For most garden lovers, the 18th-century pastoral landscapes designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, with their sweeping lawns, flowing lakes and vistas, epitomise the scenery we associate with the great houses and estates of England.
With his life and work being celebrated in 2016 to mark the 300th anniversary of his birth, it is the perfect time to visit two great English Heritage gardens, which still bear his masterful stamp
Restoration At Wrest Park Reveals 250 Years Of Garden History
Since the first phase of the major restoration of its wonderful landscape was revealed back in 2011, Wrest Park’s once secret garden has become one of the country’s most talked about garden attractions.
And that’s hardly surprising, because Wrest Park’s 90-acre landscape offers a magnificent ‘who’s who’ of 250 years of garden history, including Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and other well known figures such as Batty Langley, William Kent, Thomas Wright and Thomas Archer.
Visitors can see the restored areas including the French Parterre, Italian Garden, Rose Garden and American Garden now maturing beautifully.
Fruit trees have been planted in Wrest Park’s enormous Walled Garden in their original location – they match the old fashioned varieties documented as being there in 1900. The wonderful Conservatory once again contains the plants that were there in the early 20th century.
There are interactive exhibitions inside the 18th-century French style mansion, plus a sculpture gallery in the original Dairy to enjoy.
Groups members less able to walk around to see every part of the extensive site can take a ride in a motorised golf cart to explore the restored walks and woodland areas, stop off at the amazing Baroque and French-style buildings with new displays inside, and enjoy views of the statues throughout this lovely historic landscape.
Groups of up to 20 can pre-book 1–1½ hour tours around the stunning grounds and its lovely garden buildings.
NEW FOR GROUPS: Inside the mansion is an exhibition with historic photographs and diary entries evoking Wrest Park’s role as a convalescent home during the First World War – 1,600 men passed through its wards after it became the first country house to take in wounded soldiers.
[i] Wrest Park, Silsoe, Luton, Bedfordshire, MK45 4HR
Telephone: 01525 860000
Lancelot Landscape At Audley End House And Gardens
English Heritage’s Audley End House and Gardens in Essex, a stunning Jacobean stately home near Cambridge, truly is a garden lover’s dream. It is surrounded by extensive 18th-century Capability Brown-designed landscaped parkland, dotted with ornamental garden features, a beautiful 19th-century parterre and acclaimed Organic Kitchen Garden.
These glorious grounds also include a spectacular stable block, which is home to resident horses. The stables include an exhibition that interprets the gardens, parkland and estate in 1880 and links them to the working life of the house.
Groups can also see a unique early Victorian parterre and secret pond garden, plus England’s most authentically restored Walled Victorian Kitchen Garden which covers 12-acres and is gardened organically. One-hour tours are available of either the landscape gardens or the organic gardens.
Inside the main house there are lavishly decorated rooms to explore along with an authentic Victorian Service Wing.
[i] Audley End House and Gardens, Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF
Telephone: 01799 522842
English Heritage historic attractions boast some of the most interesting and lovely gardens and landscapes in the land. Here are just two more for groups to explore.
A Day Out For All Seasons At Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens near Newcastle is one of the most picturesque estates in the north east and boasts a ruined medieval castle enlarged into a Jacobean mansion and an imposing Regency Greek revival villa. And English Heritage is rightly proud that it features as number two in Visit England’s Ten of the best English Gardens for groups.
It’s 30-acre Grade-I listed ‘Plantsman’s garden’ is a treasure trove of seasonally interesting rare and exotic plants, colourful rhododendrons, trees and shrubs. The highlight of any visit is a walk around the magical quarry garden, with its steep ravines and lofty pinnacles. Groups can pre-book guided tours of the gardens.
[i] Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Belsay, Nr Ponteland, Northumberland, NE20 ODX
Telephone: 01661 881636
Opulent Osborne’s Garden Is The Jewel In The Crown
Osborne House’s breathtaking interiors are legendary – not just for their sheer magnificence, but for the unique insight they give us into the life of one of the country’s most powerful monarchs – Queen Victoria.
But it is the grounds of Osborne that are its crowning glory. The extensive parkland of Victoria and Albert’s seaside retreat is a veritable growing paradise with a semi sub-tropical climate, ideal for cultivating luxurious displays.
Seasonally the formal parterre terraces are planted with a colourful theme and the extensive parkland has a stunning collection of trees; these, along with the walled fruit and flower garden with fountains and flowerbeds, and a pretty wildflower meadow, should not be missed. A stroll through the grounds brings visitors to the recently restored and re-presented Swiss Cottage and museum, which was built for the Royal children who each tended their own fruit, vegetable and flower gardens.
Groups can also visit Queen Victoria’s newly opened private beach, which features her Bathing Machine restored to its original condition and colours.
[i] Osborne, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX
Telephone: 01983 200022
Groups of 11 or more people receive a 15% discount at all English Heritage properties (10% at Stonehenge). A tour leader and coach driver are admitted free with each group. Free familiarisation visits can be arranged for the travel trade. Special themed tours are available for pre-booked groups at many properties.
To discuss opportunities for group visits, or to order a complimentary copy of the 2016/17 Group Visits Guide, call 020 7973 3529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.