Bowood House and Gardens open for 2013 with new attractions

Re-opened on Wednesday 20 March for the 2013 season, Bowood House & Gardens’ new attractions for 2013 include ‘Tractor Ted’s Little Farm at Bowood’ and the addition of a four-acre garden for the highly-acclaimed Rhododendron Walks.

There’s a clear meeting of minds between Bowood and Tractor Ted. Just as Bowood whole-heartedly encourages children to indulge in outdoor play, making the most of their surroundings and open space, so too do Tractor Ted’s authentic farming stories similarly engage children with the fun and understanding of the countryside. Using real life footage and photography in the Tractor Ted books and DVDs, these adventures focus on the seasons, big machinery, animal care and where good food begins. The brand new Tractor Ted’s Little Farm at Bowood will give children the opportunity to experience this at first hand. In Tractor Ted’s Barn youngsters will be able to meet friendly farm animals such as pygmy goats, Gloucester Old Spot pigs and ewes with lambs whilst also being able to handle rabbits, guinea pigs and hens. In Tractor Ted’s Stable they can see newly hatched chicks, enjoy lots of farm games and watch Tractor Ted’s real life films.

Outside they’ll enjoy riding around the mini tractor track, ball scooping in the mini digger den and play make believe farming in the animal dens. Beside the farm is a cosy café for parents to relax in with their children.

Two special ‘Big Farm Machinery’ weekends will run on May 18th to 19th and August 17th to 18th. With brand new farm tractors and machinery on display alongside their smaller vintage counterparts, these are sure to be hugely popular events with Tractor Ted’s machinery-mad audience.

Bowood will also be arranging treasure hunts, games and quizzes, regular seasonal events, special themed days and weekends over the coming months – with “Tractor Ted’s Little Farm at Bowood’ running at full throttle too – particularly over the Easter weekend, the summer half term break and during the 8th annual Bowood Charity Dog Show & Summer Fair (Sunday 9 June).

There’s lots lined up for gardens enthusiasts too at Bowood – home to the descendants of the 1st Earl of Shelburne and the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne since 1754. The six weeks from late April is when Bowood’s highly-acclaimed Rhododendron Walks (two miles from the House and reached via a separate entrance off the A342) re-emerge as one of the best spots in the country for such blooms. This year a new four-acre section of garden will emerge as an addition to the woodland rhododendron garden that was originally laid out around 1850 by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne.

Thanks to successive generations of the Lansdowne family continuing to plant here, over 60 acres are now carpeted by rhododendrons (as well as camellias and azaleas) in this heavenly spot, with some of the earliest known hybrids to be found in the UK. Maintaining this family tradition, the new addition to the Rhododendron Walks has involved a seven year labour of love for the 9th Marquis of Lansdowne who started planting in the wood that’s known as ‘The Jubilee Garden’ in 2006. This particular area is shaped by a small natural valley with a magnificent clump of yews at each corner. Lord Lansdowne’s great-grandfather, the 5th Marquess (Viceroy of India from 1888-94) had considerably expanded the rhododendron gardens and these corner markings suggest he had been intending to create a garden here over a 100 years ago.

“Running through the valley is a gentle stream, fed from a worked out quarry near to the Rhododendron Walks’ entrance. As the quarry spring never runs dry, water loving plants thrive here,” explains Lord Lansdowne, a passionate gardener. “A further advantage of this spot is that it is ring fenced against deer damage unlike the remainder of the 60 acre woodland garden.”

The Jubilee garden will be open from Monday-Friday during the six week flowering season while the public can visit the rest of the Rhododendron Walks every day during this period.

The highly popular series of monthly guided tours of Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s Private Walled Gardens returns for 2013. Entered through a ‘secret’ door, the four-acre walled garden is made up of four distinct one acre squares comprising formal borders, a picking garden, glass houses and a working kitchen garden packed with fruit and vegetables. Also taking in the Italinate Terraces that front the Diocletian wing of Bowood House and the Pleasure Grounds surrounding it, the complete guided tour of the gardens stretches out across 2 ½ -3 miles (with seats positioned along the way) and lasts approximately two and a half hours. With admission to Bowood House & Gardens and a two course lunch in the House Restaurant also included, the tour is priced at £27.50 per person. (The price will be just £3 extra for admission to the Rhododendron Walks when open).

The Private Walled Garden tours are scheduled for: 17th April, 15th May, 19th June, 17th July, 14th August, 11th September and 16 October. (While these dates are allocated for individual bookings, groups of 20 visitors or more can book a weekday date of their choice at £25 per person).

Among the many visitors who appreciated the glories of the Rhododendron Walks and the Private Walled Gardens in 2012, as well as the two levels of Terraces and the Arboretum, were 50 members from the Bath Society of Botanical Artists. The artists were invited by Lord Lansdowne to paint and draw the fabulous variety of plant life across 2,000 acres of Capability Brown’s Grade I listed parkland and across the seasons at Bowood. Some 50 pieces of resulting art will be displayed within the ‘Bowood Botanical Heritage’ exhibition in Robert Adam’s Orangery at Bowood House through to the end of the Bowood season on 5 November.

“Each year since the House and Gardens first opened to the public in 1975 we have had to keep improving and adding to the visitor experience,” comments Lord Lansdowne, who has been at Bowood’s helm since 1972. “I am tremendously excited that our well-established traditions and already popular attractions are now being further embellished in 2013 with the arrival of Tractor Ted and as more garden glories are revealed. There really is so much for all ages to appreciate at Bowood and I would whole-heartedly encourage seasoned devotees to return soon and newcomers to discover something very special indeed.”

Over half the House is open to the public (with the family living in the remainder) as well as over 100 acres of gardens and grounds. Among the many other glories to enjoy during a visit are the priceless Bowood Collection of antiques, artwork and other treasures; the Laboratory where Dr. Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen gas; picnicking by the lake; children’s party rooms; the House Restaurant, a man-made Cascade and a Hermit’s Cave to name a few.