Taking weeding to the extreme!

Having a head for heights is a pre-requisite for the four strong team of gardeners at St Michael’s Mount, located just off the south Cornwall coast.

As part of the work to conserve the 12th Century castle, the granite stone walls need weeding three times each year to ensure the walls are constantly kept clear.

St Michael's Mount where gardeners go to 'extreme' lengths to keep the walls weed free. Credit Steven Haywood

St Michael’s Mount where gardeners go to ‘extreme’ lengths to keep the walls weed free. Credit Steven Haywood

The only way the gardeners can carry out their work is to abseil down the 50 metre high castle walls.

Located on an island 300 metres off the mainland, the medieval church and castle perch atop the island, cared for in partnership by the National Trust and the St Aubyn family who donated the castle to the Trust back in 1954.

Lottie Allen, Head Gardener says: “Abseiling has become an important skill to complete essential strimming and planting of the many nooks and crannies within the cliff face where plants grow in spite of the salty winter storms and the baking summer temperatures.

“We weed these areas three times a year not only to ensure the stonework remains intact and strong but also to allow the succulents planted within the walls, such as aloes and aeoniums, to thrive and flourish.

The intrepid weeders at St Michael's Mount. Credit Steven Haywood

The intrepid weeders at St Michael’s Mount. Credit Steven Haywood

“It is a thrilling and unique experience to tend these gardens which are designed to be viewed from above. On a personal note, abseiling allows me to appreciate the spectacular views of our gardens across the seasons and in all weathers.”

Early in 2015 the team will be ‘hanging’ around again to plant a large shelf-like area above the East Terraces with succulants such as Agaves and Aeoniums, daisy-like Osteospermum and Agapanthus.  They will also be pruning a large Puya – a genus of the pineapple family which has started to lean away from the rock face.

St Michael’s Mount is one of 41 castles cared for by the conservation charity and one of three places where ‘extreme’ weeding takes place; the others being Bodiam Castle in East Sussex and Scotney Castle in Kent.

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