A secret garden has been uncovered at the heart of one of the region’s largest organisations.

Photo caption (left to right): Northumbrian Water Project managers Mike Ciaraldi, Richard Woodhouse and Brian Ford, on whom the sculpture Three Men In A Shower was based, with the artwork.

The hidden oasis has emerged over the last six months in the centre of Northumbrian Water’s Boldon House headquarters, in Durham.

However, this tranquil patch of calm in the midst of industrial endeavour was not the discovery of intrepid explorers, rather it is the result of a great deal of innovation, hard work, determination and good links with friends across the community.

The patch of land, which is bordered on all sides by Boldon House, had become overgrown following years of disuse and, to many workers at the utilities company, was viewed as something of an eyesore.

The decision was taken to recruit Groundwork NE and Cumbria to redesign the courtyard and to manage a series of sessions and workshops with adults from the Daybreak Charity. Additional construction work was also undertaken by the Galvanise Green Team (part of Groundwork North East and Cumbria) which provides work experience for apprentices working towards their NVQ in environmental conservation.

Northumbrian Water chief executive, Heidi Mottram, said: “We wanted to create a space for our employees and people visiting Boldon House where they could enjoy the outdoors in pleasant surroundings. The old garden had become overgrown and was a bit of an eyesore, so to have it transformed into such a beautiful, picturesque oasis is incredible.

“While the project itself has resulted in a fantastic new space for Northumbrian Water, it has also offered a perfect opportunity for us to work with our partners and the guys from Groundwork North East and Cumbria, Galvanise and Daybreak have worked incredibly hard to create something that is simply fantastic.”

The new garden boasts a pond and bog garden, an insect hotel, landscaped gravel walkways, boat seats made from recycled wood and picnic benches. Formerly overgrown bushes are now beautifully trimmed, trees have been cut back to create additional space, new shrubs planted and a number of timber raised planters installed for teams to adopt and grow flowers and vegetables.
Around a ton of weeds, bramble and rubble were removed from the garden during the regeneration process.

Groundwork North East and Cumbria landscape architect, Liz Allen, said: “This was a really exciting project and there were many challenges to overcome, primarily transporting everything we removed from the garden or brought into it through the Northumbrian Water offices.

“The first thing we did was to create space for ourselves to work in, but once we got started progress was fairly rapid. The guys from Galvanise and Daybreak were brilliant to work with and really worked their socks off to get the garden finished – all in all, a real team effort and stunning end result.”

Daybreak chief executive, Mary Curran, said the: “Everyone from Daybreak who worked on this project has thoroughly enjoyed creating something quite beautiful. They worked in the rain, sunshine and freezing cold and demonstrated that they can be of real value to projects like this.”

The garden even has its own work of art – Three Men in a Shower, which was created by County Durham sculpture and blacksmith Graeme Hopper.

Based on three Northumbrian Water employees, Mike Ciaraldi, Brian Ford and Richard Woodhouse, the sculpture depicts the varying moods people feel throughout the week, from a downtrodden Monday man, a more enthusiastic Wednesday man to an exuberant Friday fellow.

Graeme said: “I think we can all relate to Three Men in a Shower and how we feel at different stages of the week – it was great to do this little project for Northumbrian Water, who I have worked with a number of times. I think they really add something to this marvellous new garden.”