During my recent visit to Newstead Abbey I wanted to make sure I saw as much of the gardens as possible, though not all – since they cover more than 300 acres! I decided the best way of accomplishing this was by following the route on the map I had purchased from the Abbey Gift Shop. Although there have been gardens on the site since the times of the priory, the current layout owes much of its design to the later owners, such as the Byrons and the Wildmans.
The most obvious starting point is the Garden Lake, as pictured above, created by Thomas Wildman (he who brought the Abbey from the poet Byron) in about 1820. It’s a beautiful setting, full of wildlife, including swans, ducks and geese (as below) and perfect to walk around on a sunny day or as a setting for a picnic, as many people were enjoying while I was there.
One area I particularly wanted to see was the Japanese Garden, laid out for one of the Abbey’s owners, Ethel Webb, in 1899. The idea behind it was to recreate a genuine Japanese landscape and it does a pretty good job of evoking the theme, with stone lanterns imported from Japan dotted throughout, cute stepping stones leading to little islands and this particularly lovely cascade/waterfall, which takes water from the Garden Lake into the stream below.
Another nice part of the grounds is the Rose Garden, although I visited in the wrong month to actually see many roses in bloom. It has undergone a lot of changes through the years as this, along with the Small Walled Garden next door, used to be a kitchen garden for the Wildman’s, which also included fountains and greenhouses.
Now it is laid out fairly simply but with the nicely added details of wire sculptures which make a fun addition to the garden.
The next garden of interest and probably the largest of the formally designed areas is the Great Garden, which has remained relatively unchanged since 1726. The Eagle, or Mirror Pond, is clearly the focal point of the garden and may have been a fish pond since the time of the Priory.
It’s a nice relaxed area which gives you a good view of the Abbey and is also the site of other items of interest such as this intriguing statue of a male Satyr which, along with its female counterpart, was erected by the 5th Lord Byron in 1784.
And, closer to the Abbey itself, is the monument and tomb that the poet Byron had built in 1808/1809 for his beloved Newfoundland dog Boatswain. Byron intended to be buried there himself, but was instead buried at the family vault in Hucknall (which will feature in a future blog post at some point). The remains of the dog are apparently no longer there either.
There was also a lovely (and extremely loud!) peacock perched on the top of some stairs by the ruins of the Priory which caught my attention.
The final area I particularly liked was the Spanish Garden, created in 1896 from ornamental flowerbeds which divide the garden into narrow patterned paths that you can really appreciate from the top of the steps nearby. The garden is named after the well head that you can see in the centre, which has been copied from a Spanish design.
There are plenty of other garden areas to wander through and it is certainly possible to spend an entire day exploring the grounds of the Abbey.
As ever you can find more photos at my Flickr.