As will be appreciated, the garden comprises many parts. In addition to the wonderful appearance and work done in the areas of detailed interest – Walled Kitchen Garden, Rock Garden, Long Garden and the Terraces – there are other aspects that I would like to mention in this newsletter.
In the asset stripping of Copped Hall in the 1950s many of the best trees in the gardens were cut down for their timber, including the magnificent ancient yew trees enclosing King Henry’s Walk. However, there are number of important trees still remaining. There was no maintenance of the trees from the late 1930s, so many needed attention when the Trust acquired Copped Hall in 1995. Our tree surgeon has worked on most of the trees over the last 16 years. Like all gardens open to the public, the trustees are concerned about health and safety issues. Old trees do drop branches and even fall down – despite careful maintenance. Like other historic gardens, we have to strike a balance between immediately felling any tree that might be a danger and nursing old trees along as heroic survivors of the past. To this end we have had inspections of the trees over the years by Epping Forest District Council’s landscape officer. This summer the trustees, the landscape officer and the tree surgeon once again inspected all the trees and our tree surgeon will continue his work this autumn.Although we have installed an elementary underground garden watering system, we have always known that a substantial network of pipes was established beneath the gardens in 1895. On the terraces are three manholes containing heavy-duty connecting points for watering. We have discovered at least six watering taps in the gardens. A length of cast-iron water distribution pipe has been uncovered crossing the archaeological excavations near King Henry’s Walk. Thanks to the water firm Veolia and two archaeologists, we have now traced the original main water supply route through the gardens using electronic devices. The water system may be reusable. What is particularly interesting is that the source of the water seems to be from the underground reservoirs in the Wintergarden – which is also where our present supply originates. The supply also fed the water-holding tanks for the fountains, which were either side of the Causeway, with their pump in the room beneath it.The issue of the paths throughout the gardens continues to tax our thoughts. The gardens used to have 31 full-time gardeners and keeping these paths clean must have occupied much of their time. As we all know, to our cost, falling leaves, grass cuttings and the actions of worms all contribute to the introduction of earth into the composition of the paths, with the resultant growth of grass, etc. Once earth is there it is very difficult to extract it as it is washed down into the construction and the weeds then grow from deeper down. There is an added problem with the paths in the Walled Kitchen Garden in that the gardeners could bring earth onto the paths from their boots. This was combated by rigid discipline and many foot scrapers. The construction of any path must allow the surface to be brushed without causing damage. At Copped Hall the surface of most of the paths consisted of small pebbles set solidly in grit. We have revealed the surface of a number of paths (see example, above) but have not been able yet to extract the earth that has penetrated them. The restoration of the paths is therefore very time consuming – not only for the volunteers but also for any paid contractors. However, these facts will not prevent us tackling the paths, which are such a key part of the gardens. As readers will know, the paths on the southern lower terrace to the west of the mansion are being completely reconstructed right down to their foundations.