A morning at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens
I had arrived at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens (CBHG) – I‘m only 5 miles from the city centre, (I can actually see parts of the city centre skyline from the garden’s highest point) but it seems more like a million miles away from the bustle of modern life; like being in a bubble of quietude.
Except, it’s not that quiet – and this isn’t a bad thing, the sound of the wildlife, the birds, the bells from the adjacent St. Mary & St. Margaret’s Church and even the distant hum of planes on route to BHX enhance the experience.
30 years ago the grounds of Castle Bromwich Hall were a wilderness - thankfully for you and me the gardens were rediscovered, rescued and restored – amazingly the basic structure was pretty much as it was in 1760. The Hall and grounds belonged to the Earl of Bradford but he left this house and its grounds in 1762 for an even grander one in Weston Park – this one was left to his poorer relations – lucky them! Today they are owned and maintained by the Castle Bromwich Hall and Gardens Trust.
The gardens are an extremely rare example of an historic estate of the time, they are pre Capability Brown era and therefore remain formal in structure - not radically overhauled in design. That said, they were still created by top garden designers, William Winde, George London and Charles Hatton - the Diarmuid Gavins of the day.
I was surprised at how big the gardens were (10 acres in fact) – I grew up in Castle Bromwich and have been to the gardens on a few occasions over the years – usually places seem smaller as you get older, not so in this case. Another thing that had grown, (literally in this case) was the Holly maze, it was nice to see that this was now at a height where it was possible to actually get lost (last time I visited it was a trip hazard!)
There are many areas to explore (get lost). Parts of the gardens are very structured with neat formal lines, other sections appear wild but are in fact not - a controlled symmetry I’m told - and others are just plain wild.
The various areas are separated by walls, hedges and different tiers; walking around is a wholly relaxing experience and I don’t want to leave.
The Archery Lawn - Ladies of the big hall held summer parties on this grass - It's flanked by an Orangery and a Summer House. Very la de daaa.
There are three ponds within the gardens – This one is named the Mirror Pond as it mirrors the sky, the moss on the sides was placed there for the newts that were frying as they tried to cross the path!
Do you have trouble keeping your garden in check? This one has ½ km of brick walls and 2 ½ km's of hedging - The garden is always welcome of help – and some 100-120 volunteers help tend the garden and keep it looking magnificent– I can imagine myself here in about 30 years – although I’d probably slope off and sit under a tree with a book.
Here’s some of the Tuesday Team of volunteers; tomorrow will be the turn of the Wednesday Weeders. There are no Monday Mowers.
The garden is a haven for wildlife with at least 19 species of birds, 15 species of bees and much wildlife - including hedgehogs, which have been surveyed as part of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust 'Help4Hedgehogs' campaign. Some birds decided this traffic cone would be a good home? Coming in and out would be a bit like an X-Wing assault on the Death Star I imagine.
The old verse written under this mythic creature is rather misogynistic – 'beware of women!' or some such saying.
In those days gardens were a status symbol of power and control and the more exotic the plants on display the better. These exotic plants were surrounded by bare earth to exaggerate their majesty. The plants (and all those yet to be planted) at CBHG are all typical of the period.
The Melon ground is also used as a café area – it’s also a fantastic sun trap and figs, grapes and olives are grown here, from which CBHG’s make their own jams and pickles.
They also grown 63 varieties of traditional apples and pears that would be difficult to find in your local shop; some of these fruits are pressed to produce their own single variety juices which you can purchase from the shop and café.
The Hall is now a hotel and it and the grounds make the ideal location for a beautiful wedding.
Despite its tranquillity the gardens are actually a hive of activity, running over a dozen events and workshops from music on the lawns, apple weekends to creative drawing events and between April and October they also provide over 40 days of kid friendly activities. The best way to make the most of these is by getting a Family Activities Season Pass - which is valid until the end of October and gives free access to all the family activities throughout summer. I’m looking forward to the open air theatre - Around the World in 80 Days - see you there.
Being walled, the gardens are a safe place for children.
Unfortunately I had to go back to work – although I did spend rather a lot of time taking photos – (I think I did three complete circuits) you can see more in the lightbox below. A hidden treasure for families and garden enthusiasts alike Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens is a hidden Jacobean delight within the city. Go forthwith and chill.
Paul - 26/06/16
Under 5’s go free
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