Cheshire is ducal, aristocratic, philanthropic in its Victorian entrepreneurs and richly textured in its topography and in its historic gardens. From the Duke of Westminster’s Eaton Hall to Lord Leverhulme’s Thornton Manor and his garden village at Port Sunlight, there is a swagger and grandeur about the landscape and garden experiments in the county. In addition there are several influential public open spaces, particularly Joseph Paxton’s seminal Birkenhead Park, which was the inspiration for New York’s Central Park. Cheshire has a garden laid out to symbolise John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a cosmic arboretum created by Sir Bernard Lovell in the shadow of his radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, and England’s most atmospheric yet little noticed eighteenth-century Rococo garden at Adlington near the border with the Peak District. Contrived by a husband and wife team in the 1740s it has a Chinese pagoda-bridge, a Turkish Temple, Cascade, Root House and T'ing House all now forlorn in semi-dereliction. Cheshire is a wealthy county and new money, mostly from Manchester businessmen and footballers, has wrecked some historic parks, which have been turned into brash golf courses. But the county has exciting new gardens to compensate for this loss, most notably at 17 Poplar Grove, Sale where Gordon Cooke’s ceramics are laid casually like objets trouvées in amongst exotic architectural planting.

Redcliffe Press, Bristol (2008)

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