Shuttleworth’s Swiss Garden

Written by Diana Spencer on . Posted in Walk Of The Week

Location

– Shuttleworth Collection, near Old Warden

Distance

– around 1 1/2 miles

Click on the map to see the full route on the Walk4Life website.

Time Taken

– about 2 hours gentle walking with stops for photographs

Great For-

Families– Easy walking, lots to see in a short walk, family activity trails and quizzes as well
Gardeners– Wonderful restored Victorian gardens with follies, rockeries, beds and borders and a fern grotto
Artists- Sculpture trail, art exhibitions in some of the buildings

Good for Kids?

– Yes. Lots for them to see, a Magical Fairy Trail to follow, Arts Award Museum Explorer Passport, big play area and family activities on some days as well

Good for Dogs?

– No. Dogs are not allowed in the garden

Admission/Parking Charges

– Currently £8 for adults with up to four children free with each adult. Full prices and opening times at www.shuttleworth.org

Café/Toilets

– Restaurant with a full menu including hot meals, toilets on site

Footwear/Clothing

– Slightly stony paths and some cobbles so wouldn’t recommend heels but any other footwear should be fine.

Accessibility

– Most paths are wide, flat and surfaced (rolled stone mostly). There are some steps and very steep bridges (part of the original garden design) but there are alternative routes around them. A short section of the sculpture trail is unsurfaced.

Alternatives

– Choose your own adventure! You can walk lots of different routes around the garden, map and signposts on site so you can’t get lost.

How To Get There

– Signposted from Old Warden, sat nav postcode is SG18 9EP

The Walk

After several days of slightly dodgy weather, meetings, one false start where I ended up in the wrong place to start the walk I’d planned, a slightly poorly knee and a fairly serious camera fatality, it’s been quite hard to fit in a walk this week.

With just an hour or two free today and a brand new camera to try out, the obvious lace to go was the Swiss Garden at Shuttleworth- lots of photo opportunities, easy walking and plenty of cover to dive under if it decided to pour with rain.

The walk starts through the Visitor Centre (pay for entry) where you get a very helpful map and a seasonal guide to the garden. If you’ve got kids you can also get a Fairy Trail to follow- hunting for fairies and their secret Fairy Doors hidden around the garden.

As you head out of the centre on your right there’s a phenomenal life-size ceramic Minton peacock in a glass case (which for some reason I completely forgot to take a photo of).

There were only twelve of these peacocks ever made, one is in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, one of which was shipwrecked off the Australian coast, amazingly survived and is now in Melbourne.  (For the full amazing story of the Loch Ard peacock click here – special thanks to David Fowler of Bedford Architectural, Archaeological & Local History Society  for the peacock chat.)

Past the peacock you turn left through the gates and into the Swiss Garden. You can follow your own route (or follow the Magical Fairy Trail!) from here, just head down whichever path looks most interesting.

I headed round the edge of the garden, past a startling bright blue urn and and out towards the lake along the Sculpture Trail.

The lake itself is lovely, on a slightly dull day like to day just home to couple of families of Coot and one Moorhen but it looks like it will be heaving with dragonflies when the sun comes out.

The trail winds along the edge of the edge of the lake, sculptures set out on either side. The ship under full sail is particularly impressive, but my favourite was the two groups of oversized, curling, fern fronds set on a fallen log.

You can cut back into the garden just past the ferns, or follow the full length of the trail round the lake and back then through the woods behind the garden room and back to the main gate to start exploring again.

This time I went right and scaled the incredibly steep little half-moon, green iron bridge (there’s a flat alternative just beside this that both me and another walker completely failed to notice!).

The garden’s dotted with follies and shelters, including a little chapel decorated with botanical watercolours and an Indian Pavilion backed with beautiful stained glass.

There are a couple of real peacocks to match the Minton version prowling around, they were both moulting so not entirely looking as shiny and polished as the china version.

Right in the centre of the garden is the little fernery and grotto where I spend about ten minutes waiting to get a photo of the view through the centre without anyone wandering into shot.

The final building is the central Swiss Cottage, I’m told it’s been beautifully restored but it was hosting a wedding this afternoon and I didn’t want to intrude so I’ll have to put that on the to do list for the next visit.

If you want to visit this weekend- on Sunday it’s Shuttleworth’s Edwardian Pageant with loads more displays, a Discovery Zone, vintage cycles, and a full air display including wing walkers and the Red arrows. Entry’s more expensive on big event days so check at shuttleworth.org for more information.

Walk Report- GSCLP

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