Apart from his poetry, William Wordsworth was also an acclaimed landscape gardener. By the time he moved to Rydal Mount in 1813 he had already developed the garden at Dove Cottage and drawn up garden designs for other people as well. The gardens at Rydal Mount are pretty well as he landscaped them, because he believed that a garden was best if informal and in harmony with the surrounding countryside. Just across the lane from Rydal Mount are the gardens of Rydal Hall (the property belongs to the Diocese of Carlisle) which the Windermere landscape designer Thomas Mawson redesigned and rebuilt in 1909. Almost 100 years later the landscaping was taken back to its original and formal Mawson design, with restoration of the terracing and ballustrading as well. Mawson also had a big hand in the design of the gardens at Blackwell and those at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre. Gardens, rooted in history and often found in glorious locations, are a particular attraction in Cumbria. Muncaster Castle’s gardens, for example, are famed for their collection of rhododendrons, built up in the first part of the 20th century after numerous plant hunting expeditions to south east Asia. At Brantwood, John Ruskin spent much of his time working in the garden and on the estate, overlooking Coniston Water. Today you’ll find a number of distinct gardens which have been created in an area of 25 acres, the most unusual being the Zig-Zaggy whose form is based on Ruskin’s own designs. What Brantwood calls the restoration and renovation of its garden has been going on for 20 years and a similar burst of activity – this time over 30 years – has been going on at Holker Hall, Carkin- Cartmel where the sunken garden, elliptical garden, summer garden, wildflower meadow and Holker labyrinth have all come since 1980. Holehird, at the southern end of the Troutbeck Valley, was voted one of the nation’s favourite gardens on BBC Gardeners’ World in 2002, and is a must to visit if you are a keen gardener. It is the home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society and members maintain three National Plant Collections – Astilbe, Hydrangeas and Polystichum. Levens Hall is famous for its topiary, Dalemain, close to Ullswater is known for its nearly 200 old-fashioned varieties of roses and its Elizabethan knot garden while Hutton-in-the-Forest near Penrith has a beautiful walled garden, dating from the 1730s.
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