Saturday, 3 October 2015

The World in a Garden - Biddulph Grange

Like many gardens created in the mid C19th, Biddulph was designed and built to show off the large variety of internationally discovered plants found by those intrepid Victorian plant hunters. However, James Bateman went one step further and incorporated into his garden a varied series of gardens within gardens to amaze, impress and delight his friends and visitors.
James Bateman was a Fellow of the Linnean and Royal Societies, Vice-President of the Royal Horticultural Society, and author of two major works on the cultivation of orchids.
The garden is a cleverly planned framework of hedges, rocky outcrops, secret tunnels, and concealed pathways which lead into a variety of distinctively themed and styled gardens

The journey begins through the Mediterranean/Italian garden
Lime tree avenue
Lake surrounded by Rhododendrons discovered and introduced from the Himalayas 
One of the many tunnels to explore!
A hidden pathway with steps emulating a Himalayan mountain walk
with rocky outcrops covered in ferns, moss and blue Gentiana asclepiadea - willow gentian
The climb continues upwards, crosses a stream, then on through a network of rocks and stone passageways
emerging into a Victorian vision of China
Ascend the Great Wall of China to the Joss House - a small Chinese temple.
James Bateman based his design for the Chinese garden on the Willow Pattern plate
but it's onwards and upwards through the garden - more will be revealed next time......

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Valley with a Past

It was a magical late summers day, gliders soared high overhead, the tree canopy was just beginning to show its first flush of autumn gold. A perfect day to wander in the dappled sunlight, breathe in the sweet air, and enjoy.
Setting off down the track, picnic to hand, into a spot just visible from our own hilltop eerie
A valley which was settled thousands of years ago. Neolithic flint-knappings, and a late Bronze Age storage pit used to keep foodstuffs safe and cool have been found. Evidence also of Bronze Age roundhouses, and later during the Roman period it was occupied by a provincial governor, thought to be General Vespasian, who built himself a large villa. The villa had one of the finest mosaics ever discovered north of the Alps - the Orpheus Pavement found and excavated by Samuel Lysons in 1793.
This peaceful wooded valley reveals the remains of a Georgian landscape created between the 17th and 19th centuries influenced by leading landscape designers 'Capability' Brown and Humphry Repton
The peace and quiet occasionally broken
by lowing cattle, bleating sheep, and the plaintive mew from a Buzzard in the treetops

large old specimen trees still stand proud in a neglected landscape that is gradually being reclaimed
Hidden at the end of this valley lies an enigma
An unfinished masterpiece - a splendid Victorian Gothic building
In 1846 William Leigh asked the pre-eminent Victorian architect A.W.N. Pugin to survey an existing property in the valley, presumably with a view to his improving the house for William and his family. However, Pugin condemned the existing building saying "...a more hopeless case of repairs I never saw." He recommended starting anew and sent Leigh an estimate of £7118 and a design for a new house.  Progress on the mansion was slow as often the workforce was withdrawn to do other work on the estate and funding was piecemeal. William Leigh was a perfectionist who actively supervised all the work. His personality may well have contributed to the slow pace and his religious fervour had a significant impact on the style of the house. His health declined and the mansion remained unfinished on Leigh's death.
Today the unfinished mansion is held by a Trust who are slowly rescuing the property from potentially catastrophic decay. The Trust is a pioneer to the Living Classroom model of heritage skills training, becoming the first site in the UK to provide hands-on training to student stonemasons vital for the survival and heritage of our limestone buildings.
It's a good recipe

The students learn new skills
and the building is gradually rescued from decay

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chatsworth Garden

Although nearing the end of September these wildflowers were still making a colourful show
The lst Duke's charming Greenhouse was built in 1697 to grow citrus trees. It is one of the most important C17th greenhouses surviving in England. Today it houses part of Chatsworth's Camellia collection, a few citrus trees and other tender plants
The Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories thriving happily in one of the other estate greenhouses
Ipomoea - 'Ocean Blue'
Henry Moore OM, CH - Three piece reclining figure: Draped
Every year Chatsworth hosts a large sculpture exhibition
The current one is entitled Beyond Limits: The Landscape of British Sculpture 1950-2015
The Long Walk, topped by a memorial urn to Blanche, wife of the 7th Duke
In a vale lying alongside but below the Long Walk is the Emperor Fountain - anticipating a visit from Tsar Nicholas l of Russia, the 6th Duke decided to construct the world's highest fountain, and set Joseph Paxton to work building it in 1843
Mr Paxton was Head Gardener to the 6th Duke, but he is far better known for his design and building of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park where the Great Exhibition was held in 1851
Coloured lithograph of Queen Victoria opening the Great Exhibition
Paxton's unique building and design expertise in the use of cast-iron and glass was honed in the gardens at Chatsworth where in 1837 he built this revolutionary glass house which sadly was demolished in 1920
Paxton also designed a glass Lily House at Chatsworth - this illustration shows his daughter Annie standing on the leaf of a giant Victoria amazonica at Chatsworth - Paxton's design for the Crystal Palace took its cue from the organic structure of this plant 

beyond the Emperor fountain are uninterrupted views stretching across and beyond the River Derwent 
Classical statuary and the roofline at Chatsworth House appear dwarfed by a large scale sculptural construction by Conrad Shawcross RA called 'The Dappled Light of the Sun'
A sculptural piece by Stephen Cox RA - Dreadnought: Problems of History - The search for the hidden stone.
Personally I would have preferred to see the water cascade without the sculpture sitting in it, albeit only a temporary exhibit
A colourful show of wild flowers highlighting what is known as 'The Conservative Wall' - a series of greenhouses built in front of the garden wall. The building behind the wall is the imposing Stable Block
As the afternoon shadows lengthen - a last look over my shoulder, 
before heading back into the Derbyshire countryside