The Derwent Valley runs roughly North to south through the county of Derbyshire. A few years ago, a good part of it, was designated a World Heritage Site for its Industrial Heritage. This was the birth place of what was to become known as the Industrial Revolution. Admittedly an award to be proud of, but for many of us we already thought that the natural beauty of the valley was of even greater value….it certainly is for modern tourism.
Derbyshire is blessed with many great gardens, parks and country estates and the Derwent Valley is home to many of them. LEA RHODODENDRON GARDENS are just one of them and at this time of year a very special garden.
Situated on a Gritstone Cliff on the eastern side of the valley, overlooking the River Derwent these gardens offer a sheltered south west facing aspect for the Rhododendron and Azalea collection on display. As well as the large displays of Rhododendron there are also Alpines and of course woodland to explore. I will provide a little history as background at the end of the blog….but for now join us on a short photo tour of Lea Gardens………..
AND NOW FOR SOME HISTORY:
As Derbyshire gardens go this one is not, comparatively speaking, that old. It does though owe its existence to one of the industrialist of the valley a certain John Marsden-Smedley (1867 – 1959). He was the owner of the famous John Smedley Ltd, Woollen Garment Manufacturers whose Mill is still in the shadow of the garden. Smedley was also the local Squire and the many woodlands within this part of the valley arround Lea are down to Smedley’s love of trees and his expansive planting schemes.
But he also had the dream of creating a Rhododendron Garden after being inspired by many of the Victorian Garden Designers creations. This site, a old Gritstone quarry was to become, after much landscaping and foundation work, an ideal location. Paths and plantings started I believe in 1935 and continued till his death in 1959 at the age of 92.
The story could have ended there but the Tye family secured this part of the Smedley estate and have continued to develop and care for the gardens, opening them to the public in 1960. Well worth a visit.
We owe a great deal in Derbyshire to wealthy industrialists and Landowners of the past, in particular the Victorian era. They have proved to be benefactors to our community leaving many great achievements for us all to enjoy to-day.