News from the North West Meet Up

The GT’s Historic Landscape Project organises three Meet-Ups a year so that County Gardens Trust (CGT) and GT members can come together and discuss their news. These relaxed and informal networking days always throw up interesting news and ideas. They are great opportunities to share and solve problems.

At our 6th November Meet-Up in Chester we had a full house, with 24 attendees from Cheshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Shropshire and Derbyshire Gardens Trusts; the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust; and a guest from Port Sunlight Village Trust. Discussion was wide-ranging and included planning and conservation issues, education and outreach, and research and recording.

Golf course threatens Hulton Park

We heard from Lancashire GT (LGT) about the ongoing Hulton Park public enquiry. They have been supporting local residents’ group Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART), to oppose plans by Peel Development which affect the Grade II-Registered park. Hulton Park was laid out by celebrated 18th century landscape designer William Emes, and his associate John Webb. Peel Development proposes to construct an 18-hole golf course and hotel to host the Ryder Cup, with an enabling development of more than 1,000 homes in the green belt. LGT gave evidence to the Public Enquiry, which began on 1st October.

LGT Chair, Elaine Taylor, spoke of the crucial importance of preserving the park’s beauty and tranquillity. Her comments were published in the Bolton News. Christopher Gallagher, of Shropshire Gardens Trust and the Gardens Trust’s Conservation Committee, appeared as an expert witness on behalf of HEART. He provided superb detail on the Emes Georgian landscape. On behalf of CPRE, Jackie Copley strongly argued the case for protecting the Green Belt. Sadly, the proposed development is just part of a wider problem of councils giving up parts of green belt land for development. We await the result of the enquiry with fingers crossed.

Protection for Registered Parks and Gardens

The Meet-Up group also discussed the fact that Registered parks and gardens (RPGs) have less protection than Listed buildings. Registration is just a ‘material consideration in the planning process’ and the protection it offers is often challenged by developers. Those trying to protect RPGs therefore also need to use other national and local policies which can offer some protection. There are several ways that CGTs can really help here, for example by:

  1. developing a relationship with parish councils and local planning authorities
  2. talking to MPs, who may be able to influence policy
  3. contributing to Local and Neighbourhood Plans
  4. putting research onto the Historic Environment Record, so that information on a site’s significances can be easily accessed.

It may also be useful to distribute the GT’s recently updated planning leaflet This explains the role of the GT as a statutory consultee. It is therefore particularly helpful to send it to Local Planning Authorities, who don’t always consult the GT on planning applications affecting Registered sites.

Illegal tree felling at Penllergaer

We heard from the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust about the 176-year-old giant redwood felled illegally, along with 70 other protected trees, at Penllergaer, Swansea. This tree has been much in the news, especially after the developer responsible was fined a hefty £300,000 for the destruction. This raised the interesting issue: how do you put a value on significant trees? There is obviously much more to consider than a tree’s timber value: age, rarity of species, size, historical associations, community value, wildlife value etc are more important to those concerned with landscape, design and nature. We thought, too, about damage which can be caused by inappropriate tree planting and Lancashire GT gave an interesting example of the planting of memorial trees in a Thomas Mawson park, filling up a glade which Mawson had intended as an open space.

Supporting students

Lancashire GT has received a generous bequest from one of its former members, Audrey Dawson, and has decided to use these funds to support students reading for a recently-launched BSc in Landscape Architecture at Myerscough College. The group was delighted to hear about this course, as we know how many higher education programmes in landscape design and heritage have been lost in recent years. We talked about what else could be done to support young people with an interest in designed landscape and horticulture. The Welsh HGT offers free membership to under-25s and to those engaged in garden/horticulture training. It is also starting an education fund through Bangor University, funding research into Registered parks and gardens. Shropshire GT also offers a bursary for horticulture/landscape students. Cheshire GT offers a travel bursary to such students and also supports two students at Ness Botanic Gardens, Liverpool University. In return for this support, students are expected to report back to their respective CGTs on their research and travels.


As ever, the CGTs have been busy researching their local historic landscapes. Cheshire GT has been looking into the fate of 400 unregistered landscapes, which were known to have existed in 1910. It is keen to talk to neighbouring CGTs about ongoing research. One of their researchers has been looking at examples of William Emes and John Webb’s use of rather peculiar, cup and saucer lake drainage systems (see above left), invented by canal builder James Brindley, and wondering if they are unique to Cheshire. Do get in touch if you have spotted these elsewhere!

Saving Welsh gardens

Finally, Glynis Shaw, of the Welsh HGT, gave a beautifully-illustrated presentation on recent developments there. We heard about the horrific flooding which affects the Grade I Registered Gwydir Castle on a regular basis. Volunteers have come together to build a 400m long sandbag bund to try and protect the gardens. Glynis also told us about the fascinating ‘gardens of the iron masters’, including John Summers’ garden at Shotton steelworks, and the happy news that a community group has saved the site. They now plan to restore Brenda Colvin’s sunken garden.

The work of County Gardens Trust volunteers is truly inspiring and our Meet-Ups are a great way to find out about it. Keep an eye on the events page of the GT website for further Meet-Ups.

If you’d like to respond to any of the issues raised here, or to be put in touch with the CGTs mentioned, do email me at

Tamsin McMillan

Historic Landscape Project Officer

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith