Orkney’s Secret Creative Garden

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” : Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Secret Garden 1In glorious sunshine Orkney Blide Trust revealed what they had been doing in Orkney’s Secret Creative Garden.

The doors opened to the public on Thursday 28th of June with a small ceremony led by Orkney Islands Convener Harvey Johnston and Chair of Orkney Blide Trust, Moira Gordon.

The walled garden is situated at the back of the KGS hostel. The wall itself is a ‘listed’ structure. For many years the garden was kept immaculately by the Rector of Kirkwall Grammar School, Mr Thomson and his wife.

Approaching the garden from Papdale House


Much undergrowth had to be cut back and trees pruned –  all under the skilled guidance of David Sneesby. It includes an avenue of laburnum thought to have been planted by Sir Walter Scott.

Secret Garden Laburnum

The walled garden was once part of the grounds of Papdale House. The project was made possible with funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery and Orkney Islands Council. It was helped by Gary Burton at Orkney Islands Council who granted permission to Orkney Blide Trust to take it on.


There are great plans for the garden – not just to be a beautiful place where people can come and sit but also for producing fresh fruit and vegetables.

Ross Groundwater from Lifestyles Services


Many organisations helped in the project: VAO Connect, Lifestyles Services, Papdale Halls of Residence staff and the wider community.

Moira Gordon, Chair of the Orkney Blide Trust


Mrs Thomson was present at the opening and described to me what the garden was like when she and her husband tended it. There was a Dutch greenhouse where sweetcorn and tomatoes grew. Sometimes if there was no water available in the garden itself Mrs Thomson had to carry it from Papdale House.

Secret Garden lawn

As work went on to restore the garden an area where a pond had once been was uncovered. It has been cleaned up ready for the next phase of the restoration.

Secret garden pond area

David Sneesby, who also designed the garden at CLAN, has done an amazing job. His team worked through those dreadful conditions we had in the winter and it is a credit to them that it looks so beautiful today.

Secret Garden info board

It is hoped that many groups will be able to use this space as it will attract a variety of wildlife but also as a pleasant place just to go and sit.

You can watch a recording of the opening ceremony on the Orkney News Facebook page

Further Information:

Orkney Blide Trust

Lifestyles Services- Wood B’Good

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” : Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Reporter Fiona Grahame

Related story: Papdale’s Secret Garden to be Revealed


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9 replies »

  1. “And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” As gardens do.
    I’m going to put that in my notebook, so that next time we go to Kirkwall, we’ll remember to go and see it. A laburnum arch, in Orkney, is really something.

  2. Maybe it’s worth mentioning – I have what could be called a troubled mind – my garden, gardens, and music such as what I heard in St. Magnus Cathedral on Wednesday evening, help me to feel that it’s good to be alive.
    I think it’s worth mentioning – gardens – being out doors – might not be what helps every one, but it definitely helps me.
    Our garden, at the moment, is full of LIFE – and the cattle in the fields have calves, and the sheep have lambs, and new life is all around me.
    I sat by the pond yesterday, and watched the damselflies mating, and was watched by the frogs. A pond is a good, peaceful thing to sit by, when your mind is whirling. I’ll be interested to see how the one in the Blide Trust garden develops.

    • You know Bernie, when I moved to Germany I heard through friends who were going through a difficult time, that some depressive & mood conditions are treated in gardens and woods around a hospital. I found it interesting because often people find being around trees relaxing. There is a treatment called EMDR used to treat post traumatic stress. The psychologist directs the patients eye movements. I have often wondered if looking at trees and light shafts could perhaps produce a similar result as EMDR eye movement treatment.
      Alongside some other tapping and

  3. Hello Laura, and thank you for responding to my comment.
    It’s a huge subject – and what ‘works’ depends on the individual as each person’s troubles, are so individual to themselves.
    Not being at all scientific, I could throw in some ideas –
    Being outside, in the sun and the air, or even in the wind and rain and the air, can ‘blow away the cobwebs’.
    Yes, watching trees, for whatever the reason is – the movement, the action of light and shade, can be soothing and take us ‘out of ourselves’. There aren’t many trees here, on Orkney, but we do have some small woodlands. I was interested to see that the Blide Trust garden has trees, and, particularly, that there are trees near the pond. I can imagine it, when the pond is filled and planted up, and that area becomes a place of dappled light and shade, and reflections from the water.
    It is a huge subject – I don’t know why I am as I am (who does?) – I have a good life. Physically I’m not too good – thanks largely to mismanagement of medication by medics – I do try to accept this and work with how I am and know that I can do things I thought I’d never be able to do again, and ….appreciate that fact. Idon’t know if you read my pieces in TON, but, if you do, you’ll see that I have a grand time. However, a person can have a grand time, but something in their mind/heart/ system whatever/wherever the root lies, means that they have a troubled mind and feel not at ease with the world. I don’t mean the natural world! That’s a solace and a haven.
    A person can have a grand time, be surrounded by love, know that they are, yet……for whatever the reason……the dark cloud descends and we feel lost and alone. I know I’m in a bad state of mind, when I look out the window at the garden, and feel no interest in it. The answer to that, is to get out into it, as being there, does something to the dark cloud. “To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower” to quote the wonderful Mr. Blake , who might be said, by some, to have mental health issues himself – if seeing angels counts as a mental health issue!
    Anyway – I do risk rabbiting on – to not much purpose, as what helps me, won’t necessarily help others. At the same time, I do think there is a common good to be had, from being out doors, in the sun if possible. In nature, in the air. And there may be scientific background to why watching light and shade, dappled effects, movement of water, can soothe a human – I don’t dwell too much on the science of it, I just know that it does help.
    As I’m writing this, I’m seeing it, in my mind’s eye – rippling light and shade, accompanied by the sound of the water, too. It’s Happy Valley, or the garden at Woodwick. Or the sea at Skaill Bay, moving back and forth against the shore.
    I don’t take medication, as it was medication that left me as I am. I do try to work with how I am. I manage my time and my energy, and, when ‘seeing things wrong’ – tell myself to simply get on with what I’m doing, get on with my life, and that something good will turn up to show me that life is good, that people are good. And, invariably something does turn up. It’s the bit in between, which can be a bugger! The main thing, is to stay alive, get on with it and train yourself to relish the good things, as you encounter them.
    I should add, that I am what I refer to as a weirdy–lady, have been all my life – how I came to be comfortable with that, is a long story. It does mean that I accept the idea of nature spirits/ LIFE/how we are all one, and so, how, if we let the divisions slip, the rest of LIFE – nature, will help us, if it/they can. I’m also very much aware of the benefit of things such as breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques, which can help. Employing these techniques, can mean that we stop, and cut away from the harmful road we’re heading down, and move away from under the dark cloud. Even if that is only for a time, it at least means we have that time.
    I’m tying myself in knots, so I think I’ll stop. As I said – a huge subject – and very, very individual. Who’d be a mental health nurse? A broken leg, is a broken leg – a broken spirit, is a trixy business to assess.
    Gardens by hospitals, are A GOOD THING! for healing – emotional or physical.

  4. I meant to include this…………..but didne’……………

    “Images from two of the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s favourite walks, near Parton in Galloway, where the Lair Burn and the River Urr run close to his house of Glenlair. Jennifer Austin’s composition, Maxwell’s Light, accompanies Selena S. Kuzman’s film.”

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