Thursday, 19 April 2012

Belvoir Castle - March 2012

Slightly delayed again with the blog!  But this time I have a good excuse.  Martin and I have been talking to the Duchess of Rutland and I’m thrilled to tell you we are now helping with the maintenance and replanting of the gardens at Belvoir Castle.  And what a wonderful opportunity.  For those who don’t know, the castle stands at the top of a very steep hill with the gardens falling away at varying angles – when I say falling away I am not exaggerating.  Sometimes I think crampons would make the job easier!

Taken from Knipton

The Duchess took us round the gardens giving us her ideas, future plans and long term goals.  After 4 hours of walking we had completed the tour and realized just what a mammoth task she has ahead of her, and us!

So here we are working in a place steeped in history, surrounded by amazing wildlife and following in the footsteps of Capability Brown.  Feet back on the ground and excitement aside; there is a lot to do. We always drive home making another long list of Jobs, to go with the other list.

There are a great team of workers at the castle who all seem to do every job under the sun.  As labour is now an expensive commodity for any business, the days of 40 gardeners are well gone.  This is especially hard at Belvoir as the steep terrain makes the use of machinery very difficult.

Our first project –  The Duchess's Garden – November 2011

This garden, also known as The Spring Garden, is situated some distance from the castle, but it is well worth the walk.  There is a long terraced bed full of peony’s, miscanthus, Crocosmia, Hemerocallis, snow drops, whitebells, and lots more that I am sure is still to come.  There is a wonderful summer house, called a root house which is made purely from tree roots with a thatched roof, situated on the top terrace looking across the gardens. 

The Root House

As Belvoir sits on acid soil, it leant itself to the popular Victorian choice of the Rhododendron ponticum, but over the years this plant has thrived taking over enormous areas of the estate.  Unfortunately this plant is responsible for the destruction of many native habitats leading to the loss of some indigenous animals.

Part of the Duchess’s grand plan was to clear the ponticum below the gardens creating a better environment and a magnificent long vista from the top terrace down to a new lake at the bottom.  This is now done and already the wildlife is returning, and also we are discovering some lovely old shrubs, which have been submerged for years.  Rhododendron mucronulatum, the first one I have ever seen – as you can see struggling a bit.  

As spring brings the deciduous trees to life we both look in wonder, as the wonderful Magnolia family leads the way.

Magnolia Stellata - which one - I am not sure yet....

So what have we been doing....  First we cleared last years debris from the terraces, this took Martin and I three days plus one helper just wheeling the rubbish away, and also a team of 13 volunteers to help us finish the job off – and that’s just one border! 

March 2012

Next stage – rediscovering and revealing a multitude of beautiful winding stone paths carefully built through various plantings of shrubs.  

Then we stumbled upon the old rockery.  Sadly mostly taken over by weeds, but again hidden gems were still fighting their corner.  Our task in this part of the garden was to rebuild the rockery and construct some steps from the spring gardens creating The Duchess’s new vista.  And just look how we did this .............

Also note the pouring rain!

As you can see nothing is done on a small scale. So read the next blog and see the finished rockery and vista to the lake.....

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