Teesside’s Secret Garden

Michael McGeary takes a walk around this glorious Guisborough garden…

Hidden beneath the splendour of the Cleveland Hills is a magnificent secret garden that few residents of nearby Guisborough even know exists.

But the word is out among keen horticulturalists, who have visited from as far afield as Switzerland to view the stunning Arts and Crafts-inspired grounds of Tudor Croft.

Almost certainly the finest example of a large private garden built in Teesside during the 20th century, the gardens include lily pools, fountains and an arbour, as well as a huge variety of both native and exotic plants and an impressive collection of ferns.

They are the pride and joy of Mike Heagney, who has lived at Tudor Croft since his parents bought the stunning home sixty-five years ago.

Mike is well known on Teesside, having run Heagneys Supermarkets with his brother John for many years. They sold the business in 1999, enabling Mike to concentrate on his passion for restoring country house gardens.

But much of his time is taken up maintaining his own gardens and helping to preserve them in the way they were envisaged when successful brick maker Ronnie Crossley built his house here in 1934.

Set over five-acres, with breathtaking views of the North York Moors and Roseberry Topping, the gardens took ten years to complete.

“My parents bought the house in 1952 and I grew up here, along with my brother, John, and three sisters,’ says Mike.

“We had a very happy upbringing and during this time I gradually developed my passion for all things horticultural.”

Brick making was clearly a lucrative business in Ronnie Crossley’s day. He used the gardens to entertain prospective clients and showcase some of the products he offered.

As well as the wide expanses of lush greenery, the garden has paths and streams and a long rose pergola with 48 varied brick pillars supporting cedar beams. There are also delightful surprises tucked around every corner, such as the stone elf sitting cross-legged beside the arbour, one of many scattered around the garden.

“I am very fortunate to live here, but looking after it is also a huge burden, as you can imagine,” says Mike.

He works with a small team of skilled gardeners, supplemented by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who visit every Friday to keep the gardens in first class condition.

“We couldn’t manage without them,” he smiles.

Mike usually opens the gardens for two days in February to allow people to view what is probably the largest collection of snowdrops in the region – there are some 2,202 different varieties, many of them rare.

They then open for weekends in May and June and regularly host garden clubs visits from as far away as the continent.

“In my parents’ day we had many garden parties and this tradition has continued with charity summer balls in the 1980s and dozens of open garden events for different charities since then.”

To be added to the mailing list for open days at Tudor Croft, email tudorcroft@btinternet.com.