The original layout of the Moat Brae garden would have been made after the house was designed in 1823 but it is thought that the very little that now remains of the early garden design relates to Victorian times. Perhaps this is appropriate as the period when Barrie played pirate games with the Gordon boys in the garden was in the 1870s when he was a pupil at the neighbouring Dumfries Academy.
The garden survey states that the Victorian period was characterised by the gardenesque rather than the picturesque, with gardens viewed as being ‘works of art’ rather than nature. In the villa gardens of the middle classes there was an increase in artifice; they were more formal and geometric with naturalistic rockworks and exotic planting.
Moat Brae garden was fairly typical of the era in several respects, with the formal areas to the rear of the house, a conservatory and productive areas to the west the remainder of the garden was less formal, with a series of meandering paths amidst specimen trees and shrubberies. The arrangement of the more formal areas is suggested by two photographs from the early 20th century.
Very little of that garden lay out now survives beyond the vestiges of some paths, two mature cedar trees, a mature cherry and a large tulip tree.
The garden was previously more extensive than it is now, the site to the west now occupied by sheltered housing was formerly the vegetable garden.
This extended to a range of sandstone outbuildings which then included stables, garden accommodation, sheds and a boathouse.
The buildings still exist but no longer form part of the property. The land anticipated to be available for the restoration project is roughly 1.75 acres.
From the early 1990s when Moat Brae ceased to be a nursing home the garden was progressively abandoned and finally became prey to vandals and fly-tippers. Since November 2009 work to re-claim it has started. Trust volunteers, with the help of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Conservation Team (funded by the Scottish Postcode Lottery) cleared years of accumulated rubbish, weeds and roots of self seeded shrubs and trees.
The ‘enchanted land’ at Moat Brae
– where Peter Pan began.
Barrie’s ‘enchanted land’ will open
for new adventures in 2018 .