Kerracher Gardens -Peter & Trish Kahn – 9th January 2017

Two quite extraordinary people set out to create a garden in an area 58 degrees North, in what can only be described as the most remote garden in the United Kingdom.  It is situated only 20 miles from Cape Wrath, N.N. Sutherland.

Describing themselves as ‘fit’,  which to my mind is a bit of an understatement, they apparently ran everywhere, including up and down mountains carrying 56 lbs haversacks. The remote cove they chose was set off from one of the many lochs, which seemed to slice into the western coastline of Northern Scotland The cove’s greatest asset was an area of about 2 acres of relatively flat land, surrounding a mall croft. The whole of this area has its back, so to speak, facing North. This ‘back’ is high, over a hundred feet, protected by coniferous woods at the top of the escarpment, this area was the place for the garden they decided. And the great adventure began. It was going to take huge drive and energy from these two, with local support. The first problem was drainage, followed by wind-breaks, deer proof fencing, soil structure etc. etc.

They had the site but no access by any road! This was solved by getting the cooperation from a gentleman running a 25 ton cruiser for public trips up the nearby loch. The next step was to build a landing stage  for members of the public to land from the boat. The fish farm further up the loch had a flat bottomed landing barge, together with a few strong young men. This was made available for shifting heavy goods and machinery, such as digger for construction work. A large timber barn and a hundred foot poly-tunnel for propagation purposes were also built.

After a year or so, the day arrived for the grand opening.  The Director of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens did the honours at a large gathering of guests. Within a short time  10,000 visitors per year were calling. With two initial gardens established, plants from around the world were growing with great success. Specimens from New Zealand, South Africa,Australia, the Mediterranean countries and many others flourished. Their last venture was a Darwin garden, designed to celebrate his birth. The theme was Tierra del Fuego, which Darwin had visited on his trip in the Beagle. Most plants currently growing on that island were planted, together with a specially created mosaic depicting the local iguanas and the Beagle.

It is impossible to convey the incredible achievement which they had made, but as is the way of all endeavors, anno domini played its part. To continue to run it required a huge commitment in time and energy, so the decision to retire was made. The croft and gardens are now back in the hands of a McCleod, the original owners. Peter and Trish are now back in Sheffield and employed in propagation work at the Botanical Gardens, which seems very appropriate. A remarkable story indeed.