Now one of the most-visited garden attractions in the UK, it’s remarkable to think that Trentham Gardens only re-opened its gates to the public thirteen years ago, on May 29th 2004.
Owned previously, for over 400 years, by the Dukes of Sutherland the 725-acre estate on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, had fallen into a state of despair at the end of the last century, when the UK’s leading regeneration specialist, St. Modwen Properties PLC stepped-in to not only revive the sleeping giant, but to also make it one of the most visited “paid entry” gardens in the country.
The new-look gardens, which attracted around 545,000 visits in 2015, a five-fold growth since 2008, have matured into some of the finest in Britain – described in the Gardens section of the Daily Telegraph as “the makeover of the decade”.
They have also won numerous other accolades and awards – one of the most prestigious of all being the 2010 European Gardening Award for “Restoration, Enhancement or Development of a Historic Park or Garden”. More recently, they have been granted a Gold Accolade by VisitEngland, were voted BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Garden of the Year in 2015 and Commended by the Georgian Group Architectural Awards in 2016 for the restoration and enhancement for the Brownian landscape.
The contemporary revival of the famous Italian Gardens – once described as the finest Italian Gardens outside all of Italy – have been moved forward with modern displays of perennials by renowned designer and multi-Chelsea gold-medal winner Tom Stuart-Smith; while the adjacent Rivers of Grass and Floral Labyrinth were designed by pre-eminent Dutch plantsman, and Chelsea gold-medal winner Piet Oudolf (of High Line fame in New York).
Also boasting the statue of Perseus, which enjoyed a starring role at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2012, and the eye-catching Trentham Fairy Trail, Trentham’s historic Gardens and Parkland have been in the headlines throughout 2016 as a leading example of a Capability Brown parkland, during a project which has seen it be rediscovered, and moved forward with contemporary plantings on a truly vast scale.
At the centre of Trentham Gardens is the mile long, Capability Brown designed Trentham Lake and circular lakeside walks.
Over the past 400 years, Trentham has never rested on its laurels; and the latest large-scale project that is already under way here is the creation of the largest sequence of colourful ‘pictorial meadows’ in any historic landscape in the country.
The past four years have seen the removal of commercial forestry and invasive wild Rhododendron which has revealed the historic setting and provided space for the introduction of eye-catching perennial and annual meadows, designed and planted by a third Chelsea gold medalist Nigel Dunnett who needs little introduction to the nation’s horticultural fraternity.
Best known, perhaps, for his role in the Olympic plantings at London’s Queen Elizabeth Park, Dunnett has already supported Trentham in implementing huge scale plantings, including a new woodland garden and the new perennial entrance garden as well as his trademark annual ‘pictorial meadows’.
He will also deliver further developments throughout the lakeside and woodland walks, which will be in place for visitors to enjoy in 2017.
A further 50,000 perennial plants, hundreds of trees and shrubs and some 250,000 bulbs have already been planted at Trentham, and Walker notes: “We’ll plant around one million bulbs around the lake in the next decade – and the thing I’m always keen to stress at the moment is that our work here is to reveal and enhance the historic landscape on a scale unparalleled across the rest of the country!”
“The overall offer to our visitors has extended dramatically, and it will continue to do so,” continues Walker, adding that they have a genuine legacy from the Capability Brown anniversary year, which they now intend to build upon.
For further information about The Trentham Estate, visit www.trentham.co.uk.