Garden Plan and Inspiration

When Daniel Thwaites first approached internationally recognised garden designer and lecturer Annie Guilfoyle to work with them on this spectacular project, the first thing that she did was to put together a team of highly-skilled landscape professionals, including Cumbria-based horticulturist and designer Martin Ogle along with award-winning landscape architect Patrick Clarke. Annie knew that such a prestigious project required the best people in the industry.

The inspiration for the design of the gardens draws on Langdale Chase’s enthralling history, along with the extraordinary Lakeland location combined with the exciting, decadent times of the heyday of Lake Windermere and not forgetting treasures found on site. The team were absolutely certain from the outset, that the gardens must sit happily into the surrounding landscape and be ‘of the Lakes’.

We have of course fully respected the historic design set out by Thomas Hayton Mawson, and have endeavoured to reimagine Mawson’s original vision, of creating a circuit of sinuous paths that would meander around the gardens, comprised of curves and flowing lines that emulate the Lakeland fells and the stone walls that divide the local farmland landscape.

From the existing site, we unearthed some exciting inspirational details, including the interlocking Jacobean ring motif featured on the wooden pedestrian gate, and the splendid mosaics from the hall floor. Both became important design influences, guiding the shapes and forms that we employ in the garden layout. The ‘ripples, meanders and treasures’ are all directly influenced by the Lakeland landscape.

Ripples

From surrounding patterns of the natural landscape and details discovered on site. The design focusses on a series of circles or ripples as places, to arrive, pause and dwell. The ‘ripples’ throughout the garden soften each nodal point, encouraging guests to take in the complete 360-degree option of views and choices of where to venture next. The garden reveals itself as a series of unfolding spaces, each with its own individual character, featuring elements of sculptural planted forms helping to link all the different spaces together, creating a coherent network of places waiting to be discovered. 

Meanders

Pathways link the ripples in meandering form much like the well-trodden sheep tracks and footways through the Lakeland fells. They offer a gentle journey through a series of unfolding spaces. Choices of narrow and wide ‘meanders’ are provided to enhance the journey and choice.

Treasures

Area by area, surprising jewels are discovered. On a micro level, the planting will be of a complexity such that surprising seasonal accents will be discovered by stepping into each place and looking closer into the detail of the planting. Junctions between the ‘ripples’ and ‘meanders’ reveal details that add complexity and surprise to the overall experience of the garden.

The planting at Langdale is intended to create what will undoubtedly be a destination garden. We have fully embraced the Cumbrian climate and soil conditions, selecting trees, shrubs and perennials that will not only thrive happily but also provide a good reason for guests to make seasonal visits to Langdale.

Approaching Langdale Chase by car, the roadside planting offers hints of a luxurious woodland garden, allowing glimpses of the hotel from the road. Spectacular spring-flowering shrubs and carpets of bulbs, grow exuberantly throughout the existing mature trees. Entering through the main gates, our intention is that nothing will compete with the view across Lake Windermere. This is the undisputed focal point at Langdale, bewitching everyone upon arrival and commandeering their gaze.

Opposite the hotel entrance is a row of Prunus x subhirtella autumnalis ‘Rosea’, the exquisite winter flowering cherry provides a flurry of delicate pink flowers from November through to March during what can be the bleakest months of the year. The planting around the hotel entrance has been carefully curated, offering year-round colour and above all delectable fragrance. Yew pyramids flank the hotel, seemingly standing guard, offering a luxurious green, architectural back drop to complement the rest of the planting. Selected trees in this area include Cercidiphyllum japonicum (a tree that we have chosen as a motif plant, repeated throughout the gardens), selected because in autumn it will infuse the air with a rich, sweet scent reminiscent of toffee apples and fairgrounds. A Cornus mas tree sits on the north side of the lake view, an early flowering Cornelian Cherry, whose small yellow flowers are one of the harbingers of spring, followed later in the year by rich autumn colour and small edible red fruit. Spring bulbs create a succession of early colour, to herald the warmer months and create seasonal drama.

A rambling rose, appropriately named of ‘Lady of the Lake’ scrambles along the railings beneath the winter flowering cherries. A repeat-flowering, pink rose with a mellow scent that provides a wonderful summer feature and with that name is simply perfect for this location.

Upon leaving the front door of the hotel, guests will be drawn towards the west terrace and the lake view, where they can appreciate a modest grass bank designed by Mawson. Walking down the magnificent Mawson steps, guests will catch glimpses of the south-facing bank, the perfect location for a range of scented shrubs and roses, whose perfume will be enjoyed from bedroom balconies. Agapanthus, Salvias and Euphorbia are amongst the sun-loving perennials, capturing the essence of warmer climes, planted in drifts supporting fragrant, seasonal shrubs including Myrtus, Philadelphus, Cistus and Daphne.

The large circular lawn is the green lung of the garden, bold and simple in shape it is deliberately uncluttered. Paths wrap the space, and circular junctions at practical intervals invite guests to enter and enjoy. Flowering cherry trees encircle the lawn providing a framework of seasonal splendidness.

‘The junctions and intersections of walks, whether single junctions or double ones, straight or curved, are by no means haphazard matters.’

- Thomas Mawson: ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making’

Arriving at Langdale by water is unquestionably the very best way to approach the hotel. From the jetty there are choices of journeys with meandering pathways to fully explore the gardens. The planting along the lakeside is soft and flowing, comprising grasses and perennials that will move in the lakeside breeze. Sinuous beds flank paths, that weave around seating from where you can pause and enjoy the lake views.

Walking in a southerly direction, the path curves towards one of the most treasured and historic features of the garden, a bridge designed by Thomas Mawson. Crossing the trickling brook, discover quiet and secluded sitting areas, surrounded by exceptional waterside planting. Brightly coloured Primulas and enchanting blue Meconopsis poppies are the absolute stars of the spring show, interweaving within the planting along the water’s edge.

Mawson once said ‘It is possible to overprint a garden, and so destroy its breadth’. We truly believe that we have created a landscape that sits contentedly within the stunning Lakeland setting, a garden that pays homage to the rich history of Langdale Chase and one that will form part of the all-important future of this exceptional location.