Work starts on latest £1m improvements at Lowther Castle and Gardens

A courtyard created by Dan Pearson head gardener Martin Ogle will form part of a £1m restoration is underway at Lowther Castle and Gardens in Cumbria.

Gardeners and volunteers planting daffodils in 2012. Image: Lowther Castle and Gardens
Gardeners and volunteers planting daffodils in 2012. Image: Lowther Castle and Gardens

The property closed today for two months while the work takes place, after The Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust decided on the investment last year as part of its long-running bid to create a world-class tourism destination.  

The design features 18 2.4m high hornbeam trees with clear stems and box tops and 14 hornbeam columns around 4m high.

Ogle told Horticulture Week that the design "Uses hornbeam as part of the architecture really to try and soften and make the courtyard into a more user friendly and less stark environment.

"Looking from above it is like a chess board, the columns and the box heads kind of merge into one another. You will see beyond and through the box heads and children will gain enjoyment from running around the columns. You’ll get the effect on the ground level as well.

"As you approach the courtyard from the car park you’ll begin to see the columns of the hornbeam which will in turn look like the big columns of the castle." The trees are being sourced from Nicholsons Nurseries in Oxfordshire. The design incorporates two 9m x 3m perennial beds which will be planted with epimediums, irises and hydrangeas, and improved lighting and seating.

Lowther is also extending the woodland children’s play that opened in summer 2016 to include a tree house which can be rented to families as a children’s party venue.

This spring Ogle and his team of three gardeners will also plant new tree shrub and perennials around a new entrance path with associated landforming. New planting at the garden entrance will screen off a service area with wild thicket, cut leaf elder and cornus mas and euonymus planipes and limes and using a lot of Rosa rubiginosa.

"We are also doing further planting in more recent new designs in the parterre tapestry garden and the castle ruin gardens, which we first planted last year and which were designed by Dan Pearson. It features wisterias, clematis, grasses and perennials, to give a romantic theme in the castle ruin and we’ll be continuing our work in there."

"Our whole focus is to develop the castle and gardens and this year were going to see an increased development on the garden and horticultural side of the project. We’re working alongside Dan Pearson to raise the awareness of the horticultural element and expertise here and what we are actually doing to propel the project to a world renowned visitor attraction which will stand out and be a destination for horticultural lovers. It’s a very exciting time and something exciting to be seen.

Other improvements include a new exhibition telling the story of Lowther Castle’s history, including the modern revival stage, and a refreshed shop, café and entrance areas and new signage and lighting.

Ogle said the gardens, gardeners and garden and landscape designers involved will feature. "The exhibition is trying to interpret what’s happened on the site and buildings and also how the gardens came about the people who have lived and worked here," he said. "We plan to extend that story into the garden with new signage, the exhibition is going to be tied into the garden, the garden becomes an exhibition spaces."

The £1m investment is the latest in series of cash injections into the project. It won £9m in funding from regional development agencies in 2008, allowing work to start in 2009.

Land Use Consultants was appointed as landscape architects in 2010 with then principal Dominic Cole leading. Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley, landscape architecture practice The Landscape Agency and local landscape contractor Stephen Taylor have also worked on the site.

The gardens opened in 2011 and broke the world record for daffodil planting in October 2012. Lowther Castle and Gardens is due to re-open on 12 March.

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