Way back in the early summer we visited Biddulph Grange whilst on holiday in Staffordshire. I've had the title of this post lurking in my drafts ever since, and seeing that this garden is set to be featured in tonight's Alan Titchmarsh's Garden Secrets programme, I thought now is the time to give you a quick sneak preview alongside the 'postcard' I sent you a couple of weeks ago.
It's a prime example of how gardens developed during Victorian times. A combination of the craze for plant hunting in the remote regions of the world, plus the riches gained from Britain's industrialisation led to many gentleman of the time building smart large houses complete with a garden to show off their newly acquired collections of rarities and new introductions to the UK.
Biddulph Grange was built by James Bateman and has a number of themed 'garden rooms' reflecting the flora of the various countries comprising his collection. Thus you are transported to 'Italy' on entering the garden. The picture at the top of this post shows you the view through Italy towards the garden's entrance.
The formality of the Italian garden then opens out into a large lake bordered by many species of Rhododendron. Although it was early June, the coldness of May meant that many of these were still in flower when we were there. This is probably the most open part of the garden - I felt quite hemmed in elsewhere [and this is in complete contrast to the vastness of Stowe's 18th century landscape garden as featured in last week's programme].
We then entered
The path led us to a most innocent looking 'Cheshire cottage'...
...bizarrely we found ourselves in 'Egypt' when we left the building. I imagine this is how the children must have felt on reaching Narnia after passing through the wardrobe, as I was certainly feeling rather confused at this point.
Our final stop in our global tour was China. As well as this striking bridge there was a pavilion decorated with bells, plus a magnificent gold bull, which Happy Mouffetard showed you a while ago. There was also a miniature Great Wall of China, which was being restored whilst we were there.
Another Victorian fashion was the stumpery, complete with ferns and Biddulph has a fine example.
One of the most famous features of the garden is the 'Dahlia walk' which was being planted up for the 2010 season whilst we were there. I would have liked to have returned later in the year to see this in full flower. There were plenty of Dahlia bargains to be found in the plant sales area though.
The Grange itself doesn't belong to the National Trust and has been converted into flats, except for the area housing the shop and tearoom. Another interesting area is the room (I'm not sure if this is original or has been recreated as it was lost during the house conversion) where Bateman tried to reconcile the (then) new theory of evolution with God's creation. This showed a changing fossil record laid out over 6 days with the 7th shown as a day of rest.
The room was vast and allowed Bateman's many visitors to promenade in the dry and ponder the fossils presented to them. Sadly most of the originals are no longer there, so today's visitors have to make do with fossil shaped holes on the walls, plus a drawing showing how it must have looked during Bateman's time.
After that, there's a walk through some more formal areas of the garden and back to the house to seek out a refreshing cuppa, a slice of cake and the discovery of a book depicting the history of the yummy Staffordshire oatcake :)