The Whitwell Fern Garden, Kendal

Over recent months several BPS members have been helping a group of volunteers recreate the ‘Whitwell Fern Garden’ in Kendal. The Kendal Conservation Volunteers (KCV) are pleased to announce that the Whitwell Fern Garden has won a Gold Award in the 2018 Kendal In Bloom competition. The Whitwell Fern Garden is located adjacent to Serpentine Cottage, next to the entrance to Serpentine Woods on Queens Road, Kendal.

On 23 September 1891, at the inaugural meeting of the Northern British Pteridological Society, George Whitwell became a founder member and Hon Secretary. He resided at Serpentine Cottage for fifty years from 1875 to 1924 during which time he collected and cultivated ferns in his garden.(Click here to see a picture of George Whitwell, first on the left)

Whitwell was an active BPS member who developed his passion and knowledge and became a recognised authority of Lakeland ferns with several articles published in the British Fern Gazette.

Recent research into the history of Serpentine Woods revealed the Whitwell connection through his role as Superintendent of the Serpentine Walks and his passion for Lakeland ferns. Several Victorian artefacts discovered in Serpentine Woods support the assumption that Whitwell cultivated his fern garden at Serpentine Cottage.

He was a renowned fern collector but following his death in 1924 a large proportion of his fern collection was sold to the BPS Vice President Mr Alexander Cowan of Penicuik and most of the plants were moved to Scotland. Over the intervening years Whitwell’s fern garden became neglected reverting to a dense carpet of ivy, brambles and tree saplings.

In spring 2018 the Kendal Conservation Volunteers began a regeneration project to clear the area to develop a fern garden for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

The encroaching vegetation was cleared from the site, rock terrace and retaining walls were revealed and rebuilt, and beds and paths constructed using stone donated by local residents. During the renovation work the remains of a stone building, possibly Whitwell’s tool shed, were revealed. On completion of the hard landscaping a range of ferns have been planted in the garden including several varieties associated with Whitwell.

The success of the project relied on generous donations of materials and ferns from the local community and many hours of volunteer labour. The project was enhanced by the Pteridological advice and fern donations from several BPS members and from ferns donated from national fern collections at Sizergh Castle and Holehird Gardens. The garden impressed the Kendal In Bloom judges who announced a Gold Award at the recent awards ceremony.

Richard Wrigley
Kendal Conservation Volunteers
22 September 2018