This further postponement of the March date follows nearly 2 years’ extensive restoration work on the Grade 1 Listed gardens and on site facilities - in one of the biggest UK garden restoration projects for nearly 30 years. Visit www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk.
As an indication of the scale of the work, general manager Adam Streeter says that some 10 miles of pathways have had to be inspected, and many rebuilt because of collapsing down into the steep valley in which the gardens are set; and checking some 10,000 trees individually and carrying out tree surgery where necessary:
“We very much regret this further delay in opening the gardens - the decision was taken very reluctantly, after a careful review of the work to be done, and the health and safety and logistics implications. The further delay is primarily due to issues in constructing the new car park, which must be ready to receive many thousands of visitors in coaches and cars. We will be ready on April 6th,” says Adam Streeter, general manager.
"A major issue has been planning delays imposed on the estate as a result of the discovery of a great crested newt in the pond of a greenhouse close to the the car park, when all further work in the vicinity had to be postponed until the newt moved on," says Adam Streeter:
“There has been a lot of anticipation around the opening - we get dozens of messages daily asking about the opening. I can only say that we are doing everything we can to complete the work; and that visitors will be more than impressed by what we have achieved in renovating and restoring the gardens. With the pruning and clearance work the spring displays will be stunning.”
Closed to the public for nine years, the 240 acre estate previously attracted 50,000 visitors annually to see the outstanding displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, magnolias and bluebells, collected from all over the world from the early 1800s.
Set in a steep-sided valley, the estate offers visitors a unique combination of lakes, woodlands and parkland walks to enjoy, as well as a Pulham rock garden built in 1890, and a rare colony of wallabies and also deer. There is a renowned dolls’ house museum, which features the local village and its community in the Edwardian era, to 1/12 scale.
The Grade II listed 19th-century Italianate style mansion is restored and updated and already open to visitors for a classic afternoon tea as well as bookings at Restaurant Interlude, which offers tasting menus with produce that is foraged, raised and produced on the estate and selected local farms. The house is also available for catered private functions such as birthdays and weddings, as well as business events, with a number of meeting rooms, all recently refurbished.
Photograph: Barry Chaston