Thursday, 15 April 2010

Alnwick Gardens

DSCF7721 Alnwick Castle is nowadays known as the setting for Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films but has it’s own history as the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland for 700 years.
We missed on the castle as we were only in the area for a short period and we were all keen to see the gardens. Developed over the past ten years by the Duchess of Northumberland, the gardens have been controversial.  Many people wanted a more traditional approach and there was a legal battle when English Heritage objected to the design and demanded a ‘restoration garden’.

I’m usually in favour of Conservation but the gardens were derelict, needed a large amount of money to restore or redesign (£42m is a figure quoted) and needed to pay their way for upkeep – there’s not much point in investing that much money if they are going to be neglected down the line.

P1000913 The result is a garden which treads the fine line between ‘garden’ and ‘visitor attraction’ and succeeds. The casual use of these toy diggers by children to scoop up overflow water from the fountains and trundle it around is a joy to see. Many must be regulars as they were in wellingtons.

DSCF7817 Similarly, the use of some very clever fountains was enhanced by the way children (of all ages) were enjoying them without fear of being told off was a refreshing – and amusing – sight.
There are places where the serious gardener can find inspiration, especially a rather good knot garden. I found it admirable that so much has been done in ten years.
There is a good cafe – in design as well as choice of food – as well as the usual shop and plant sales.  I’ll admit my eyes crossed at the price of admission but it was worth it, with more to see than our limited time frame permitted.
More pictures on Picasa

PS - I got the entrance fee wrong as Alan quoted Gardens and castle. The garden entrance was in line with National Trust fees.  Sorry - eyes uncrossed now.

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