East entrance to St Albans Cathedral transformed into wildlife haven

The new-look Sumpter Yard at St Albans Cathedral.

The new-look Sumpter Yard at St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: St Albans Cathedral

If you've taken a walk around the side of St Albans Cathedral recently then you can't fail to have been impressed by the transformation to Sumpter Yard.

The first phase of landscape works have now been completed, rejuvenating the east entrance to the Cathedral from an area of damaged stone pavers and bare rose patches to a green wildlife haven including a productive and therapeutic garden.

Sumpter Yard Revived was inspired by archival Cathedral research, which illustrated a historic monastic productive landscape of interlocking walled gardens, laid out with espaliered fruit trees, vines and herbs.

The new-look Sumpter Yard at St Albans Cathedral.

The new-look Sumpter Yard at St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: St Albans Cathedral

The new landscape create a peaceful place for people to walk through and reflect, echoing the monastic garden designs of the medieval period, whilst also creating new habitats for wildlife.

Deadwood piles act as bug hotels whilst native wildflowers under the Indian bean tree provide nectar for pollinators, and local heritage fruit trees provide food for birds.

The central space is characterised by an urban orchard at the heart of Sumpter Yard, now a walled garden. A discontinuous low yew hedge creates a firm protective edge in long open-ended sweeps that draws together and frames elements of the planting across Sumpter Yard.

The new-look Sumpter Yard at St Albans Cathedral.

The new-look Sumpter Yard at St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: St Albans Cathedral

The evergreen yew hedges provide the backdrop for the changing seasonality of the garden. 

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Canon Kevin Walton said: “This project to ‘green’ our busiest entrance has been truly transformative, and we have been very encouraged by the huge amount of positive feedback we have received. Thank you also to those who have contributed so generously to enable this to happen.”

To celebrate the new landscape, the Cathedral Guides have devised a free tour running until September, exploring how the monks used the garden and what they grew, what happened to the space after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and how the new project has honoured the past and responded to the present

 In August the final phase of the building works will be completed, with the resurfacing of the disabled parking bays to improve accessibility to the Cathedral.

The project will officially open on Saturday September 17, with the blessing of the space by Dean Jo Kelly-Moore and Dean Emeritus, Jeffrey John.

Sumpter Yard Revived was designed by J&L Gibbons with work carried out by Ground Control, and was made by possible by the support of individual donors and the Friends of St Albans Cathedral.