Chatsworth’s Garden Reopening Takes Natural Course
Chatsworth has reopened its world-famous garden and is welcoming back visitors with more than 50,000 new flowering perennials, shrubs and trees as well as a huge, new stone sculpture called Natural Course by the artist Laura Ellen Bacon.
Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Derbyshire estate’s garden will be open from 10.30am to 6pm every day for pre-booked visits only. The house and farmyard will remain closed until further notice but, as part of a phased reopening, select food-to-go outlets and some shops may reopen from mid-June onwards.
During closure, a reduced, core garden team of ten has been hard at work on a two month-long planting programme but has received helping hands from the Devonshire family with both the Duke and Duchess and their daughter-in-law Lady Burlington joining the effort.
“The Duke has been in every day cutting tulips to give to staff, and he and the Duchess
have helped with planting and watering,” says Head of Gardens & Landscape, Steve Porter.
Thousands of new plants including huge drifts of Camissa and Candelabra Primula have filled four recently created open glades between the Cascade and the Grotto Pond to the south, part of the 15 acre former wilderness now known as Arcadia. At the same time, Laura Ellen Bacon (see notes to editors) has built a monumental sculptural installation, Natural Course, as the area’s centrepiece.
Designed to appear as if seeping from the ground, Natural Course flows down a woodland slope, giving the great mass of stone in the sculpture’s 40 metres of contours and curves a sense of slow, gradual movement over the land.
At more than 10m in length and 2m in height with a base width varying from 50cm to 3m, Natural Course was built from more than 100 tonnes of local stone with tens of thousands of individual pieces hand-placed using a traditional dry-stone walling method. It joins more than 20 sculptural works at Chatsworth by post-war masters including Antony Gormley, Angela Conner, Elisabeth Frink, Allen Jones, Michael Craig-Martin and Barry Flanagan.
Sally Ambrose, Head of Visitor Experience: “It’s great to be able to welcome back visitors, especially as the garden has such a wonderful new sculpture and a huge new planting that delivers a riot of colour.
For everybody here, it’s about being responsible and safe. That’s why we’ve limited the number of garden visitors each day, with bookings only available in advance. We’ve also added extra safety measures and are asking our visitors to respect social distancing. Working closely with the Peak District National Park, we have displayed their signs at the main pedestrian entrances to the park and in our car parks, reinforcing the messages of social distancing, respect for local communities and to not park outside approved areas.”
Both Natural Course and the latest planting are part of the transformation of a 25-acre section of the historic garden, the biggest at Chatsworth for nearly 200 years. It includes a remodelled Rock Garden, new borders north and south of the Maze, a revamping of the Ravine, as well as the Trout Stream and associated Jack Pond, and the new Arcadia glades.
The new, wet glade in the Arcadia area, to be known as the Bog Garden, has gained more than 34,000 new plants and bulbs including 8000 Camassia grown onsite in Chatsworth’s own nursery. Drifts of more than 2000 Candelabra Primula in six different varieties have been planted as well as Iris, Rodgersia, Gunnera, swamp cypress (Taxodium), royal ferns and other plants able to thrive in damp conditions such as pond edges, stream banks or damp shady borders.
Work has continued along the Trout Stream. Planting will feature some 7000 additional plants familiar to the woodland floor, such as Tiarella and Helleborus. Redevelopment of the Trout Stream is intimately connected to Dan Pearson’s creation of Chatsworth’s ‘Best in Show’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, which provided Dan with the conceptual inspiration for the new planting and seating.
In the Rock Garden, Irises are the standout flower among more than 12,000 new plants, which also includes many more grasses, and perennials consistent with the initial planting in this area, which took place in 2019.
The foundations of Chatsworth’s present garden and park were laid out by William Kent and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century and Joseph Paxton in the 19th century building on nearly 500 years of careful cultivation. Although some points of interest have been replaced to make way for new fashions, the garden retains many early features, including the Canal Pond, Cascade and Duke’s Greenhouse. The famous waterworks include the 300-year-old Cascade, the Willow Tree Fountain and the impressive, gravity-fed Emperor Fountain, which reaches heights of up to 90m.
The garden opening is the latest part of the phased reopening plan that Chatsworth has put in place. It follows the car parks, takeaway food outlets and the installation of temporary toilet facilities at the end of May, to enable visitors to access the estate’s surrounding parkland. As an essential food outlet, the estate farm shop at nearby Pilsley has remained open to the public during the pandemic and has also been delivering food supplies to vulnerable households in the local area.