Saturday, August 11, 2012



Thursday June 27th 2012

As we walk from our parked car towards Lyveden New Bield a roofless structure comes into view. I am wondering why the National Trust hasn’t restored what appears to be a burnt out shell. I am soon to learn about this grand garden lodge or summer house. After all the beautiful and colorful gardens we have seen in England this certainly comes as a surprise. Not a flower in sight. And yet here is an important part of garden history; a relic of the Elizabethan age.

Sir Thomas Tresham began work on this grand garden lodge in 1595. From his manor house in the valley below he planned to build an elaborate Elizabethan garden where visiting guests would pass though orchards, terraces and parterres. They would view the gardens from pleasure mounds, cross moats, walk around labryinths and end up at his magnificent garden lodge. Here they would be entertained in the grandest manner. It was not to be. In 1605 Sir Thomas died leaving his estate to his son Francis. Two months later Francis was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, was incarcerated and shortly thereafter died in the Tower of London. Of natural causes they say! This once wealthy and powerful Catholic family was disgraced and left with massive debt.

Nothing is left today of the manor house in which they lived but the garden lodge still remains as it was left 400 years ago. A testament to its craftsmen builders. The outside walls of the garden lodge are richly carved with the religious symbols of their Catholic faith for which they had been persecuted for years. The property was donated to the National Trust in 1922 after the local residents purchased the property for £1000. Work began on restoring the Elizabethan gardens in 1995.

Attributed to National Trust 
It was not  uncommon for grand houses to have labyrinths and evidence of one existing here came to light when the Trust examined this aerial photograph taken by the Luftwaffe in the 1940s. Invisible at ground level but clearly visible from the air are 10 concentric rings. Details of a possible planting are to be found in the papers of Sir Thomas and included 400 raspberry and rose bushes. Religious symbolism abounds in the garden lodge and this would be yet another example. The raspberries representing the passion of Christ and the roses Christ's mother. The maze the one true path of faith.

The fields are full of the flowers of my childhood but more importantly this has become an oasis of for wildlife. Of greater interest is the research that has been done into Elizabethan plantings. Core samples from the pond have revealed seeds and pollen from roses, pinks, burr marigold, coriander, parsley and fennel. A veritable time capsule of the Elizabethan garden and another step back in time for this garden traveler.
We drive on towards our destination in Nottingham with a plan to make a stop at Belton Gardens. As we pull up the long driveway into the parking area it is clear by the number of car, coaches, girl and boy scouts that something is going on here. We guess correctly. The Olympic torch is about to arrive. We must make haste to leave before its arrival as the roads in and out will soon be closed.


If you were to guess that these gardens were Italian you would be correct. They were designed by Sit Jeffry Wyatville around 1820. This site is that of the former kitchen garden.

The Orangery

Directly opposite the Orangery the Lion Exedra water feature.

The Dutch garden c 1879 is planted with seasonal plantings.

The clock tells us that it is time to leave hurriedly, not only because of the torch but also because there is very threatening weather; thunder, lightening. We literally end up running back to the car only just making it before the heavens opened.

I can tell you that living in Texas we are accustomed to torrential downpours. Several inches within a few minutes. But the likes of rain like that in England must surely be unusual. It rained so hard as we drove through the town that we could not see in front of us and then the hail started and I am busy thinking. 'OK, we have had to replace a broken window on the car and now we are going to get hail damage'. Oh, and the poor torch runners and spectators who lined the streets. Luckily we got though unscathed and managed to arrive at my cousin's house to bright sunshine. The vagaries of British weather!  Time enough to retreat to another garden with a glass of wine.


  1. Loved the the last 2 posts, seems you are having fun and it comes through in the posts. Wonderful pictures and stories. LT

    1. There is no doubt I am in my element touring gardens and looking back at them is just as much fun.

  2. Another grand tour.
    I am enjoying this trip so much. And, learning some history, as well. History is another one of my interests.
    Looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Yes, Linda, suddenly the history is becoming rather important in the whole scheme of gardening.

  3. You have to give me your tricks on how you get David to go along with seeing all these gardens - I mean really, I need the help - when I suggest we go look at a botanic garden my husband is all like 'why would we do that?'

    1. I think he is more interested in these gardens because of the history. Plus there is so much interest in the houses too and every one is different. Just drag him along! Then he gets to go off fishing by himself!

  4. I have really enjoyed your blog and your trip to England. It was just like being there!

    1. So glad you are enjoying it. Did you read my last years tour of garden. If not you'll see it under My British Garden Tour on the right.