There's pleny to admire at the Windermere wonderland of Brockhole
PUBLISHED: 10:04 26 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:22 26 February 2013
It hit the headlines recently when a tree was cut down but there is still lots to admire at this Windermere wonderland, as Linda Viney reports
Theres hardly ever a bad time to stroll around the extensive Arts and Crafts garden at the Brockhole visitor centre near Windermere. Its a constant source of delight, whatever the season.
The stunning views over the lake and the Langdale Pikes form a magnificent backdrop to the gardens designed by Lancashire lad Thomas Mawson in 1898.
Our answer to Capability Brown was born in Scorton and but he had to leave school when he was only 12 to help keep his penniless family. He began in the building trade with his uncle who passed his enthusiasm for gardening to young Thomas.
Following the death of his father he travelled to London with his mother and got a job in the nursery trade, eventually earning enough to return north to Windermere to set up Lakeland Nurseries with his two brothers.
As this became successful, he was able to concentrate on garden design,
working for many of the local wealthy landowners. It was about 100 years ago that Thomas created the 30 acres of gardens for the Gaddum family at their home, Brockhole.
On entering, the formal series of west and south facing terraces slope gently down to Lake Windermere changing from formal to informal planting flowing through flower beds, woodland and meadow to the lake shore. The gardens have, and still are being restored keeping to Thomass plans.
Those plans did not include the enormous monkey puzzle tree you can
see in my pictures. I went along with my camera while the controversial tree continued to dominate the landscape.
Thomas and the Gaddums fell out over this tree but the owners got their way and it became a local landmark. History repeated itself 100 years later when the Lake District National Park Authority and some locals became embroiled in the furious argument over plans to fell it. The authority finally managed to achieve what Thomas had failed to do and it was chopped down.
The authority has owned the garden for more than 40 years ago and Sue Preston-Jones has been head gardener for the last 11.
Two contract gardeners and some volunteers assist her, and she was delighted with the help of the volunteers who took down the old poly-tunnel.
Sue was so thrilled when the new one was in situ she held a poly-tunnel warming party.
The acid soils found in the Lakes and the mild microclimate enable more unusual plants such as the Chilean holly, Chilean lantern tree and Eucryphias to thrive here. Snowdrops and aconites, closely followed by hellebores,herald the start of the year and, as the spring bulbs break through the soil, the yellow of the daffodils bring a smile to everyones face.
Initially, in spring wallflowers and tulips fill the beds followed with a second planting of summer bedding. As you journey through, paths meander and shrubs including the rhododendrons and delightful sweet smelling deciduous azaleas flank either side. Fresh new leaves of the acers burst open and by autumn have their fiery glow. Crossing the croquet lawn you are nearing the lake and as you walk through the woodland wood anemones are opening.
The walls behind the herbaceous borders are being repaired and the plants have been lifted and divided and once work is completed the border will be replanted in coloured blocks, of purple hues through to pale blue. There is always work to be done and this gives the bonus of replanting and sometimes trying out different species.
More perfume wafts through the air from the old fashioned roses, honeysuckle and lavender. Wild flowers also feature and the meadow when possible has mown paths allowing visitors to walk through and see the natural wild orchids, yellow rattle and enjoy the movement of the swaying grasses as they catch the breeze. Foxgloves can pop up anywhere and Sue normally leaves them unless they are totally in the wrong place.
Soft fruit with raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and currants can all be seen in the kitchen garden. A selection of herbs and vegetables such as garlic, onions as well as the brassicas and legumes are also grown in this area and when harvested the produce is used in the cafe. This year they plan to try a grow the beans and peas in a cage to stop the deer getting there first.
Visit the neighbours
If you are interested in horticulture, the history of landscape designer Thomas Mawson or just want to soak up the ambience and tranquility of a beautiful garden, Brockhole is a great place for a day out. But there is more than just a stunning garden - there are exhibitions, an adventure playground, a treetop trek, a soft play area, shop and a cafe. Brockhole is just off the A591 at LA23 1LJ. Tel: 015394 46601. If you wanted to make a full day of it or even a weekend you could combine your visit with a trip to the brilliant RHS garden at Holehird, just a couple of miles away. Its at LA23 1NP.