Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Garden Visit: Biddulph Grange


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 a Scottish Glen the pinetum, which with its towering specimen trees and sweeping path was one of my favourite parts of the garden. [NB there is a Scottish Glen, but this isn't it!]

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 :)

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the senak preview Michelle. Am looking forward to see this garden on telly tonight. Love the stumpery and the Dahlia walk looks fab, pity you were there too early in the year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I visited Biddulph Grange a few years ago, and loved its mad, Victorian exuberance, with so many highly-staged themes crammed into the same garden. Entering the Chinese garden through the rock tunnel is quite a blast, as well. The tea room served excellent homemade lemonade when we were there.

    Thanks for reviving the memories for me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I remember Biddulph Grange very well. It was where I took part in my first ever Radio 4 Gardeners' Question Time. I was terribly nervous but being in those gardens, then relatively newly restored, did much to calm my stage fright. The 'stumpery' was a hilarious folly, I thought, and the Dahlia Walk a triumph of split level gardening.

    (The ferns had not had time to grow, in the stumpery, then, so it was just a mass of upturned roots.)

    Nigel

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think I'd run away, I'd find it all too daunting.

    I like Happy Mouffetard's bull a lot but I think I'll stick with the picture and avoid the place.

    Posts like this are useful in letting us know where we might not like to go as well as the places we would.

    Esther

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ah... VP!! Recorded this earlier not paying attention to what was on this programme. Looking forward to it now. Thanks :-)

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane too. Have visited this garden three times and enjoyed seeing the vistas we walked both BC and after. I would defintiely recommend a visit there. On our visit my daughters were given food to feed the fish in the pond in front of the house.

    From memory we had a lovely homemade soup in the house/orangery/sunny room too. Funnily enough came across a guide book from our visit just the other day :-D

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ah... just spotted the comment from Nige... yes that stumpery was quite a sight. I liked it a lot at the time even without many ferns. My 6ft 3in husband wasn't so keen though ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Biddulph Grange is one of my favourite gardens - it's ages since I visited though. So I've had a double dose of it this evening, firstly with my weekly treat of Alan Titchmarsh (did you see it, it was excellent as usual) and now on your blog! Maybe I'm meant to visit it again soon ...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thankyou for sharing this wonderful garden!
    I love the idea of a Stumpery! In all the landscape history I did through my Batchelor of Landscape Architecture Stumperies were never covered!!
    I think the Victorian era gardens are some of the best examples of complex and immersive landscape design that engages the visitor in a way that many contemporary gardens can only dream of doing!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think Biddulph is one of those gardens that requires a good sense of humour when visiting, the strange juxtapositioning of "Italy", "Scotland", "Egypt" and "China" would otherwise be disconcerting. I remember loving it as a child, and being bored by it as a young adult. I suspect I'd enjoy it again now.

    ReplyDelete
  10. the stumpery is an interesting concept...although slightly dangerous looking.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm thinking of having a fernery in my tiny back garden now that AT has shown us the way.

    Biddulph Grange looks fun - another place on my visit list.

    ReplyDelete
  12. So interesting to read your blog post to discover your reaction to Biddulph. I would be interested to know what you made of the programme.

    Hilarious that AT to you means Alan Titchmarsh not Alton Towers, which means that you do not fit our typical guest profile. This proves there are other distractions to be found in the area. Come again when the dhalias are flowering.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Interesting tour VP - but I'm with you on feeling a bit hemmed in in some areas. I would like to go visit it myself at some point .....I'm sure I often say that about places you take us!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yolanda - hope you enjoyed the programme

    Jane - it's bonkers isn't it? And thanks for the reminder about the rock tunnel - quite something

    PMN - I can imagine you all standing around prior to GQT wondering what all the fuss was about re the stumpery. It's a shame you're not on there anymore.

    Esther - I'm surprised you don't like the idea of Biddulph as it's very eccentric and whisks you away to far away places. Not quite Mars, but give them time ;)

    Shirl - luckily the tea room is independently run, so much better than the usual National Trust look-alike affair.

    Phoenix C - I was out when it was on, but caught up with you the next day :)

    Phoebe - welcome! It's quite a different garden to many we have here. I see we're having 2 gardens from Australia at Chelsea next year - I'm particularly looking forward to the one from Melbourne Botanic Garden :)

    Janet - I think my sense of humour was a bit lacking that day and it was also a dull day (despite AT filming there on the same day and it looks v sunny on the telly) which never helps with masses of rhododendrons. I was particularly looking forward to seeing the evolution gallery and was very disappointed.

    Petoskystone - they're a bit bonkers but in a good way!

    Arabella - I've warmed to it since we were there. Going back over my photos for this post has allowed me to pick out a number of great things about the place. Don't think I was in the right mood for it at the time.

    Barks - I definitely want to come back and see the Dahlia walk :)

    Nutty Gnome - I'll be taking you to Trentham too over the winter months. Its not that far from Biddulph, so a good combination of garden to see when you're in the area

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi VP,
    Thanks for the welcome!
    My best friend is also a landscape Architect and she is involved in the design for the Australian Chelsea Garden!! Ian Barker & Associates have a blog charting the progress of the design and construction; if you are interested you should have a look!
    http://www.landscape.net.au/chelseablog/

    Cheers,
    Phoebe

    ReplyDelete
  16. Phoebe - what a fantastic coincidence! Thanks for coming back and letting me know and providing the link :)

    ReplyDelete
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...