Monday, August 26, 2013

Cragside, UK Part I--The Gardens

Most estates have both formal and informal gardens. Some are made for people to stroll through leisurely, others to produce herbs and spices and fruit and veg, still others to impress the visitors with their opulence or their exotic items. Cragside did not disappoint in this case.

Cragside Gardens

Craigside was built by William George Armstrong, a scientist and industrialist in the 1800s. Originally, he planned it as a getaway nestled in the woods but soon it grew into a fabulous estate. His wife Margaret loved plants and carefully designed the gardens of Craigside to make them one of the finest Victorian gardens in England.

We visited the top terrace of the garden, which features a small clock tower. It was built in the 1860s and served both as the time keeper of the estate and as the pay office. The clock used two mechanisms. One kept the clock running for all to see. The other would toll the bell at various times to signal the start or end of shifts for workers and also meal times. The clock was built in the Gothic Revival style and was refurbished in 1992.

The clock tower

Detail of the tower

The middle terrace of the garden includes Armstrong's sundial, another clock in case the clock tower runs down.

Middle terrace lawn


In between the clocks is an area that originally had many greenhouses for growing show plants. Some of the houses were taken down in the 1920s, leaving the tropical fernery in the open air. The fernery was probably J's favorite part of the gardens, since it still had the rock walls which made a small path or maze through which we all explored. I was also fascinated to find out that ferns were a common collectible for those wishing to be more upper-class. Middle-class homes would feature at least one fern if they could!

Tropical fernery

Exit hiding among the rocks

More leafy ferns

The fernery leads out onto a small pool that didn't have any fish we could see. It probably served to reflect light inside the greenhouse back in the day. Nearby a bed of flowers was becoming very fragrant (we visited in June).

Lilly-padded pond!

Flowers by the millions!

Greenhouses have been rebuilt just above the formal garden and the middle terrace. Down the hill were more gardens but we were getting hungry so we headed back to the estate stables where we would have a picnic lunch. More on that in the next post!

Greenhouse glass!

A spot to enjoy the view of the gardens below

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