Work underway on a 21st-century garden with echoes of the past at Dyrham Park

Dyrham Park West Garden (C)National Trust - Barry Batchelor

An ambitious project to transform Dyrham Park’s West Garden is gathering pace.

Inspired by a 17th-century engraving, the National Trust team of gardeners has set to work recreating some elements of the former garden, with a modern twist. 

Dyrham Park West Garden (C)National Trust - Barry Batchelor

Dyrham Park West Garden (C)National Trust – Barry Batchelor

This recent phase began during the major conservation project to replace the leaking roof on the house last year, with new flower beds being marked out on the previously plain lawns. Visitors to the temporary roof-top walkway in the scaffolding were able to get a first glimpse and impressive aerial view of this work.

These hand-dug beds have now been planted up and have come to life transforming the garden. They are full of bright, seasonal plants such as Delphinium, white Lupins and purple Mullion, all bordered with white Allysum with cone and mophead bays for structure.

Dyrham Park was once home to a grand 17th-century Dutch water garden, depicted in the 300 year old engraving by Johannes Kip. Since then it has undergone several transformations, the most significant of which saw the East garden become open parkland for the herd of 180 wild fallow deer. 

Dyrham Park Kip Engraving (c)National Trust Images

Engraving of Dyrham Park including the house and garden, by Johannes Kip (d1722)

Archaeological works were undertaken to explore areas depicted in the engraving, including the former site of some cabinets near the pools. The base of a Sphinx statue purchased by William Blathwayt and shown in the engraving, was found in the middle of Sphynx court, surrounded by the circular construction of pitch stones.

‘This project is a new chapter in the garden’s story,’ said one of the lead gardeners Sarah Jones. ‘We will see temporary features and styles as the balance between ongoing development and satisfying visitors’ expectation for exciting and maintained gardens will be met.

‘As the work evolves, visitors will find themselves travelling through a series of garden areas, each one reflecting its own character and mood. The garden will have greater access for all, to deliver an all year round experience thanks to seasonal planting. See the magnolias in Spring, the stunning autumn colour in September and exquisite scented plants in the winter.’

New permanent paths have been created which protect the underlying archaeology making the gardens accessible to everybody. 

The National Trust took on Dyrham Park in the mid-1950s, and has seen its team of gardeners grow from one to four full time gardeners plus 70 volunteers. Staff and volunteers have been working together to realise the new vision for the garden.

Garden volunteer at Dyrham Park (C)National Trust - Barry Batchelor

Garden volunteer at Dyrham Park (C)National Trust – Barry Batchelor

Sarah added, ‘the face of the gardens have morphed and adapted, displaying trends of its time. What once were manicured divisions of space, regressed to a more simple Victorian style, exhibiting sombre, bare lawns bordered with evergreens. Over time this became a more Edwardian, flower laden and colourful approach. The cycle of change continued.’ 

Just as Blathwayt was inspired by the gardens at Het Loo in the Netherlands and Versailles in France, so is the current garden team – having visited Paleis Het Loo last year.

‘The careful designs for the avenue strengthen the axis of the garden and enhance this view,’ said Sarah. ‘The eye is guided through a tunnel of manicured gardens and down the straight lines of the avenue’s long path and rectangular flower beds, creating a setting which reflects Kip’s engraving from the west entrance.’

Dyrham Park garden project (C)National Trust - Barry Batchelor

Dyrham Park garden project (C)National Trust – Barry Batchelor

The garden theme continues inside the house with a new exhibition in some previously empty rooms. ‘The King & The Courtier: Dyrham’s Garden Revealed’ looks at how and why the garden was created by Blathwayt, who served in the court of King William of Orange. 

Dyrham Park is situated just off junction 18 of the M4 – 8 miles north of Bath and 12 miles east of Bristol and is open daily from 10am-5pm (last entry one hour before close).

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