Wrest Park, Bedfordshire April 2019

by Emma Bumpus on April 26, 2019

Spring takes careertraveller to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire where 92 acres of beautifully maintained landscaped gardens and exceptionally restored architecture epitomise English Heritage.

First impressions walking through the wisteria-lined Walled Garden is one of quintessential England, where sheltered brick walls shimmer with pendulous lilac-blue blooms. Charmed by this magical space is a step into England’s story of aristocracy, history and colour, unveiling 300 years of landscape design.

A series of secret garden-like archways transports us to the Italian Garden where a flush of bold coloured flowers explode in symmetrical borders true to their original planting pattern. Observed by Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit statue is a reminder to look out for the estate’s 40 ornamental statues that cleverly decorate and accentuate different aspects of the gardens and woodland.

Overlooked by a subtropical conservatory is an introduction to the striking French style Mansion and exotic taste and travels of the de Grey family, who owned and lived at Wrest Park for over 600 years. Entering the conservatory’s iron framed side doors is a step into the world of Henrietta de Grey whose adored Sitting Room offers elongated views through the sweet scented glasshouse and Italian and Walled Gardens.

Beyond banana plants and palms awaits more floral treasure with the French Parterre, a boxed formal flower garden with scroll-patterned beds bursting with Spring fever. Positioned perfectly below the Mansion’s terrace is an extraordinary vista of sweeping parkland perfect for families, couples, photographers and tourists. A pathway fit for horse drawn carriages takes the eye through Portuguese laurel lined trees, which pruned immaculately for long distant view of the estate, creates a trail of architectural verdant beauty.

Detail and beauty defines this enchanting parkland from corner to corner including the fountain of Carrara marble, whose figurines sit halfway between the south front facing Mansion and famous Long Water, inspired by 17th century French formal gardens.

Surrounded by corresponding pairs of mid 19th century marble statues, we take a moment at this ornamental pitstop to absorb the geometry of the gardens whose handsome buildings include architect Thomas Archer’s baroque Pavilion of 1709-1711. Built for pleasure and viewing the gardens, six bays sit below an original hand painted ceiling in trompe-l’oeil by Louis Hauduroy, which crowned with a recently restored domed roof, tributes English Heritage.

A suggested Upper Garden Walk around the woodland takes us past the Dogs’ Cemetery dating back to 1829 where a stone dog monument and accompanying headstones lovingly commemorate the de Grey pets. From here we discover the Lancelot ‘Capability Brown’Column that respectfully acknowledges the landscape gardener’s recreated garden views of the rolling green Chiltern countryside.

Full of surprises, Wrest Park weaves a trail of hidden gems including the Chinese Temple and Bridge, whose romantic lakeside views make this a parkland playground for events such as the annual Easter Adventure Quest. Being Good Friday we watch Easter kick off to a sunny start and revel in the hunt for legendary dragon eggs with Trail Guide, which on completion awards chocolate in a garden that boasts of replantation and restoration.

Mesmerised by this ever-evolving park whose grounds are full of wonder we encounter Atlas, an early 18th century Portland stone statue that stands stylishly amongst the woodland blossom. Beautifully positioned is the nearby Dairy, which having once served the de Grey family now displays a collection of 18th and 19th century statues, restored to their former glory.

Wrest Park is timeless; every corner brings style and opulence, the type that lures visitors back time and time again. We skip a tour of the house in the knowledge we will return and head to the Orangery; a French style garden pavilion built by Thomas, Earl de Grey in the 1830. Once famous for accommodating French potted orange trees bought from King Louis Philippe of France, we step beneath the glass roof panes that shine above the estate’s original ornate chimneypiece dating back to 1600.

In this enchantingly palatial and airy building just a walk away from the grand Mansion, it is no surprise to learn this ornamental haven can be hired for special events including weddings and special evening receptions.
Wrest Park is stunning in every way!

Look out for their St Georges’s Festival on Saturday 27 April – Sunday 28 April 2019 and midsummer Luna Cinema screenings this year.

Further Information:
Wrest Park
English Heritage

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