Thursday 1 October 2015

The Formal Garden, Cragside

The Formal Garden Cragside National Trust Italian Terrace Loggia Garden Cottage Northumberland William Armstrong
Cragside is a huge estate so it's not surprising there are many parts of it I have not seen before our most recent visit. When we first visited Cragside many years ago the Iron Bridge was out of bounds for the public to cross so we never went to that part of the estate. On more recent visits we have headed straight from the house and done the six mile estate drive. In last week's post on The Rock Garden I left you with a teaser on what laid beyond the main house and what a surprise I had.
Once you cross over the Debdon Burn the footpath leads you up and through the pine trees. Once you reach the top the tree line finishes and there's a gate inviting you to go through but comes with a request to close it so to stop the rabbits getting. Any rabbits that do break in must be in for a feast. Beyond the gate lies The Formal Garden.
William Armstrong bought this vast section of land near Rothbury in Northumberland in the 1860s. He set upon building a fine family home the other side of the estate's valley. This part of Cragside was always in the original estate that Armstrong purchased. You would think the views out to the moors and beyond would be sufficient for most people to admire but Armstrong was never one for letting things stand still.
The slope was a feature of this stretch of land but Armstrong transformed the small field into a formal garden on with terracing on three different levels.
One of the most dominate features of the garden is the border planting. Each year a different design is used and this year over 25,000 plants have been used. The inspiration for this year's design comes from a photograph of the carpet border taken in 1900.
Rising up behind the border is The Clock Tower. It is styled more like a chapel with hints of Gothic revival but when it was built in the late 1860s it was always meant for more practical and administrative purposes. The clock served as the estate time piece and the bell in the belfy rang to signify the start and finish of work shifts plus meal times. The building was used as the pay office.
A glasshouse would have been an essential in most Victorian gardens but especially here in the remote Northumbrian hills. The shelter provided by this structure allows not only domestic varieties to thrive but also fruits liking warmer climes such as grapes, lemons and oranges. 

This glasshouse is known as the orchard house and is one of the oldest surviving from the 1870s. The National Trust restored parts of it in the 1990s. All the trees grown in it though are varieties which date from when it was originally constructed.
The picture perfect cottage was built around 1865 for the estate manager. Further building work in the 1890s added an extension which was then used as an estate office. If this looks like your dream house to live you can try it out for a few days as the National Trust now rents it out as a holiday let named Garden Cottage.
There are few gardens of this style which wouldn't be complete without a rose garden. Last year a new rose bed was dug and around 300 rose plants were put it. Despite the lateness of the season the white roses were still showing a glorious display.
In recent years the lowest level of the terracing known as the Italian terrace has had a large amount of work done on it. The Loggia dating from 1870 is still in place as a fine example of Armstrong's design skills. It is thought that the cast iron structure was made at Armstrong's Elswick works. The top and two sides has glass in them but the front is completed open.
Also on this level an opened walled garden accessible through a door. The walls as such are white poles which gives the feeling of looking in from outside. Whatever you do when you visit Cragside don't forget to make your way up to the Formal Garden to have a look inside.

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  1. I have such a soft spot for Victorian planting with its carpet planting display and the glasshouses are just beautiful. Great insight into this garden.

  2. Wow what a border! I can't help but be impressed with the use of 25,000 plants in one design - such planning and attention to detail. That glasshouse and clocktower are something else. Ah it all looks great - I wish I lived closer!
    Thank you for sharing and joining in again, you always show me somewhere new!

  3. As you know I was very excited to read last time about Craigside. Now I need to find out about the Garden Cottage - it would be so cool to stay there and explore.

  4. wow wow wow are you ever going to run out of blog posts with this marvellous house and garden. i really love the patterns and colour in the borders

  5. I like the story behind the border - I'm always amazed at how accurate the gardeners are when they plant these border arrangements. Makes my 'planned planting' look a bit slapdash :)

  6. A lovely history lesson on such a stunning garden, the plant border is stunning. The glasshouses are dreamy, would love the room for just a tiny one of those

  7. It looks a lovely place - and wouldn't it be lovely to have a glasshouse like that in our own gardens? :) #hdygg

  8. Ahhhh - a National Trust garden. Lovely and one of just a very few things I do miss about not living in the UK. But I'll be back for a trip soon and garden visits are planned.


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