Still down in Bedfordshire, dog sitting for Ben, and the visit to the Swiss Gardens was my second day out shooting with Helen. There will be a few parts to this report as the Garden is huge, staggeringly beautiful, and I took a lot of photo’s of it. 🙂
The History Bit
Back in the 1820’s, holidaying in the Swiss Alps was a bit of a thing, and inspired a fascination for all things Swiss. A rather well-to-do young man who happened to be the 3rd Baron of Old Warden, Lord Ongley, whose family had owned the estate since the 1960’s, was thus motivated to create the Swiss Alps in his back yard bog. Bedfordshire is flat as a pancake, so this involved a fair amount of excavations to make ponds etc, and the building up of embankments from the excavated soil, to make high points. He had the nearby river dammed to make a few ponds and a lake. As you walk around there are all sorts of follies, little buildings, beautiful shrubs and trees, none of which look very Swiss, some even look oriental, but at the those days it didn’t matter. One young visitor, Cecilia Ridley, writing to her Aunt Fanny from nearby Ampthill in September 1839, described it as “the most extraordinary garden in the world made out of a bog; full of little old summer houses on little round hills, china vases, busts, coloured lamps – in short quite a fairyland but more of a Chinese fairy than a European one”.
In 1850, Lord Ongley departed, and 20 years later Industrialist Joseph Shuttleworth bought the estate, by which time the garden had fallen into disrepair. Shuttleworth resurrected and added to it, but then along came WW2, and again the garden suffered, and by the 1970’s it was in dire need of resuscitation. Over the next 30 years bit by bit the garden has been restored and allowed to settle in and opened once more in 2014 after an 18-month restoration process funded to the tune of £2.8 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
So lets begin…
there were many invitations to rest a while,
in a loveseat perhaps
or have a tea party
or sit with dogs
or the dearly departed
or chat with a peacock
or hide away
you might want to sit and watch the ducks float by
or rather sit under a shady tree
or be watched over by an eagle
but enough with the resting, there are flowers and creatures, bridges and follies to look at, so stay tooned for the next part of the tour.