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.