Biddulph Grange is honestly one of the most outstandingly beautiful places I have ever visited. Words are likely to prove inadequate as I attempt to explain just how charming this National Trust property is.
Biddulph was developed during the Victorian period by James Bateman, a horticulturalist and landowner with an extensive collection of plants. The National Trust took on ownership of the land in 1988, and began restoring the many original features that the garden was so famous for during its Victorian heyday. The place even comes complete with a Geological Gallery – an annexe in which Bateman attempted to reconcile science with religion by displaying his fossil collection and geological discoveries alongside the chapters of Genesis.
The dahlia walk
It’s hard to pick out one or two ‘must see’ features in this garden, because there are stunning sights around every corner. From tree-lined avenues, to rhododendrons in abundance, Biddulph appears to have been landscaped by a true master.
The restored dahlia walk – a floral corridor displaying seemingly every type and colour of dahlia in existence – is delightful. There are bees everywhere, lured in by the bright colours and promise of pollen. Some of the dahlias look more like carefully painted ornaments than works of nature.
The different ‘zones’
What makes Biddulph so exciting to explore is the way in which it was landscaped in order to surprise the onlooker. There are various different zones – Italy, China, and Egypt – all hidden from one another by cleverly placed shrubs, topiary, rocks and tunnels. Walking through the Italian area on a summers day, one could be mistaken for thinking they were in a Tuscan Renaissance garden. The style is classic and uniform.
Needless to say, the Chinese area, with its bridge and temple, is the most popular part of the gardens. We were informed, upon entrance, that China is the ‘jewel in the crown’, and so we had high hopes.
Within this East Asian homage, the choice of foliage is purposeful – a beautiful acer spreads out over a zen-style garden, and bamboo lines the water edge. The bells attached to the strikingly red temple give people something to tinker with, and the tunnels that act as entrances and exits to this ‘zone’ make the area feel secret and enclosed – almost enchanted.
Beautiful vistas and quirks
Around the outskirts of the garden, beautiful trees, vistas and curved avenues are the perfect backdrop for a relaxed stroll. We were certain that we heard a woodpecker in the pinetium, although we didn’t manage to catch sight of the little fellow.
Straying from the path to play an impromptu game of boules on a dedicated clearing was great fun, though perhaps not as exciting as stepping into Cheshire Cottage, a fairytale building that would put the wind up Hansel and Gretel. This bizarre yet wonderful little house felt like some sort of portal – it was like a cave inside and spat you out in either Egypt or an extensive tree-lined vista. For kids, these gardens must be great fuel for the imagination.
The avenues and vistas are visual fodder. The arboretum, which is lined with mammoth ferns, looks out on the house and nearby Staffordshire hills. It’s a sight to behold.
Not only is Biddulph a feast for the eyes, but its also great for families and is more affordable than some other National Trust properties. I plan to see it in every season.