A couple of weeks ago, I visited Levens Hall in Cumbria for the first time. It’s a garden that I’ve always intended to see, and it’s perfectly possible to do so on a day trip from where I live, but I’ve never quite got round to it. Perhaps because the style of the garden is not one that I’m naturally attracted to. Or maybe because I just didn’t know an awful lot about it.
The weather conditions were far from perfect for photography and I had my non gardening husband with me, so ambling around with the camera at my leisure wasn’t an option. I also wish I had read up a little more on the fascinating history of the place beforehand.
Many people will know that Levens Hall is famous for it’s Topiary, but when you think that the park and gardens were originally laid out by Guillaume Beaumont over three hundred years ago, and according to Historic England still retain almost all of the essential elements that he created, it’s hard not to be seriously impressed.
Just look at these shapes - I was well and truly wowed!
And there’s so much more to Levens than the topiary. I believe this was originally the Bowling Green but a game of croquet was underway on the day. The rules seemed to be a little haphazard and for once even my husband didn’t pretend to understand them.
There are four central garden areas at Levens and you can either walk around the outside on the gravelled pathway, as we did in the first instance, or via grass pathways and the Beech Walk. The shot below shows one of the pathways to the side of the Bowling Green flanked with herbaceous borders and stone planters.
On the opposite side of the garden and I don’t have a photo to share unfortunately, (which is very remiss of me) is the ha-ha. We have a few ha-ha examples ‘ up north’ but the one at Levens Hall is one of the earliest known and documented examples in the country. And I didn’t take a photo!
Moving swiftly on, there was still lots of colour in the herbaceous borders, from the deep blue delphiniums
to the bright red lobelia.
And right in the centre is the Fountain Garden. This part of the garden was relaid in the 1990's with the intention of recreating the plan of the original garden. The pond was covered in water lilies desperately hoping for a little sun …….. as were all the visitors that day.
But the gardens at Levens have an unusual way of providing some shelter from the Cumbrian summer weather. A perfect alternative to an umbrella.
The view from the tree seat is a pretty impressive one too.
What I really liked was the way 300 years of history combined so effortlessly with the transient nature of the summer planting.
Annuals such as cosmos provided a beautiful contrast to the green of the topiary, both in terms of colour and the gentle movement of the flowers.
The Phacelia tanacetifolia was just alive with bees and other pollinators.
But the topiary is of course what makes it so special.
I hope you enjoyed the photographs and a little look at a very special garden. I will return and there will be photos of the ha-ha next time.
For more information and opening times take a look at the Levens Hall website.