The Friends of Walkden Gardens began to use the Theatre Lawn as a performance space for the first time ever in 2001 and inaugurated a series of musical and theatrical events, which are different each year. The Theatre lawn, – comprising auditorium, raised mound and baffle hedge has seen packed houses for soloists, dance and band concerts, plus dramas – Cider with Rosie, Godspell, Macbeth, and even a re-enactment of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!.Refreshments usually homemade and sometimes ‘themed’ are served during the interval in a separate part of the garden – the audience returning to their seats for the second performance after the interval bell is rung. For most evening performances we are licensed and all profits go back into improving the gardens still further.
There was an association between Walkden Gardens and the Manchester Fuchsia Society, and the Fuchsia Garden looks pretty much the same as it did over thirty years ago – surrounded with clipped box hedging.
We refer to the space at the bottom of the Wisteria Arch as the Beech Circle although early documents refer to it as an ‘exhedera’ – it certainly contains trees today of Cathedral proportion.
This too is referred to as a ‘coniferae’ and originally contained a Giant Redwood!Conifer gardens were very popular in the 1960’s – hence its inclusion in a garden of this age. Some species are the original ones planted over 30 years ago, more recent acquisitions have been kindly donated by members of the Tatton Garden Society.
The space in which the dovecote now sits was until very recently a rather intimidating dark and overgrown area. A huge pile of stone from a local cemetery had been tipped on the site some time in the past, and some of this has been used to edge paths and build walls around the dovecote and in the Japanese garden.The Dovecote stood originally within the grounds of Sale Old Hall. The hall was demolished in the 1920s but the dovecote remained. In 1977 when the motorway through Sale was built, the dovecote was still standing on its original site. It was decided that rather than move the dovecote (the last surviving building from hall) the motorway embankment would surround the dovecote. Only a third of the building would then be seen, and this was repeatedly vandalised.At one time it seemed certain that the Grade Two Listed Dovecote would be demolished; but was saved at the very last minute through the intervention of the Secretary of State for the Environment following petitions from Sale Civic Society.When it came for the M60 to be widened the dovecote was removed brick by brick, stored at a builders yard in Rochdale and eventually rebuilt in Walkden Gardens.Not only does it look good in its new home – complimenting the tower of the nearby Sale Hotel, the dovecote is used regularly, recently for arts workshops, exhibition space, serving cream teas and ice creams, as a ticket office and as part of a set in local dramas. The dovecote is always open on National Heritage Open Day.
Over seventy foot long and looking stunning in May, the Wisteria Arch was in flower during the visit of HRH The Duke of Kent on 25th May 2006. The wisteria were imported from Italy and have been trained on a wire frame kindly donated by ‘Jacks DIY’ The Wisteria arch is a favourite of wedding photographers.
A small collection of trees has been established close to the Wisteria Arch, these replace a former rose garden, which was struggling in its northerly aspect. During the Royal visit HRH The Duke of Kent planted a Himalayan Birch (Betula albosinensis ‘fascination’) in the arboretum to commemorate his visit in May 2006.
THE CHERRY WALK
This leads from the ‘Sound and Poetry Garden’ to ‘Miss Cordingley’s Garden’ and looks great when the blue bells are out. We are grateful to Mr Keith Davies of Tatton Garden Society for donating a collection of camellias besides the Cherry Walk.
THE JAPANESE GARDEN
Sponsored by Greening Greater Manchester
The Friends of the Walkden Gardens are grateful for the financial support given by Greening Greater Manchester for the completion of the Japanese Garden. It is a wonderful feature of the garden
The garden is an attempt to create the feel of a garden as it might be seen in Japan, using design ideas commonly used in the Japanese garden tradition. As a garden that is walked through it is modelled on the ‘Stroll Garden’ style, whilst incorporating ideas from other styles too. The path through the garden is deliberately winding, providing many different scenes as the visitor walks along it. On walking back the other way, the garden looks different again, as other scenes become visible.
The garden is divided into three areas, each with distinctive characteristics. Archways and see-through bamboo screens separate these areas, giving the viewer the sense of passing from one space to the next by walking through the archways.
The first area is quite intimate, centred on the rock arrangement just beyond the main entrance gateway. On entering through the gateway, the viewer has little idea of what lies beyond this first garden. Only the path turning sharply away and the view of the first archway entice the viewer onwards. Within this entrance area the scene is of an undulating landscape, with the three large rocks representing Buddhist deities welcoming you into the space.
The second area, beyond a bamboo-roofed archway, is much larger and is dominated by trees. It has the air of a woodland scene, based loosely on the ideas of a tea garden, where planting is more natural, representing a woody glade. The gravel pool under a group of Acer palmatum trees could be imagined as mist lying in a hollow through which the trunks emerge, or as a pool of water left after a downpour before draining away. A side path leads to a more formally planted scene, with clipped rounded shrubs falling down a hillside topped by three more boulders, perhaps representing mountain tops. As the next archway is approached, a view of the third area is framed.
The third area is in the style of a karesansui, or dry landscape garden. Here, gravel is used to represent a lake containing several rocks representing islands. Two of these suggest the form of a turtle, an important mythical figure in Japan, and one that symbolises longevity. Under a bridge flows a dry stream made with slate, and at the far end is a mound with rocks (mountain peaks), clipped shrubs (perhaps clouds round the peaks), and pruned pine trees suggesting a craggy mountain side. A second dry river emerges from the peaks and flows into the lake. The scene can be seen as the viewer walks alongside the lake, the view changing all the while, or from the covered seat, modelled on a tea garden waiting arbour, looking along the lake to the mountains beyond.
On leaving the garden through the small gateway beyond the mountains, a look back through the archway shows a formal arrangement of clipped shrubs tumbling towards the viewer, acting as a visual counterpoint to the tall boulder on the other side of the path.
The essence of a Japanese garden is the ability of the viewer to engage with the scenes presented, reminding them perhaps of real scenery previously observed. By connecting this way with that natural world the outcome is often a feeling of relaxation and calmness. The Japanese Garden Society hopes to have provided a little of that essence in this garden.
Graham Hardman. November 2006