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Japanese Garden Eskdale.

October 25, 2010

Eskdale is one of Lakeland’s loveliest valleys, but who would have thought there would be a little bit of Japan hidden there.

Autumn colours Eskdale

Situated in a wood known as Giggle Alley in Eskdale Green, I first became aware of it in early 2000. The garden had lain overgrown and forgotten for many years. Formerly it was the part of the Gatehouse Estate. The house itself is now an Outward Bound Centre. In the 1960’s Giggle Alley was sold to the Forestry Commission who are the owners today.

Forestry Commission signs

Work is under way to try and recreate the garden to it’s original state. It was created about 1913, at the time when there was a huge interest in all things Japanese due to the Japan-Britain Exhibition of 1910.

Japanese Garden Giggle Alley

The Gatehouse Estate was owned by the Rea family. James Rea was a keen gardener and used to collect rare seeds and plants many from Asia and the Far East. The design of the Japanese Garden at Gatehouse was entrusted to famous landscape architect Thomas Mawson. He had a business outside Windermere called Lakeland Nurseries and between 1889 and 1909 designed gardens for many famous Lake District properties, including Brockhole, Holehird and Rydal and Holker Halls.

Map of Garden

There are few photographs left of the original garden, this reproduction was from an article in The Graphic Magazine 1914 written by Mary Fair.

The Garden in 1914

When it was decided to try and restore the garden volunteers were recruited from the small rural community of Eskdale Green and the first 3 years were spent clearing out and rescuing the garden. One of the scourges of Giggle Alley was Kumasa Grass which grows to a height of 2 feet.

Sasa Veitchii (Kumasasa Grass)

Bamboo was overgrown and plants had become leggy due to lack of light. Most of the centre of the garden still has bamboo running through it and has to be trimmed and cut back regularly.


Interpretive boards about the garden and Eskdale in general can be found in St Bega’s Church in Eskdale Green. The church also doubles as the Post Office some days.

Rediscovering the Garden

On a nice day it’s a lovely little circular walk round the garden to see what is being done.

View of the Japanese Garden, Giggle Alley.

You can park just to the side of Giggle Alley and walk up the lane at the side of the Outward Bound Centre. The garden is being restored through donations. A very interesting book about it is available from the village store and proceeds go towards the development of the garden.

Nursery area of the garden.

If you keep still and just contemplate the scenery you may well spot some red squirrels or roe deer.

Japanese Garden Giggle Alley

In every season there is something different to look at, when I went recently there were mushrooms everywhere.

Mushrooms at Giggle Alley

So there you are, a little bit of Japan in Eskdale, and you know what. Despite the fact there are Japanese visitors all over the Lake District every day, I don’t think I have ever seen one there!

The Art of Japanese Gardens

  1. What a fantastic garden and beautiful photos. I want to go!

    • It is truly a lovely place at any time of year and a nice circular walk, hope you can visit soon.

  2. Dandelion101 permalink

    Lovely pics. I went to the Lake District the other weekend for the first time, Windermere. Is beeeaaauutiful!

  3. is there a post code for the Japanese Gardens?

  4. AlanDay permalink

    I live in front of giggle alley and nobody now takes care of it. I have offered my services for free to look after it but the forestry commission haven’t got back in touch which is a shame as the Japanese garden will now disappear slowly back to its overgrown state

    • That is incredibly sad news. What an absolute shame. I find it hard to believe it can be allowed to become overgrown again. Only wish i lived closer to help.

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