Sam's Gold glory | Knutsford Times

Sam's Gold glory

By on July 22, 2009

The Hermit’s Grotto – Inspiration for Imagination, is an evocative fern and boulder-clad cave; a suitable habitat for a solitary, bearded hermit (and the odd skull or two). 

The garden is inspired by two Victorian hermitages built in Tatton’s gardens and the true story of the famous Cheshire hermit, John Harris.  Harris, thwarted in his attempts to marry one of the Tatton Egertons, lived until the ripe old age of 99 years in a similar cave in Cheshire. 

Hermit’s Grotto, designed by Garden Manager, Sam Youd, is presented in association with Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction.  Never known for being retiring, Sam is delighted with this latest medal “The cave was quite a complicated and ambitious build for us.  I didn’t quite get to the stage where I felt like curling up in the cave myself – but it was useful knowing it was there should the need arise!  We’re delighted with this win. The gold medal is a real testament to all the hard work of the Garden team.”

A particularly tricky moment was planting up the precious (and prohibitively expensive) New Zealand Tree Ferns.  However, despite some unsettled weather during the build-up, they create a fantastic focal point in this verdant and tranquil back – to – back Garden. 

The ferns and cave also provided some additional shelter for the two silent hermits (Dave Kempson and Stephen Howard) ‘employed’ for a somewhat rainy press day.  As for their experiences of life in the grotto?  They would not be drawn on the matter!

Brendan Flanagan, Tatton Park and Visitor Economy Manager commented “This is a great result, not just for Tatton, but for Cheshire East Council and for Cheshire’s Gardens.  It is a worthy reminder of the quality, imagination and heritage our gardens have to offer”.

Follow Sam’s RHS blog on the BBC at


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