With the sound of light aircraft buzzing nearby, I spent this morning walking leisurely through the charming Swiss Garden, originally part of Old Warden Park, and now in the lee of Shuttleworth Aerodrome in Bedfordshire. When I went to pay my £8 entrance fee in the Visitors Centre, the lady at the till was talking to a pilot (I assume not airborne) about which way to approach the runway. Now that is what I call multi-tasking ~ selling postcards and doing a spot of traffic control.
For the vast majority of the time, I was on my own wandering through this 200-year-old, Regency pleasure garden, tucked away in Central Bedfordshire, near the market town of Biggleswade. By the time I left, there were a handful of other visitors, but until then it was just me, a couple of resident peacocks and 2 knowledgeable and helpful gardeners. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful English autumn day. You can’t ask for more.
England is laden with famous, gorgeous gardens, and you could spend a lifetime visiting them all. The Swiss Garden is not particularly well-known but is definitely worth visiting. It is part of the Shuttleworth Collection, a Trust, committed mainly to the preservation of transport artefacts — primarily bicycles, motor cars, and aeroplanes; essentially, the primary appeal seems to be the aviation museum, but this alpine landscape, chock full of follies is a hidden gem.
Briefly, the history is this: Created in the early 1800s by Robert, the third Lord Ongley, the garden lay within the 2000-acre Old Warden Estate, and took eight years to complete. In the 1870s, the new owner, industrialist Joseph Shuttleworth, added a few Victorian flourishes of his own while retaining the original layout. The Shuttleworth Trust describe it thus:
~ Today, it is an outstanding example of the Regency fashion for creating landscapes in a picturesque alpine style
In 2014 it underwent an 18-month restoration process funded to the tune of £2.8 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund. I understand it is still on the Heritage at Risk Register but it is not obvious to the layman why that is still the case. It looks in very good nick to me.
There are 13 or so structures, from the Swiss Cottage itself (above) to an Indian Kiosk, bridges, a grotto, and a Chapel ~ all amongst simple, but effective planting and some fabulous trees.
If you live nearby and haven’t been to visit, I can highly recommend it. If you love gardens and airplanes, you will be in heaven! There are some more of my photos of the garden on Pinterest.
Have a good weekend
Annie Bee x