A Touch of China (in Staffordshire*)
In the early 1800’s James Bateman secured a farm, on the very edge of the Staffordshire Moors, at Biddulph Grange and set about building a new home and more significantly for us a new style of garden. I should say ‘garden’s’ for he created a series of gardens, each hidden from its neighbour thus presenting a fresh surprise for his visitors.
Bateman travelled extensively, making notes and drawings of what he discovered. During his travels he collected many plants and trees which he had despatched to Biddulph.
But first a little about the House that commands spectacular views across this 15 acre garden. The House you see today is not the original. Bateman gave up his estate in the late 1800 and the new owners (Robert Heath) rebuilt the house in a grander style. Then a fire destroyed the central section and rebuilding work in an even grander scale was undertaken. The new house was more Italian in style with Parterres and enhanced terraces.
As is the way with all exceptionally large houses in the early 1900’s the cost of upkeep was enormous and eventually the house adopted another role….that of an Orthopaedic Hospital.
Gardens were understandably not a priority for the Hospitals management and over the years they became lost…but not forgotten.
In 1988 the gardens came under the care of the National Trust who undertook the task of restoration and discovery….even today restoration work continues but there is now a great deal available for visitors to explore.
Each of the gardens within the garden takes us an a tour of various dramatic parts of the World. The Italian influence of the Parterres and Topiary, then a Dahlia Walk gives way to a typical English garden with its Lilly Pond and of course Carp.
Then via various tunnels and woodland walks you enter China and say hello to the Golden Water Buffalo, cross the enchanted bridge, pay a visit to Egypt and its Pyramid tomb then on through a Scottish type Glen into a Pinetum and back nearer to home through a Cheshire Cottage.
The whole garden complex is surrounded by an Arboretum and many woodland walks. On an early autumnal afternoon with low light and sun trying to penetrate the trees and shrubbery it give the gardens a magical and at time a mysterious charm. Join us on a short trip….
* Staffordshire is the home of the English Potteries and its Fine China….so it is perhaps fitting that the China Garden should be modelled upon one of the most famous patterns produced in the Potteries…that of the Willow Garden.
The House is now Private Apartments so does not form part of any tour…..but its presence still graces the garden with it outlook to the Lilly pond…
(C) David Oakes 2015