Home Places to visit Buzzing Garden, Saltwell Park, Gateshead

Buzzing Garden, Saltwell Park, Gateshead

The Buzzing Garden from one of the turrets of Saltwell Towers
The Buzzing Garden from one of the turrets of Saltwell Towers

A new Swedish treasure – parents and children, please respect it!

One of my childhood haunts, Saltwell Park in Gateshead, has a new attraction – the Buzzing Garden, which was opened to the public on August 18.

Before I say more, I must get rid of a bee in my bonnet (excuse the pun but it’s no laughing matter).

I paid the garden a visit just after its official opening with the intention of making a video about the landscaping and planting.

Unfortunately, this was in the school holidays, and as the garden is between the pets’ corner and Saltwell Towers (café, turrets, general child magnet), it was overrun with uncontrolled and badly behaved kids.

Badly behaved kids – and parents

Parents did little, or nothing, to control their offspring – throwing or kicking gravel everywhere and into the pond, which already had several plastic bottles floating on the surface.

Kids (and some feckless adults) ignored the paths, cutting over the soil and new plants.

My heart sank at the amount of work that’s been put in and the thoughtlessness and stupidity I had witnessed. I felt ashamed that this was happening in my home town.

Then I got angry… really angry. One particularly feckless pre-pubescent got on the wrong side of me by trampling over compost and several Pulmonaria.

Speaking my mind

She seemed stunned that I had dared to challenge her right to wreck something she had no comprehension was a positive thing. Luckily, my family dragged me away before I became another statistic of crime.

Like all new gardens, it needs to mature. Proper gardens aren’t like the Chelsea show variety – plants need space to breathe, grow and establish themselves.

Please, folks, have some respect – there’s a lot of time and effort by a lot of good people been invested here and we’re really lucky to have this garden to encourage pollinators and strengthen our ties with Sweden.


International gardening project

The project is a collaboration between the National Garden Scheme (NGS) North East, Region Västra Götaland (West Sweden) and Gateshead Council.

Born from the North East’s cultural and business links with Sweden, the project has involved volunteers from eight countries, plus park users and Friends of Saltwell Park. The cost has been covered by businesses.

The garden echoes the landscapes of Western Sweden, with its dark forests, bright glades, flowering meadows, heathlands, rocky coastlines and old cottage gardens.

There’s a strong emphasis on hard landscaping – a central pond, sturdy pergolas, gravel paths and it’s divided into three areas – meadow, woodland and coastline/cottage garden.

A mix of edibles and ornamental plants make up the cottage garden but my favourite bit has to be the woodland – I’m a sucker for pines.

The garden was designed by Johnny Mattsson, Gunnebo House, Maria Westeborn, Eriksgård in Tvååker and Peter Svenson, Jonsered Gardens.

English Garden at Jonsered by Susie White
English Garden at Jonsered by Susie White. Picture; NGS

An English garden in Sweden

This garden is a part of an international garden exchange – A Classic English Garden, designed by NGS Northumberland’s Susie White, is established in Jonsered Garden outside Gothenburg.

Local businesswoman Helen Cadzow, of Cadzow Estates, has played a big part. She said: “Coming from Gateshead, it’s been a pleasure to work on such an unusual project. I believe in investing with local people in mind and the Buzzing Garden will have lasting benefits to the community.”

Maureen Kesteven, NGS County Organiser, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear and regional chairman, North of England said: “It has been great to have so much support and so much interest from businesses and local people.

“A real demonstration of how gardening brings people together – and at the end of it, there’ll be something that the whole community can continue to enjoy as well as an attraction for visitors to our region.”


How the garden looked in July

My daughter Vanessa popped down to the park a month before it opened to the public in July – it’s an interesting insight into how a garden is created. Pictures; Vanessa Sundin

Garden sponsors

  • Tarmac: Stone and other materials, construction plant hire, volunteers, skilled craftspeople
  • Buildbase: Timber products
  • SealEco: Pond liner
  • Hirebase: Large plant hire
  • Speedy Services: Security fencing
  • Gardena: Irrigation system
  • Wates: Access to skilled craftspeople
  • Gateshead Council
  • National Garden Scheme
  • Cadzow Estates
  • Caroline Theobald CBE Hon Consul for Sweden: Co-ordination, project management, fundraising
  • Pictorial Meadows, Johnsons of Whixley, Trädgårdsresan, A Little Plant Company: Plant and seed suppliers and growers
  • Swedish Orient Line: Shipping of Swedish heritage plants
  • Falurodfarg: Paint
  • Region Västra Götaland, Helen McArdle CBE, Husqvarna, Brewin Dolphin, Hadrian Healthcare: Cash donations
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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