Kew Guild Norfolk Weekend 11/12 June 2016 – Part 1
The group’s first visit, on this brilliantly orchestrated weekend by John Simmons and others, was to Blickling, a National Trust complete Norfolk Estate, set in North Norfolk. We were welcomed by Head Gardener, Paul Underwood, whose enthusiasm both for the magnificent gardens and the Trust’s platoon of gardening volunteers was an inspiration – some 90 currently registered volunteers but fortunately not all present at the same time! We were also delighted to have with us John Sales the former Head NT Gardens and Horticultural adviser, whose close ties to Blickling were evident at every turn.
Upon walking through the main gateway, the impressive ancient Yew hedges lead to the Tudor red-brick mansion with its ornate chimneys and imposing facade. On entering the gardens we were in awe of the formal parterre with its manicured ‘Acorn Yews’ bounded on one side by the inspired ‘double’ borders of Norah Lindsay. Norah in the 1930’s was responsible for converting the original Victorian sunken garden into the formal Parterre we see today. In fact she was the principal creator of the ornamental components of the gardens. The double borders, recently restored in 2006, comprise a huge variety of shrubs, perennials and grasses exhibiting colour ranges from ‘hot’ to ‘cool’ and beyond the Black and White borders established in 2009 are beginning to mature. The Arts and Crafts movement, through Norah Lindsay, was a great influence on the informal ornamental plantings linking to the pastoral scenes and flowering meadows of the estate. Unlike Gertrude Jekyll she did not write – she was a ‘doer’ and was therefore not given the credit perhaps she was due – an underrated starlet of her time. One could wax lyrical about the Rhododendron borders which bound the vista leading down from the Temple to the mansion and some of the magnificent trees, especially dare I say, the ancient Tilia orientalis, which stands proudly leading the eye to the ‘boomerang’ shaped lake. The Blickling grounds have an incredible diversity of component and themed plantings, ornamentation, naturalised meadows and grasslands which here space does not permit further descriptors.
Before departing we were given the opportunity to see and hear of the Large Walled Garden restoration project which is into its second year of the 5 year programme. Reinstating Glasshouses, walled grown fruits, growing vegetables and flowers for use in the property will exemplify horticultural mastery of the past. If it were not for the NT, RHS and EH our horticultural heritage might well have succumbed to the economic demands of this modern age.
A splendid visit, brilliantly guided by Paul and to be commended to any Kewite to visit should you be in the area at any time of the year.
Looking from the Black Border towards the house and lake