Hidcote Garden's secret garden project with MRK Services
PUBLISHED: 09:50 23 March 2016 | UPDATED: 15:08 23 March 2016
We've been behind the scenes with family-run business MRK Services, who were set the onerous task of restoring some of Hidcote's oldest and most precious garden furniture.
Enjoying gardens has been as much a British Institution as Marks and Spencer, Crufts, and Judi Dench. As we make haste in our adieu to the wet and sorry winter we’ve been having, there’s nothing like swearing in spring with a trip to a beautifully-maintained garden. As luck would have it, nestled in the outskirts of our own Chipping Campden is Hidcote Manor. Home to one of the country’s most illustrious Arts and Crafts gardens, the grounds at Hidcote were designed by American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnson in 1910. A veritable Eden, Hidcote is renowned for its sequence of outdoor ‘rooms’, each one characterised by a defining fragrance and assortment of textures, which are ultimately married together by the overall aesthetic of perfect topiary, boxed hedges and herbaceous borders that make is such a memorable place.
Hidcote truly is a jewel in The National Trust’s weighty crown of public gardens. It’s clear that Johnson wanted to celebrate all of the senses with his design. The tapestry of stunning colours in the perennials; the sound of birds hidden in the shrubbery; the smell of freshly fallen rain on the leaves - it amounts to a scene from Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. But like any public space, it requires its fair share of upkeep and back at the beginning of winter, MRK Services was commissioned to restore all of the garden’s oldest furniture.
Company director Helen Keepence explained that MR Koating is itself, a family run business that’s based locally, just a 10 minute drive down the road in nearby Blockley. Their business card reads like that of an overachieving classmate who was great at everything. Take note: as specialists in general engineering as well as fabrication in all metals, metal office furniture design and development, welding and powder coating, they were the obvious choice to give the existing and original furniture a much-needed facelift.
‘When we were first contacted by the head gardener at Hidcote, the first thing that popped into my head were childhood memories of running around the garden, playing hide and seek.’ With such personal ties to the gardens, I wondered if that helped with knowing the requirements they’d likely have, ‘definitely, yes; our powder paint is 92% zinc which means it doesn’t rust and is more environmentally friendly than other alternatives’, which, for obvious reasons, was the ‘perfect and only option’ for the natural and untainted environment of the garden. The process used was one they offer on a year-round basis: ‘using the Cromadex Extra Life Coating System’, (of which they’re certified in) ‘we begin with blast cleaning the furniture back down to bear metal then applying an etch primer before a final colour top coat which can provide protection against corrosion for up to 16 years’.
With 20 years’ worth of experience, the ease of production on the benches and tables meant Hidcote was re-opened to the public most recently this spring and has reinvigorated the garden. This compelling advertisement must make Helen a very busy woman, and she conceded the point: ‘there’s been many enquiries of late regarding our refurbishment services, ranging from requests about wrought iron gates on people’s drives to Juliet balcony railings’. Now that we’ve seen the benches, we know why. Their work is meticulous and second to none, so it’s no wonder that for those looking to restore rather than replace, they’re the popular choice - so much so that they’ve recently had to install a new 5m oven to keep up with demand and take on ‘any size job’. From the finish of the Hidcote project, it is clear that this remedial approach neatens the look of furniture without forfeiting any of its precious charm and character. Their business is in rolling back the years of your cherished outdoor belongings, so keep their number to hand, you may just need it in future.
Facebook: MRK Services
Unit 97, Northwick Business Centre,
Blockley, Nr Moreton-in-Marsh,
Gloucestershire, GL56 9RF