Gold Hill Museum Garden’s southerly aspect offers a magnificent view towards the chalk downland of Melbury Beacon, and the lush meadows of the Blackmore Vale. In keeping with the origins of the Museum buildings, it remains essentially a cottage garden. It is also a Wildlife Friendly Garden, recognised by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. No chemicals or slug pellets are used in its management. There are two birdbaths and an elevated bird feeder; three compost bins; two bee hotels; and two log piles. A succession of herbaceous perennials provides nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects. For human visitors there are four benches, two in full sun and two in shade, including one just outside the Museum door. The newest bench, donated in 2015 by friends of the late Leonore Schafarik, is made from recycled plastic, the equivalent of 1401 two-pint milk containers saved from landfill.
The loss of the lawn in 2010 was a price worth paying for the addition of the Anna McDowell Garden Room. The remnant of the lawn was converted into a dry gravel garden, inspired by a visit to Beth Chatto’s in Essex. On either side of the gravelled area, steps lead down to a lower patio. This was excavated by hand over fifty years ago to prevent the corner of the garden from slipping into the neighbouring property. The steep bank above the patio is difficult to plant or cultivate, and the solution was to let vinca / periwinkle bind the soil of the slope.
The Museum Garden [images below] provides a colourful backcloth for events and for The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society’s Annual Garden Party. It has been placed in the top three gardens of public buildings by the Shaftesbury in Bloom judges, winning first prize in 2013, 2015 and 2016.