her new novel (to be published in spring 2013) tells the story of a Victorian Quaker who emigrates from Dorset to America in 1850. Tracy will be working on the manuscript of her new novel in the hut and will be available for interview and filming as requested.
Tracy says: ‘I love the shepherd’s hut. Having a portable room of my own like that would be very inspiring, and helpful to get me away from the rest of my life. Sadly my garden in Dorset is too small for one, but you can always dream.’
The Plankbridge Shepherd’s Hut Garden is being constructed by Conway Landscapes.
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