Part II of our interview with Adam Streeter, General Manager at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, who talks about how work has progressed. He is the son of owner Penny Streeter OBE.
Have the wallabies survived?
That is usually the first question we are asked by visitors! The wallabies have been looked after since 2010, when the gardens closed. We have three adult wallabies in a purpose built enclosure, the breeding pen, as well as a Joey, a little one. They are great mowing machines, and whilst they don’t eat the rhododendrons or azaleas, we need to put a wire cage round the young conifers.
How many deer remain?
The land can also sustain a herd of about 70 - 80 deer, but because the park wasn’t being managed, numbers have swelled to about 200 fallow and sika deer and they all struggle to survive so we’ll be liaising with DEFRA (Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs) to find a solution.
What state were the greenhouses in?
Huge plumes of thistle seed had grown wildly out of control and a Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia Robusta) had made a bid for freedom and broken through the roof. We even found a dead snake floating in the small pond! It was clear that the greenhouses were unsafe, so we have rebuilt the Crystal Palace (110ft x 50ft) and the Alpine House (50ft x 40ft).
The Crystal Palace was a warm, temperate house with tree ferns, banana plants, acer trees, echiums, pittosporum to name a few. Some have survived and are in the new structure, re-glazed with greenhouse grade polycarbonate.
It also had a pond that once contained Koi carp, but this is to be removed to make space available to house a new reception area with a gift shop. Did this contribute to the delay in opening? It did, but only because a newt had taken up in residence and work to remove the pond couldn’t start again until our guest left the pond!
The Alpine House has also been rebuilt?
The Alpine House is to be replanted and used as a lovely setting for new tea rooms. Very little of the flora has survived aside from some Lewisia, Pelargoniums and a few shrubs, which we shall nurture back to good health. We are also applying for planning permission for a greenhouse for a vegetable garden.
Was Leonardslee House in need of renovation?
Bringing the Mansion house back to its former glories will be a long-term project as it was neglected for a significant amount of time. There was once a large orangery on the side of the house and we’d like to rebuild that. Such a feature would be perfect for weddings, as it would open out to manicured lawns.
What other plans do you have for Leonardslee Homes and Gardens?
When the visitors arrive next spring, they can expect to see a renovated stable block where they can sit down for refreshments. We have invited over our chef from our fantastic restaurant in South Africa, so that we can offer a small fine dining restaurant alongside a self service tearoom and a casual restaurant within the clock house building.
In future, we may look to incorporate 16 bed and breakfast lodgings, allowing visitors to stay overnight. It’ll just take some time to realise the vision we have for the estate. It’s a case of ‘watch this space’!