Chippenham Park in Cambridge

Chippenham Park in spring: rich layers of history balanced by bulbs

At Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire spring brings a multitude of naturalised bulbs to balance its rich layers of history. Words Tilly Ware, photographs Richard Bloom

Chippenham Park is an Anglo-Dutch garden laid out in the late 17th century, remodelled in the 18th century and recently developed by current owners in Cambridgeshire. It is 45-acre garden within 300 acres of parkland with light and chalky soil and a climate of cool winters and warm summers.

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T. ‘Mrs Harold I Pratt’ (1926), T. ‘Lord Stanley’ (1880), T. ‘Prince of Wales’ (1863), T. ‘Mahogany King’ (1905) and T. ‘La Joyeuse’ (1863)
© Andrew Montgomery

A canal garden feels entirely right in the wide Fens of Cambridgeshire, although only traces of Chippenham Park’s original 17th-century waterways remain. The Anglo-Dutch garden started off in 1609 with formal canals cross-hatching a park crammed with grand avenues. By the late 18th century, landscape designer William Emes and Samuel Lapidge, surveyor to ‘Capability’ Brown, had swept away the straight lines. Water was channelled into a great lake, whose serpentine curve is now thickly bordered with specimen trees and shrubs. If you cross the bridge and duck past the centuries-old chestnuts with skirts that sweep the floor, you’ll find ghostly canal beds still lingering among ancient tunnels of box and yew. Their bones are covered in vast shrouds of snowdrops, aconites and narcissi. The atmosphere is magic. Discover more about the garden below.

Chippenham Park in Cambridge
© Richard Bloom

On the terrace, eight Quercus phellos are trained to form parasol-like shapes over urns packed with Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’. Around the Corten steel beds, Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’, Narcissus ‘Thalia’ and Hakonechloa macra create a tranquil green-and-white scheme.

Chippenham Park in Cambridge
© Richard Bloom

The x Cuprocyparis leylandii colonnade was inspired by a similar yew structure at Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland; fast-growing leylandii achieves the desired result in a shorter time. An orchard of quinces (Cydonia oblonga) provides clouds of pinkish white blossom in late spring.

Chippenham Park in Cambridge
© Richard Bloom

A row of pleached Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ comes into flower early in the Walled Garden. Tightly clipped beech (Fagus sylvatica) frames a bed of grasses (including Stipa gigantea and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) perfectly placed to catch the sunlight.

Chippenham Park in Cambridge
© Richard Bloom
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In March the lawns between the house and the lake are filled with daffodils, including Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, Narcissus ‘Actaea’, Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and Narcissus lobularis, which are suited to naturalising in grass. The arches beyond are covered in wisteria and Akebia quinata.

Key plants at Chippenham Park

Address Chippenham Park, Newmarket, Cambridgeshire CB7 5PT. Tel 01638 721416. Web chippenhamparkgardens.info