I’m always amazed at the talents of Landmarkers as reflected in the Log Books at each property. For me it’s usually a very last minute scribble listing a few suggestions of places I’ve enjoyed visiting during my stay or some other usually inane comment. There are wonderful examples of calligraphy, witty poems and imaginative prose, sometimes photographs and some beautiful drawings, sketches, watercolours and cartoons.
The visitors before us at Keepers devoted some time to illustrating and commenting on a walk that they had done straight from the cottage door – my favourite kind. I would have loved to have completed this walk but I was longing to visit the renowned Swiss Garden at The Shuttleworth Collection so decided on the first morning to just do part of the walk and extend it to the garden which, amazingly, is open all year.
Keeper’s Cottage lies deep in the woods of Warden Warren and you need to unlock two gates and drive along bumpy tracks to get to it by car but on foot it is much simpler – open one gate and pass through a kissing gate to emerge onto the road. It’s a quiet road and not far along is the familiar ‘Public Footpath’ sign and I set off on a tramp along a field edge path.
Not far away the guns were out but as I approached the ‘Shooting party’ were returning to their vehicles and, no doubt, some hot coffee and toddy.
The path skirts the woodland and then suddenly there’s a roar and an old ‘plane could be seen taxiing in the neighbouring field. I’d arrived at the edge of the famous Shuttleworth Collection.
Eventually the path joined another tarmac road and turning left and keeping well into the side I finally arrived at the Shuttleworth Museum entrance. There’s a separate charge and entrance to the Swiss Garden.
Apart from gardeners busily clearing an island in one of the lakes as you go in I think I was the only person, and certainly the only visitor that morning.
From the guidebook :
“The Swiss Garden is a late regency, nine acre garden, which forms an integral part of the designed landscape in Old Warden Park, Bedfordshire. The garden was created by the third Lord Ongley between 1820 and 1835 and is laid out in the Romantic and Swiss Picturesque manner.
In 1872, Old Warden Park was purchased by Joseph Shuttleworth who began a series of improvements to the Park. Victorian fashions were introduced into the landscape of the Swiss garden, such as the Pulhamite features, and some cast iron work.”
Since 1976 the garden has been in the care of the local county council and I see from the website that a major renovation is to take place next year with much financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will be exciting work and the garden will be closed until at least 2016. I’m glad that I got to see it “before” and hope maybe to return and see the “after” effect.
After spending about two hours at the garden, including hot warming soup in the Shuttleworth cafe, D picked me up to bring me back to the cottage and plan another expedition.
An illustrated tour of the Swiss Garden :
The Thatched Seat “ingeniously built to accommodate the annual growth of the tree”
Entrance to the Grotto and Fernery
Inside the Grotto
The Two-Seater Privy
The Two Seats - “The privy is a traditional earth closet. One seat would be locked for six months while the other was open”.
Eagle, Upper Pond and Harbour
The Swiss Cottage – focal point of the garden and licensed for civil weddings
Quite what is Swiss about this garden I am not too sure but it comprises an interesting collection of plants and trees and a peacock and follies and had I visited a day later I should have seen it looking slightly more Swiss than usual with a covering of snow!