Belfast Telegraph

Kircubbin couple's Victorian garden find open for viewing

By Dave Whelan

TENDING the garden can be a laborious affair for most of us but for one couple in Kircubbin, clearing away 50 years of undergrowth, has been a real path of discovery.

Since moving into the Tubber na Carrig property in 2001, Noel and Karen Harrison have embarked on a project to restore the garden of their five-bay Georgian House, but never banked on discovering an 11-acre secret Victorian garden.

The couple are still only halfway through their restoration project but since clearing away the untended shrubbery they have set their hearts on salvaging some of the intriguing hidden features.

Uncovering a maze of paths linking the secret Victorian pleasure garden led to the the discovery of a sunken trench for staff, a walled kitchen garden, a well and tunnel, lost greenhouses, a tennis court and an unidentified mystery room.

So far work has included restoration of a Ha Ha, a sunken trench allowing staff to pass by unseen, the well and the tunnel linking the well to the house, also for staff.

The maze of pathways have been mapped and restored, while a new walled garden has been built.

The historic small farm built in the 1780's and extended in 1840, served as the headquarters for the RAF Command in Northern Ireland during World War Two, leading to a war building in a meadow at the centre of the pleasure garden that may have served as a Sector Operations Room for the airstrips of Ballyhalbert and Kircubbin.

Unfortunately the room was too badly damaged when it was discovered and has been replaced with a lake.

The discovery of a room cut into the rocks, has left the couple a little mystified after early suspicions of it being an ice house were dismissed because it was elevated.

Other explanations may be that it was used to house sick cattle or that it was used to store gunpowder away from the main building but no one can be sure.

This weekend the couple are throwing open the gates of the garden to give the public a rare opportunity to explore the secrets of hidden and private gardens as part of the Ulster Gardens Scheme.

Owner of the house Karen Harrison said they were only too happy to open up the wonderful discovery to the public when approached by the National Trust.

"When we made the move 11 years ago we decided that we would have to put a lot of work into getting the house and garden back to a restored state.

"The more laurel that was removed the more we discovered and after a while we knew that we had something very special on our hands.

"We are only half way through the project and we still have a lot of plans, additions and restorations to be getting on with but this is a wonderful opportunity for us to share the area with those who are interested."

Members of the public will be able to visit the historic small farm and demesne on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September between 2-5pm. As you come into Kircubbin turn left into Blackhall Street which becomes Tubber Road and the house is on the left hand side. Follow Ulster Gardens Scheme signs. Full details can be found at www.ulstergardensscheme.org.uk website.

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