Ranworth Walk Fairhaven Garden after the Great Storm

The Great Storm ripped through Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham on the night of October 15, 1987, felling 2000 trees, including more than 100 mature oak trees that had been planted in the 18th century.

George Debbage, who was Head Gardener at Fairhaven Garden in 1987, remembers the morning after the storm: “We couldn’t find the paths. It was a different world. I thought, ‘is Fairhaven finished – everything is destroyed.’ Our instructions had been to protect and preserve the 2nd Lord Fairhaven’s garden; that morning it was no longer there. The trees he loved were flattened.”

Fairhaven Garden is staging two events to mark the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm. Head Gardener, Ian Guest will lead a guided walk in the garden on Sunday, October 15 from 11am to 12.30pm. Storming Changes will look at how the woodland has recovered and the garden has developed over the last 30 years. The walk is included in garden entry: adult £6.75, concessions £6.15, child £3.85, under 5 free (free to Fairhaven members), no need to book.

The King Oak

Then on Monday, October 16, at 11am, there will be some Survivor’s Surgery. The King Oak, one of the oldest trees in Norfolk, survived the Great Storm, but needed surgery to secure its continuing good health.Join Matt Jordan, Head Forester and his team, as they give the King Oak its annual health check and ‘haircut’. The foresters will be demonstrating their tree surgery skills and explaining how they look after the woods. The King Oak is believed to be more than 950 years old and was a sapling at the time of the Battle of Hastings. The tree surgery event is also included in the garden entry charge.

George Debbage explains more about the recovery from the Great Storm: “The worst damage was along the Ranworth walk. We managed to open within a fortnight for an advertised autumn colours event. Visitors just walked down to the Broad and back again. I put out a pail for donations to help with the restoration work. The fallen oaks were sold for £1500 and were removed by a forestry contractor, causing more damage with deep ruts. Some of the holes left by the oak trees could have been filled by a double-decker bus – they were so deep.

“Many ash, willow and alder were lost, knocked down by the oak trees, who started a domino effect. The time of year made things worse. The trees were still in full leaf making them a bigger target for the gale. Part of the garden was closed for much of the summer of 1988, as clearance work continued, along with footpath reinstatement. Replanting was done in the winter of 1988/89. Norfolk County Council gave a grant towards the new trees. Some 2,500 trees were planted including oak, beech and wild cherry to enhance the autumn colours display and provide food for birds.”

Ian Guest, Fairhaven Garden Head Gardener (far right), leading an autumnal guided tour.

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is at South Walsham NR13 6DZ, nine miles east Norwich, signposted off A47 at B1140 junction, t. 01603 270449, www.fairhavengarden.co.uk.

Fairhaven is open daily all year from 10am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day), and on Wednesdays until 9pm from May to the end of August. Free entry to tearoom, gift shop and plant sales.

There is wheelchair access throughout the garden, including a Sensory Garden and an accessible boat for trips on the broad from April to October (additional charge). Visitors requiring special facilities are advised to telephone in advance, mobility scooters available.

Dogs are welcome on leads; small charge to cover poop scoop.