26 May 2014

Lea Gardens, Derbyshire and surrounding area

A visit to Lea Gardens and Nursery has been something I've wanted to do for a long time, but I've been saving it for good-weather day. Considering the weather has not been so good over the last few days we picked the right time last weekend to see the rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.

There are many trees in the grounds that provide a sheltered canopy for the masses of colourful, mature rhododendrons to flourish. There are beautiful vistas from the higher ground on these south-facing slopes overlooking the Pennine peaks and there are shady, enclosed areas as the meandering pathways take the visitor through the gardens at different levels where the mature shrubs have grown to a great height. On the lower level there's also a woodland walk  The River Derwent flows in the valley below in an area where several mill owners lived and developed their textile mills.

John Marsden-Smedley was not only the local squire but a manufacturer of quality woollen garments located in the village of Lea. He was also a lover of plants and much of his land was given over to the planting of trees.  In the 1930s Smedley, then in his late sixties, started growing his collection of rhododendrons and azaleas on a specially-appointed and prepared site whose sheltered position allowed these ornamental specimens, including less-hardy varieties, to survive and thrive. During the next few decades he built up a collection of over 350 varieties on a 2-acre site before his death at the age of ninety-two.  When the estate was divided up the gardens were acquired by the Tye family who have continue to extend and develop them by introducing new plants, ornamental shrubs and trees. By opening the gardens to the public the present owners share their love of horticulture, garden design and expertise with those who enjoy gardening and visiting such places .

After enjoying some refreshments in the tea room I left my husband to sit in the sunshine and went to have a wander around the gardens.  Below are some of the photos I took to give you give an idea of the beauty I encountered.  As I didn't see half of the gardens during our time spent there we shall have to return when we're in that area of Derbyshire as there are collections of plants and interesting tree specimens other than the rhododendrons and azaleas.  Next time I will have my booklet in hand rather than a camera as it gives much information about the development of the gardens, a plan of the site and the names of many of the plant and trees to look out for on the walk.

 Looking up to the tea room and then looking across the valley from the seating area of the tearoom (below).

The tearoom, glasshouse and nursery

The lane up to the gardens and surrounding countryside (below)

We passed through the village of Lea where John Smedley Ltd. still produces fine knitwear today before stopping for a late lunch near Matlock Bath.

The mill buildings and mill pond

The fields above Matlock Bath with heavily wooded Masson Hill .The alpine-style cable car system
 takes visitors up to the summit called The Heights of Abraham.


  1. what and amazing garden, your photos are spectacular... love the ones with the flowers and big tall trees .... i want that little car. so cute

  2. Fabulous. It's just the right time of year to enjoy these beautiful plants, and they're putting on a spectacular show. How lovely that the Tye family have continued to extend the collection and keep it going, and that the public gets to enjoy them.

  3. Lucky you to have picked a lovely sunny day for your trip to these beautiful gardens. Your photos are absolutely stunning and give us a wonderful insight into your day.
    Patricia x

  4. Hello There, We just got home from a great week--which was a terrific 'healing' experience for me --as I recover from gallbladder surgery followed by that wicked infection... You'll have to check out my blog post today (if you haven't done so yet).
    What gorgeous gardens... Love seeing all of the blooms especially during the spring. We saw some beautiful Mountain Laurel in bloom on our trip ---and it looks similar to some of the white blooms you show here... Beautiful!


  5. What a beautiful place to visit, I can quite see why you would like to return another time. The rhododendrons are stunning, so many different colours. It is so lovely to see them en masse like this isn't it. Glad that you had a nice time, thank you for taking us! xx

  6. Oh my goodness, Linda! That is all so beautiful! And I think it's wonderful how all these lovely places have tea rooms, too. There's a photo of a tall bent over cedar(?) that reminds me of a shorter one in my backyard. It used to have a bent over top that had lots of character, but a weak tornado broke it off in 2005. I miss seeing it. Thanks for your nice comments on my recent posts. You have the gift of encouragement, which is something we all need! Blessings, Bess

  7. So beautiful, Linda I've loved looking at your photos of Lea Gardens. You had a lovely day too - just right after the rainy days we've had, you certainly chose the right one on which to visit:)

  8. Oh my....those rhododendrons and azaleas are exquisite! How I woul love to have such a blaze of colour like that! What a stunning place, I did enjoy this.xxx

  9. Oh my, those rhododendrons and azaleas are stunning! How I would love to have a blaze of colour like that. The white ones are exquisite! What a beautiful place to visit. I did enjoy this post.xxx

  10. Ah looking at your pictures made me remember how wonderful Derbyshire is. I suppose I might be a bit late for the rhododendrons by the time I make it up there next.

  11. Hello Linda, great photos! Looks like you had a lovely day out. Many thanks for your visit and comments. I love your header photo. Do you live there? Linda x

    1. Thank you for your visit, Linda. The header photo was taken in Bradfield Dale and not far from where we live.

  12. Oh my goodness, what a fabulous place to visit. We've been looking for a place like this to visit to see the rhododendrons but I fear by the time we are now able to visit the best will be over especially if they've been hit by the awful rain and storms we've had recently. x

  13. These photos are AMAZING!!! I can almost smell those flowers just by their photos... and the one on your blog as your main photo with the horse and the scenery, just WOW, it's breathtaking! You are so blessed to live in this beauty!
    I hope you are keeping well,
    Much love,
    Tammy x

  14. What an abundance of beauty.
    (I've been trying to figure out why I don't receive your updates and I think I have it resolved now. Hope so!)

  15. Hi Linda,

    What an amazing place to visit and that must have been the very best day out. I love the pretty azaleas and rhododendrons and must smell heavenly with all the gorgeous perfumes. Thank you for sharing all this beauty.
    Hope you have a lovely week

  16. The gardens are just amazing and awesome!!!
    What a lovely view for having tea too. Oh I could spend
    hours walking here and taking photos. The one with the
    soft pink and a touch of gold in the middle is just glorious.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful garden.

  17. What lovely azaleas and rhododendrons! We don't have acid soil here, so I can only gaze in awe at such large and thriving specimens. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful day out! -Beth

  18. Gloriously beautiful Linda. I bet it felt like you were walking in heaven.

  19. When I look at your pictures, the word LUSH invades my mind. How fortunate you are to be able to visit such luxuries...and then to pour the teapot :) Lovely!

  20. quel superbes paysages et un parc magnifique
    un peu sauvage comme j'aime les jardins
    edith (iris)