mardi 18 septembre 2012

Arley Hall, Cheshire, England

I was pleased to have the chance to visit the gardens of Arley Hall during the summer.

Arley Hall is a Grade II listed country house in Cheshire.  It was built in the Jacobean style in 1832-1845.  The gardens are on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and are also Grade II listed meaning that the site is 'particularly important:  of more than special interest'.  The gardens were created in 1830's.  The Herbaceous Border is one of the first in Britain and remains one of its finest.  The house is approached by an impressive avenue of bleached lime trees, ending in an unusual clock tower with only one hand.

The Arley Estate is part of land held by the Warbuton family since the end of the 12th Century.  The formal gardens cover 12 acres.  Sir Peter Warbuton developed pleasure grounds and a walled kitchen garden.  During the second world war, the gardens provided food for the house and a skeleton staff ensured that the grounds didn't remain untended.

The herbaceous border is the first of its type in Britain and planted with four levels of flowerbeds.  It  is considered amongst the best in UK.

The Greenhouse is called the Vinery and was built in 1872-3 and has a large sloping roof.  The fig trees in it were planted inside shortly after it was built and there is an abundance of figs and flowers and passion fruits in this elegant white structure plus some beautiful period details such as the floor grid above.

The vegetable garden next to the greenhouse is full of produce with a gorgeous flowering border which would have been used to provide cut flowers for the house (and maybe still is).

The ha ha was built by George Latham.  A ha ha is a sudden drop providing an abrupt end to the formal gardens leading the eye to a magnificent view over farmland and grazing sheep, a very English landscape.  I guess it's called a ha ha because that's the sound you make if you don't know it's there and you fall off the edge!  Actually if you want to know more about ha ha, here's the Wilkipedia page.

The drop occurs immediately after this sundail in the centre of the garden after the steps and is unseen and  imperceptible from the garden unless you venture close up (careful not to fall!)  It ensures that the livestock cannot stray into the garden but gives an uninterrupted view over the lovely countryside without the need for a barrier.  Very clever.

There is much topiary in the garden, including these enormous tubes which are very impressive and many metres high.  Scaffolding is needed to trim them.

There are also some smaller, less mamgnificent but nevertheless impressive examples of topiary dotted around.  Lots of ideas to steal for your own garden here.

The modern flower sculpture in the pond is by Tom Leaper and is in keeping with its surrounding garden.

All around the garden you'll find beautiful vistas, paths leading into other gardens and some beautiful architectural details - gates, fences, doors, chairs, well placed vases, statues - everything is harmonious and well considered and tasteful.

And just when you think you've seen everything, you come across the alpine garden with waterfalls, ponds, bridges, little hiding places, informal stone steps leading up, down, amongst the luscious ferns and greenery with the sound of rushing water to soothe the senses.  All beautifully harmonious, on a grand scale, informal with a natural, wild feel and in sharp contrast to the orderly topiary and charming sets of small enclosed gardens.

And don't forget to visit the smaller enclosed gardens such as the Herb Garden and the Scented Gardens.

And the larger lawned gardens.

And when you really have walked enough, go have a cup of tea in the barn.  You might even want to get married in the Barn or give thanks for nature in the Grade II listed chapel.

And when you've got your energy back, take a walk in the woods and a peek through the modern sculptures.

And return home knowing that you have seen and appreciated the work of many lifetimes of gardeners and the product of much dedicated hard work by the current gardeners.

The Hall, Chapel and Gardens are open to the public - go take a look!  The barn is a licensed restaurant and cafe and there is also a restored building used for weddings and events.

Some filming has taken place in the Hall and Gardens - for 'Cludeo', 'The Forsythe Saga', 'Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' and recently two Coronation Street weddings have taken place there.

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