Newby School of Design - educational courses for garden enthusiasts of all levels

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 May 2020

The new design school will  be a creative hub for gardeners of all skills to learn from the experts

The new design school will be a creative hub for gardeners of all skills to learn from the experts


Brighter days and the luxury of time mean gardens have become a lifeline diversion. Horticulture expert Alistair Baldwin offers some timely advice – and reveals exciting plans ahead.

Garden designer Alistair Baldwin at Newby HallGarden designer Alistair Baldwin at Newby Hall

Alistair Baldwin has something of a track record in the design of dazzling gardens.

Walled gardens, rose gardens, wild natural gardens, roof gardens. Definitely a horticultural hero, a garden go-to.

He is blessed with a pretty spectacular workspace for the garden design and landscape architecture practice he runs; the notable grounds of lovely Newby Hall near Ripon, at a time when gardens under his care, Yorkshire and beyond, take no heed of self-isolation advice and just keep on growing.

But life’s different pace is giving him a period of reflection, as with us all.

An aerial view of Newby Hall and its much-loved gardens (c) Paul WhiteAn aerial view of Newby Hall and its much-loved gardens (c) Paul White

‘I think one consequence of people being at home is that they are getting into the garden to do all the things they’ve wanted to do’, he says.

‘With this weather coaxing people outside, it’s good for the health of the nation. Sunshine is uplifting, so it’s a well-timed boost. People can accept that if we stop working for a bit the sun keeps coming up, and it will encourage people to get a life/ work balance.’

With an enforced break in peoples’ lives and energies turned to their gardens and outside space, Alistair hopes there will be an interest nurtured in his own new ‘project’ – a garden design school based at Newby Hall in a very grand space.

Newby School of Design will open up later this year offering courses for garden enthusiasts of all levels – from one-day tasters up to a one-year course leading to a garden diploma qualification and a springboard to a career in garden design.

Newby Halls orangery is an inspiring space for Alistairs design schoolNewby Halls orangery is an inspiring space for Alistairs design school

The design school base will be in the restored orangery at Newby Hall, which is famed for its gardens and was named Historic Houses Garden of the Year in 2019.

It goes without saying that students will be inspired and educated by surroundings which will be an unrivalled learning resource for them.

Alistair has experience in teaching his subject and wanted to be able to bring that skill and experience to a unique ‘in place’ school environment.

His design practice is within the Newby Hall grounds and, he explains, ‘Newby refurbished the orangery and did an extraordinary job – I walked round in my lunchbreak and looked at the building and thought, ‘that is a perfect teaching space’.’

Lucinda Compton, owner of Newby Hall, was completely on board with Alistair’s plan.

‘I wanted something delivered by practising professionals, who are out there doing it as well as teaching it,’ he adds.

The unique selling point was clear – the garden design literally on the doorstep, but also courses led by the best in the business.

‘If we are designing gardens around the country then it will be a draw for people to hear what we do in the Newby Hall Orangery.

‘It will be a practical way of teaching. Theory is great but I believe in the ‘how-to’ bit, and the gardens at Newby are an incredible resource where people can really get under the skin of garden design and planting.

‘Learning is great in an inspiring environment where you can walk round and look at the planting, the spatial design. Our aim is to become the premier school for garden design in the north of England.’

He expects the school to appeal to garden lovers at all levels – from amateur enthusiasts who want to hear from professionals to those in the job, such as head gardeners, right through to people who want a career change.

‘We get reconnected with space in times like this and adjust the filter. We recognise gardens are places where we come together; playful, relaxed places.’

Alistair’s website is a feast for the eyes, showcasing ‘projects’ in Yorkshire and beyond.

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