At another well attended meeting, on 15th April, Richard Todd, head Gardener at Anglesey Abbey gave us an entertaining and stunningly illustrated talk on the Four Seasons in Anglesey Abbey Gardens.
Anglesey Abbey is a National trust property just off the A14 north-east of Cambridge. Lord Fairhaven, who bought the property in 1926, restored the house and hugely expanded the gardens to the current 120 acres which now comprise a mixture of formal ornamental gardens, an extensive woodland garden, widespread areas of grass, wildflower meadows and large-scale woodland avenues. Anglesey Abbey is open all year every day except for the Christmas period. It is an unusual garden in that peak visiting times are in winter and early spring.
Richard began the year in winter and, in a series of breath-taking photos, showed us why this is such a popular time. There was the beauty of snow and frost on trees and grasses including frost on uncut areas of the wild flower meadow. The National Trust have introduced ‘mosaic’ cutting to keep areas in a wild flower meadow unmown so that it becomes a haven for insects and small mammals. The famous attraction in the winter scene is the Winter Walk which Richard developed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lord Fairhaven’s birth. It has a winding path with a fresh view at every turn, brilliant with the vibrant colours of fresh stems of dogwood and salix, fragrant shrubs and an underplanting of grasses, hellebores and crocuses. The climax of the walk is a copse of himalayan birches which Richard personally washes each year to retain their striking whiteness.
Anglesey Abbey is famous for its snowdrops and this year there were 150,00 visitors during the snowdrop opening. Richard showed us some general views of the vast areas of snowdrops planted in woodland and open areas and a series of shots of individual snowdrop varieties, some of which are unique to Anglesey.
Having lingered lovingly over winter and spring Richard moved more swiftly through the many attractions that Anglesey Abbey offers for the rest of the year; a hyacinth bed, wild flower meadows, an extensive herbaceous border, at its best in June and July, and a final blaze of colour with an impressive display of dahlias. Then, if we thought this was the end, we were wrong. Richard finished his talk with a return to winter and an amazing set of pictures of the garden illuminated at night in the Winter Lights display which is held over the last weekend in November and the first two weekends in December. This spectacular ending left the audience clamouring for a winter outing to Anglesey Abbey.
In 2013, Richard was awarded a BEM for services to the National Trust and National Heritage in Cambridgeshire, here are a small selection of Richard’s photographs of Anglesey Abbey: