The National Trust's ten year restoration of Croome Park, in Worcestershire, is an inspirational and exciting project. Croome has a unique place in gardening history for it was here that Lancelot 'Capability' Brown completed his first commission as an independent designer and pioneered the English Landscape Style of gardening.
What is also inspirational is the fact that if the National Trust had not purchased the park in 1996 with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and a generous donation from Royal SunAlliance, this unique landscape may have been lost to the Nation for ever.
There have been a lot of changes at Shugborough since my last visit four years ago and they are all for the better. The big difference was leaving my car on the outskirts of the estate and then being transported into an environment that has been time warped in the early 1800s.
I was met by Richard Kemp, the enthusiastic general manager, who immediately transported us into the 19th century by taking us to meet a dung carrier in the walled garden! Shugborough’s walled garden dates to 1805 and was once a horticultural centre of excellence. Now visitors can meet the workers in the garden dressed in authentic clothes of the period. Our dung carrier friend seemed a little concerned about Napoleon and warned us not to get on the wrong side of the Cook, Mrs Stearn!
The children clearly loved it and so did we. In addition to the formal gardens, there is plenty to see and experience - from the farmhouse, dairy and water mill to the delightful smells of the brewery - then we encountered the famed Mrs Stearn who offered us some of her home cooking. This is one of the big changes at Shugborough enabling the visitor to have a much more in-depth experience of a traditional 19th century working estate which is so much more refreshing than looking entirely at static exhibits.
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