Last Spring my friend and his parents and I drove north from London to Dumfries in Scotland. On the drive, we passed through some beautiful countryside. In Staffordshire, England we stopped at a few exceptional places - Biddulph Grange and it's gorgeous, eclectic gardens is one of the loveliest.
The property was acquired by the National Trust in the late 80's. The family still lives in the house, but several areas are open to the public as a tea room, gift shop and reception area , as well as an audio visual room. This view of the front arch is as much as I felt comfortable photographing as the front part of the house and a small area of the terraced gardens in the back are private and reserved for the family.
At the beginning of the tour there's a charming tea room, reception area and gift shop. There's good lunch and tea items in the tea room, though it's not very large.
As we moved from the building the azaleas and rhododendrons were in full bloom. May in this part of the country is so beautiful and this was an exceptionally fine day, sunny and not too warm.
Created by James and Maria Bateman and designer Edward Cooke over 150 years ago, there are many facets of this lovely, verdant jewel of a garden.
James Bateman and his wife, Maria, lived in Biddulph Grange between 1841 and 1868.
An avid plant collector, James wanted to create a garden that would "amaze and delight" visitors with a continuing journey through different types of gardens inspired by exploring the world. He started the tour with terraced gardens in back of the house and then moved into shubbery and winding paths through woods and delightfully fantastic vignettes from around the world.
Taking a leisurely stroll, one can enjoy the meandering paths through the grounds. There are lawns for bowling and quiots (lawn darts) with benches and lots of open space for little ones to run and play.
There are tunnels and grottos, rare and beautiful plants from all over the world, and themed gardens are featured throughout the design to please the senses and stir the imagination.
As visitors walk through the beautiful greenery and lovely blossoms, it isn't hard to imagine this place as it once was. The National Trust has done a wonderful job of keeping the grounds and encouraging visitors. From the formal garden the path takes visitors past the pond where they are treated to various lovely scenes.
Children were throwing bread in the water for the fish so they kept close to the edge!
Some of my favorite shots were looking back at the house and seeing the reflection in the water.
The first tunnel leads from the Rhododendron gardens...
into the cool darkness...
on through a wooded lane of trees from around the world, mainly conifers.
They call this part of the gardens the Pinearium. A diverse variety of trees, unique and mundane, are grown here.
The garden also has interesting and unique plants...
like the "upside-down" trees that look as if their roots are reaching to the sky.
The pines and deciduous trees create pools of deep shade in the ocean of warm sunlight.
The cool shade of the forest smells sweet and fresh with the scent of pine, moss, grass, and other growing things.
Many of the plants were blooming, adding soft or vibrant colors in counterpoint to the rich greenery and the rocks and soil.
Follow the path through the woods and clearings and come to Cheshire Cottage nestled in the woods like a fantasy out of a romantic fairy tale. It's the only feature in the garden to be dated with the year as well as the intertwined initials of James and Maria Bateman carved into the wooden lintel.
The unique and eclectic tastes of the Batemans' are exhibited in the extremes of this quaint English half-timbered cottage.
Just inside to the right, the "Ape of Thoth" keeps watch in a room lit only by the outside light from the hall and what light can filter in through a thick pane of dark red glass creating a mystical atmosphere.
To the left is a hall that leads up some stairs in the dim light and comes out onto the Egyptian Temple facade topped by a topiary pyramid. The door is flanked by two sphinx.
And looking out from the door of the Egyptian Temple, the house is visible as well as two more sphinxes guarding the path.
For such a lovely day, there weren't very many visitors. It was still early in the season, though. My friend and his parents and I were some of the few day visitors, but the holidays hadn't really gotten underway yet and it was a weekday.
Looking out over the back of the house and Dahlia work, the terraced gardens and private part of the grounds is visible.
This view of the Dahlia Walk is from the terraced gardens and you just barely see the tip of the pyramid topiary on the left above the trees.
As you come down the path from the terrace and Egyptian Temple, it winds back into the greenery and on into a stumpery overgrown with ivy and wild plants. There are beautiful flowers, trees and plants all along the walk.
I can't do justice to them all, but want to show a few charming examples of why the English are so famous for their gardens!
The stumpery (yes, it is a word!) was one of my favorite places. Very unique with delicate, tiny blossoms and ivy as the stony path wound down...
... past wild beasts hidden in the greenery...
... through the tunnel to the Scottish Glen!
Here there are plants you would find in the glens, they highlands and lowlands of Scotland; thistle, heather, gorse, and many other shrubs and trees.
Through the trees, the house is just visible, though it feels as if the wild forest and glen surrounds us.
The path leads on and the rocks become a rough wall with arches.
James Bateman had the wall built to suggest the "Great Wall" of China but the arches lead to the Joss House on a small rise above the Asian Garden.
The path here was blocked because of renovations but the arches looked so inviting... from shadow into sunlit paths.
The path that was open winds down into the Asian Garden with mosses, ferns, Japanese maples and other oriental plants and trees.
The pond and bridge lead to the small Asian Temple, which has a tunnel that leads into the Ice House, an natural stone grotto underground, where ice and cold foods were kept for the manor house before refrigeration.
A view from the Ice Tunnel shows the temple gate and garden.
A guardian of the Temple Gate.
There are two gates in the Asian Gardens with statuary and alcoves. This one leads to the small promenade over the pond, which in turn leads to the Ice House. The Temple Lion Dog stands watch.
The alcove has a statue of a golden bull, an animal revered in India.
The pond and rocks are well suited to creating a soothing and peaceful spot.
Shadow as well as light play an integral part in creating the essentials of the oriental sensibilities of a garden.
Each small piece creates vistas that can be enjoyed for its individual form and beauty or encompass the whole and enjoy the dynamic energy that enhances the garden on different levels.
From the walk through the various cultures that make up Biddulph Grange's lovely gardens, visiting this fine National Trust property is an excellent way to spend a day exploring not only the gracious living of centuries past, but the Batemen's love and development of artisitic gardening .
I hope you enjoyed your tour of the Biddulph Grange Gardens. If you have the opportunity to travel to Staffordshire, England, it would be a shame to miss this lovely property~ and if you will be there for any length of time or plan to do a lot of sightseeing of historical properties, consider getting a membership to the National Trust. There are various types of memberships which offer free admission to properties and the funds help with the upkeep and maintainance of lovely places like this.