24 February 2012

Wrested Back from Nature

Wrest Park, in Bedfordshire, is a secret garden on a monumental scale. The estate was home to the de Greys from the thirteenth century right through to 1917. The Manor House, completed in 1839, was designed in the eighteenth-century French style, by Thomas de Grey.

There were an immense 92 acres of formal gardens, inspired by those of Versailles, enclosed within seemingly endless walls, cornered by pavilions (top). Over the decades since 1917 the gardens have largely been lost. English Heritage gained control of the site in 2006, and in 2010 commenced a twenty year restoration programme.

In the garden, the initial focus is on the Rose, American and Italian gardens, the French parterre, and restoration of the miles of paths. There are also an orangery and a pavilion associated with a bowling green. For now, other than at weekends, all that can be seen is a vast, tantalising, enclosing wall.

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