COLUMN: Discover the secrets of Derbyshire gardens
The gardens at National Trust sites across Derbyshire are places to relax, take a leisurely stroll or stop for a picnic.
But they were once the beating heart of our county’s great estates, and each has its own unique story to tell.
The walled gardens at Hardwick and Calke Abbey played hugely important roles, providing employment and food for the people who lived and worked there. The kitchen garden at Calke covered four acres and was a hive of production, with excess vegetables being sold in local markets. However, the need for a quiet spot to relax in was as important then as it is today. And despite the garden falling into decline after the Second World War, three ornamental ponds and a summerhouse can still be seen today, and continue to provide a quiet spot to rest.
Whilst the kitchen gardens kept the estates fed, the wealthy of the day created pleasure grounds to keep themselves entertained – and indulge in a certain amount of showing off.
Everything about Kedleston Hall was built to impress, and its grounds are no exception. The circular walk was carefully planned to show off Kedleston’s magnificent mansion and weave through the woods to find the Hidden Hermitage. Although many of the original garden features and planting are long gone the pleasure grounds are a peaceful place, the lawns seamlessly flow into rugged parkland with uninterrupted views thanks to its 18th century ha-ha.
At Calke Abbey tunnels were built under the pleasure grounds so the gardeners and villagers could come and go without being seen from the house, making sure the garden’s views were uninterrupted.
Pamela Smith, National Trust’s gardens and parks consultant for the Midlands, said: “The history of the gardens in our care is thoroughly researched, so we can understand the stories and planting of each garden. This is our starting point to help us decide not only how to care for some of our most fragile landscapes but also how to take the spirit of the garden forward, just as their original creators did.
“Our skilled gardeners are supported by garden volunteers who help care for Derbyshire’s historic gardens, so visitors can experience for themselves what these special places were like in their heyday.”
For more information on National Trust gardens visit nationaltrust.org.uk/Midlands.