When Elizabeth (the 5th Duchess) commissioned James Wyatt to build the Castle in 1799 she undertook the design and landscaping of the gardens, park and grounds herself. She saw the entire Vale of Belvoir as her garden and was merely framing the views with her valley gardens.
Elizabeth's design and the feel of the individual gardens have many overtures brought back from the Grand Tour of an Italian terraced garden. The gardens facing Belvoir are a natural amphitheatre left by the moraines of two glaciers, she used this to her advantage.
She designed and built a series of 'root houses' (summer houses), one of which can be seen today in the Duchess's Garden.
The second time when Belvoir's gardens influenced garden history was around 1900. The head gardener Mr. Divers developed the concept of mass spring flower bedding which was appropriate for Belvoir as traditionally the family stayed at the Castle in the spring before going to Cheveley in Newmarket for the season. In fact, the 8th Duke commissioned the book 'Spring Flowers at Belvoir', which we are trying to get reprinted.
In Edwardian times there were 40 gardeners, now there are only three, so restoring the gardens is a slow process however the present Duchess is passionate about the gardens and their ongoing development.
Her vision is to continue where her Mother-in-law left off 25 years ago when she pushed her mower into the overgrown Duchess's garden and started replanting this secret valley garden. Surrounding the rustic summer house, dating from 1800, the gardens have been lovingly restored to their original beauty. As part of the ongoing restoration, there is a new woodland path that leads down to the Duchess's Gardens. These magical woodland gardens, set in a natural amphitheatre with fresh water springs, are carefully planned to ensure plants bloom all year round.
The Duchess is also working on bringing together collections of specialist plants and roses in different areas of the garden so keen gardeners can come and smell the Best Beale rose and the most exquisite peony and such like.
We have set up 'Friends of Belvoir Gardens' for all those out there who would like to join in this restoration programme. All voluntary help gratefully received.
To find out more about the work going on in the Gardens, please read our head gardener's blog: Nikki's gardening blog
For further information and to join our volunteers, please contact:
Mobile: 07970 753713