Beds, Herts & Bucks

200-year-old garden in Old Warden Park reopens after revamp

three eras of the garden. Image copyright Andy Marshall Photography
Image caption Three eras of the garden from the early 20th Century, to becoming overgrown before repair and restoration

A 19th Century garden previously hidden behind the hangars of Bedfordshire's Shuttleworth Collection aviation museum has reopened after a £3.6m revamp.

Listed buildings and ornamental structures in the Swiss Garden in Old Warden Park, near Biggleswade, have been repaired and conserved.

The Shuttleworth Trust said it hoped to secure the garden's removal from the English Heritage At Risk register.

General manager Una Watts said its "fortunes had been reversed".

The Swiss Garden is an example of the Regency fashion for creating gardens to capture the essence of Alpine scenery.

Image copyright Andy Marshall Photography
Image caption The 13 listed buildings and many ornamental structures in the nine-acre Swiss Garden have been repaired and conserved

Created in the early 1800s by Robert, the third Lord Ongley, within the 2000-acre Old Warden Estate, it took eight years to complete.

It was designed to give a "secret" feel with meandering paths, garden ponds and ornate hump-backed bridges.

The makeover, funded with a £2.8m Heritage Lottery Fund grant and money from Central Bedfordshire Council, the Country Houses Foundation and Friends of Swiss Garden has transported the nine-acre garden back to its Regency appearance.

Swiss Garden revamp facts and figures

•It has 13 listed buildings and structures - including six listed at Grade II

•The two-storey Swiss Cottage was re-thatched using Norfolk water reed

•A sculpture trail created by Patrick Brown has been added

•About 4,300 panes of glass in the grotto and fernery have been replaced with hand-cut handmade cylinder glass

•More than 25,600 shrubs and 8,400 bulbs have been planted in 53 beds

•340 metres of path have been laid using 300 tonnes of gravel

Source: The Shuttleworth Trust

It is thought to be the best surviving garden from that period in the UK, the estate said.

Ms Watts said: "With the help of local volunteers and apprentices, we aim to keep it looking pristine again.

"With its magical charm and lovely natural setting we expect it to become as much of a draw as the aircraft museum in the future."

Lord Ongley sold the estate to industrialist Joseph Shuttleworth in 1872, who set about "improving" the garden but it gradually fell into a state of disrepair after World War Two.

In 1976 a partnership between the Shuttleworth Trust and Bedfordshire County Council took over the lease and undertook some repair and restoration work but it was placed on the At Risk Register.

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