A restored garden, Goering and a white wallaby!

By | Category: Travel destinations

This Saturday, Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, the biggest UK garden restoration project since Heligan (which was over twenty years ago now) opens to the public. It was closed to the public in 2010 and the new owner, Penny Streeter, has employed twenty gardeners and spent two years working to bring the gardens to a standard where they can be re-opened.

Leonardslee Gardens: The Rock Garden as it should be in May

Described by some as ‘the finest woodland gardens in England’, the 240 acre, Grade 1 listed Leonardslee has undergone some 10 miles rebuilding of pathways that had collapsed, 10,000 trees have been catalogued and the displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, magnolias and bluebells, collected from all over the world from the early 1800s, have been made accessible again.

The garden team have recorded 95 champion trees including a specimen of the critically endangered Sicilian Fir; with only 30 left in the wild, seedlings will be shared with Kew Gardens to preserve the species,

Apart from the plants and trees what else is there to see?

part of the Dolls’ House Museum at Leonardslee

Set in a steep-sided valley, the estate offers visitors a combination of lakes, woodlands and parkland walks. There is an acclaimed Pulham rock garden built in 1890, and a colony of wallabies (including at least one rare white one) and deer to see. The renowned dolls’ house museum features the local village and its community in the Edwardian era, to 1/12 scale.

The Grade II listed 19th-century Italianate style mansion has been restored, updated in places and open as is the restaurant with produce that has been foraged, raised and produced on the estate and selected local farms.

a rare white wallaby joey

The house and gardens have quite a history with the area, before the nineteenth century being a haunt from smugglers. The gardens were used for filming several exterior scenes for the 1947 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film ‘Black Narcissus’, which is set in the extreme north of India.

But the film might never have been made there if Germany had won WWII. Just weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War, the head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering visited the local area and, it is believed, selected Leonardslee Estate as his proposed post-invasion headquarters!

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