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The Trentham Estate - Breathing life into a historic landscape

20 April 2016

Playing a leading role in the Capability Brown celebrations, The Trentham Estateis involved in one of the most innovative parkland projects in Britain.

A project aimed at rediscovering Capability’s lost landscape, work began in late October 2013 to reveal his original vision and gathered pace in the lead up to 2016, his tercentenary year.

With encouragement and financial support from the Forestry Commission, restoration of the connection between the upper west side of the lake and the 18th century parkland began with the removal of invasive Rhododendron ponticum as it carried the disease Phytophera ramorum.

This was followed by the removal of trees which obscured the connection between Brown’s Parkland (West) and his lake, revealing historic Red Woods, Brownian age trees and a Georgian ice house and Georgian triple boat house.

Brown had an enormous impact at Trentham, being employed at the Estate from 1759 to 1780, during which time he expanded the mile long lake, sculpted the surrounding parklands and reworked the water courses, rivers and Trentham Hall itself.

A vast, contemporary, annual meadow by Nigel Dunnett was planted in May 2015 with a range of seed including Shirley and Californian Poppies, Cornflower, Fairy Toad Flax, Tickseed, Larkspur and Crimson Flax. This produced stunning and changing displays throughout the summer through to November.

This year the annual meadow will be more than 21,000 square metres, twice what was planted last year, and work has begun to create the longest woodland and perennial meadow trail anywhere in the UK.

Perennial planting is now underway on the west side of the lake and by the gardens entrance bridge, along with annual planting to the boat house and beyond.

The first phase of Magnolia, Handkerchief Trees and Tulip Trees have already been planted.

Michael Walker, Head of Garden and Estate at The Trentham Estate said: “We’re re-mastering the landscape with plantings which reflect a deep understanding of the historical nature of the estate, but also with the aim of finding contemporary ways of providing a sustainable solution for Trentham’s long term management.

“There’s a huge amount of work happening, in fact this will be the biggest scheme of its type going on in any historic garden in the UK.

“Our vision includes adding a sequence of different spatial experiences through the woodland and around the lake with vast and contemporary meadow and woodland plantings by Nigel Dunnett of Queen Elizabeth Park fame.

“This is not small-scale gardening, this is on the dramatic scale of the Olympic Park planting stretching into every corner of Trentham.”

The Trentham Estate has received support from English Heritage, Stafford Borough Council, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Environment Agency, which has enabled work to take root throughout the 725-acre estate.

Michael explained: “We have an important landscape which pre dates Capability Brown with medieval woodland and is a site of special scientific interest which is a significant part of our ecology.

“Through Natural England large parts of the estate are in Higher Level Stewardship.

“This has led, for example, to the restoration of parkland areas for their natural quality including areas of heathland, wetland and acidic grassland, which if not managed would naturally revegetate with bracken, knotweed and pioneer species such as birch and alder.

Work on the River Trent, which flows through the estate, has also been carried out alongside the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency.

“This has involved taking the river bank away to connect the river to a historic wetland so that it’s now an area of significant wildlife potential as part of a bigger scheme to help reinvigorate the River Trent.”

The ongoing project, which is explained to Trentham’s current-day visitors via a series of interpretation panels and guided tours, is also helping to identify the line of a former Ha-Ha (a way to prevent grazing livestock from entering the gardens without obstructing the views), and the park and garden are now separated with 1km of Georgian metal fencing with the park to be grazed in due course.

“We’re unique among other Brownian landscapes because we haven’t just restored the garden and managed it entirely through a respect for the past,    we’ve been brave enough to move it forward.

“We understand the significance of the Estate’s past and apply this to guide its contemporary revival, as seen in the modern plantings by Tom Stuart-Smith, Piet Oudolf and Nigel Dunnett.

“This sits side by side with our giant dandelion sculptures, our Fairy Trail, our garden tea room, the boat trips on the lake here, which make the Estate a vibrant environment which encourages our visitors to actually connect with the landscape and bring its historical character to life in a  way which they can relate to.”

Located near to Stoke-on-Trent, Trentham Gardens is a Capability Brown Festival Urban Site and is working with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to connect people with the natural biodiversity of Brown’s landscape.

In 2016, visitors are invited to follow in Brown’s footsteps by joining in one of the estate team’s walks and talks or even getting naked from the knees down, and doing a barefoot walk in our Brownian landscape.

The Trentham Estate re-opened to the public 12 years ago, and has won one      of Europe’s top awards for its restoration work, and this year has been awarded a Gold Accolade by VisitEngland for its warm welcome, unique storytelling, high-quality food and drink and all-round quality experience for visitors.

Capability Brown’s Sunday Scenes Tours are included in garden admission. Places are limited, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Annual Tickets are the best value way to visit the gardens and also offer discounts at participating shops and restaurants, 20% off day tickets for friends and even discounts on special events.

For full details of all events, opening times, discounts, restaurants and shops visit



For all media information, photo-opportunities and images, please contact:

Anna Shackleton                or        Kerryanne Clancy

Tel: 01782 566 561                        Tel: 01782 566 561

E-mail:          E-mail:

Notes to editors:

The Trentham Estate, on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, offers one of the UK’s most diverse days out with a range of leisure activities for all ages.

It is one of the country’s top leisure destinations, attracting more than 3.2m visitors per year and received a Gold Accolade from VisitEngland in 2016. The fabulous restored Trentham Gardens at the heart of the Estate welcomed almost 545,000 paying visitors in 2015 - making them one of the most visited gardens in the UK.  They were also named the UK’s “Garden of the Year” in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2015.

Owned and managed by St. Modwen Properties PLC, the UK’s leading regeneration specialist, the 725-acre Estate, which was previously owned for over 400 years by the Dukes of Sutherland, has undergone a massive regeneration programme since 2003.

The Estate boasts:

The famous Trentham Gardens, including the very important Italianate Gardens designed by Charles Barry in the 1830s that have been lovingly restored using top landscape designers. The gardens feature the UK’s first ‘barefoot’ walk, a great children’s adventure play area and maze and a beautiful walk around the mile long lake, originally laid out by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in the 18th Century.

The Trentham Garden Centre and Shopping Village, an eclectic mix of shops and eateries with a 119 bedroom Premier Inn Hotel.

Trentham Monkey Forest - a unique opportunity to walk amongst 140 free roaming Barbary macaques, in a natural woodland environment for this endangered species.

Aerial Extreme, an exhilarating treetop high rope adventure course.

Extensive beautiful Woodlands.

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