A Walk to a Swiss Garden

I’m always amazed at the talents of Landmarkers as reflected in the Log Books at each property. For me it’s usually a very last minute scribble listing a few suggestions of places I’ve enjoyed visiting during my stay or some other usually inane comment. There are wonderful examples of calligraphy, witty poems and imaginative prose, sometimes photographs and some beautiful drawings, sketches, watercolours and cartoons.


The visitors before us at Keepers devoted some time to illustrating and commenting on a walk that they had done straight from the cottage door – my favourite kind. I would have loved to have completed this walk but I was longing to visit the renowned Swiss Garden at The Shuttleworth Collection so decided on the first morning to just do part of the walk and extend it to the garden which, amazingly, is open all year.

Little Cottage in a Wood

Keeper’s Cottage lies deep in the woods of Warden Warren and you need to unlock two gates and drive along bumpy tracks to get to it by car but on foot it is much simpler – open one gate and pass through a kissing gate to emerge onto the road. It’s a quiet road and not far along is the familiar ‘Public Footpath’ sign and I set off on a tramp along a field edge path.

Footpath signs

Field path Warden Warren

Not far away the guns were out but as I approached the ‘Shooting party’ were returning to their vehicles and, no doubt, some hot coffee and toddy.

Shooting party

The path skirts the woodland and then suddenly there’s a roar and an old ‘plane could be seen taxiing in the neighbouring field. I’d arrived at the edge of the famous Shuttleworth Collection.

Shuttleworth Warning

Eventually the path joined another tarmac road and turning left and keeping well into the side I finally arrived at the Shuttleworth Museum entrance. There’s a separate charge and entrance to the Swiss Garden.

The Swiss Garden

Apart from gardeners busily clearing an island in one of the lakes as you go in I think I was the only person, and certainly the only visitor that morning.

From the guidebook :

“The Swiss Garden is a late regency, nine acre garden, which forms an integral part of the designed landscape in Old Warden Park, Bedfordshire. The garden was created by the third Lord Ongley between 1820 and 1835 and is laid out in the Romantic and Swiss Picturesque manner.

In 1872, Old Warden Park was purchased by Joseph Shuttleworth who began a series of improvements to the Park. Victorian fashions were introduced into the landscape of the Swiss garden, such as the Pulhamite features, and some cast iron work.”

Since 1976 the garden has been in the care of the local county council and I see from the website that a major renovation is to take place next year with much financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will be exciting work and the garden will be closed until at least 2016. I’m glad that I got to see it “before” and hope maybe to return and see the “after” effect.

After spending about two hours at the garden, including hot warming soup in the Shuttleworth cafe, D picked me up to bring me back to the cottage and plan another expedition.

An illustrated tour of the Swiss Garden :

Thatched seat and poem

The Thatched Seat “ingeniously built to accommodate the annual growth of the tree” 

Indian kiosk

Indian Kiosk

Grotto entrance

Entrance to the Grotto and Fernery

Inside the grotto

Inside the Grotto


The Two-Seater Privy

Two seater privvy

The Two Seats – “The privy is a traditional earth closet. One seat would be locked for six months while the other was open”.

Upper Pond

Eagle, Upper Pond and Harbour

Swiss cottage2

The Swiss Cottage – focal point of the garden and licensed for civil weddings

Swiss cottage

Quite what is Swiss about this garden I am not too sure but it comprises an interesting collection of plants and trees and a peacock and follies and had I visited a day later I should have seen it looking slightly more Swiss than usual with a covering of snow!


10 comments on “A Walk to a Swiss Garden

  1. Fran says:

    What an interesting garden, so Victorian in the features. I followed your link to Pulhamite, and smiled when I read the recipe for this “rock” material went to the grave with its inventor.

    • Shame for his descendants, eh? It reminded me of another ‘recipe’ stone – Coade stone which I came across when reading about the future Landmark – Belmont at Lyme Regis. Mrs Eleanor Coade lived in the house at one time. Probably there were other similar false stone inventions.

  2. […] Agatha Christie. They also  had a great love and respect for their four-legged friends and in the Swiss Garden are 14 gravestones each marking the burial spot of a much-loved […]

  3. Jamie says:

    I would love to visit this place some day.
    It looks like it’s a little hard to find even if you know where to go and I can’t imagine it being crowded – an ideal spot for some people.
    Btw, are those pictures yours? The light makes that garden look almost magical.

    • Hello, Jamie, welcome and thank you for making a comment here. Always check the website if you intend to visit – especially as you will be travelling a long way!! The Swiss Garden will be closed for a few years for renovations. The pictures are all mine, unless otherwise acknowledged. For the two Swiss Cottage pictures I used ‘antique’ effect in iphoto before posting. Otherwise just quick point and shoot that’s me 😉

  4. Delighted that you enjoyed your visit, the Swiss Garden really is a special place and all being well it will re-open in Spring 2014 once we have finished all the restoration works. We’ll hope to welcome you again then – and I’ll explain why it’s called the Swiss Garden, or at least why we think it is!

    • Hello, Liz and thank you for making this useful comment. I really hope to go back and see the Swiss Garden again. I can’t think how it can be improved upon but we shall see!

  5. I agree with you – it is hard to improve on, and mostly all we are doing is making sure that the Garden’s picturesque charm and beauty last for another 200 years. We will know if the restoration has been successful if you can hardly tell we’ve done it, the aim is that the garden and its buildings will feel a little fresher and the original layout and stunning views will be easier to see – but nothing more than that. We have a facebook page (search for The Swiss Garden UK) if you’d like to keep up to date on what’s happening.

  6. Just to let you know that the restoration is now complete, and the Swiss Garden re-opened to the public on 31st July 2014. It has enjoyed a lot of coverage in the media, so it may be a little busier than when you last visited! I really hope you like what we’ve done.

    • Congratulations on the restoration and re-opening. I’m looking forward to re-visiting the area and the garden in particular but have no solid plans in that direction yet. Thank you for letting me know and every success with the project.

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