Despite being only 20 minutes away by car, I’d never heard of Enfield’s “Myddelton House Gardens”:https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/nature/gardens-heritage/myddelton-house-gardens/ or it’s illustrious owner, Edward Augustus Bowles. However, friends were regular visitors and suggested an afternoon outing.
There’s a smart new visitors centre (funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant) and what is rather grandly called the ‘Bowles Museum’ but was a manageable number of information boards which told us that E A Bowles was the Great-Great Uncle of the more well-known Andrew Parker Bowles. He lived there until 1954 and was a keen gardener and known as the Crocus King because of his great passion for the bulbs – the gardens have a National Plant Collection of crocus would be a lovely sight in spring.
The house (now offices belonging to the Lee Valley Organisation) has a small, but beautiful glass conservatory attached and it was easy to see how lovely it would have been pottering around in it and growing many of the unusual plants the gardens are noted for.
The Lunatic Asylum and Hollow Lawn was originally destined to be a Japanese Garden but Bowles changed his mind and, as he took a great interest in plants showing abnormalities, he constructed a ‘Lunatic Asylum’ for the ‘demented’ plants he collected. The first ‘crazy’ plant was a Corkscrew Hazel which was described as the ‘maddest of them all’.
We walked along the New River Lawn, a sweeping grassy area, and formerly a river which dissected the gardens in two. It was filled in 1968 with rubble from the newly-created, neaby Victoria Line. Two original bridges still stand.
Whilst most of us would hate the thought of the dreaded Japanese Knotweed in our garden, two plants were preserved as an educational example of the danger of introducing alien species and to help visitors identify the rogue.
There was a walled Kitchen Garden with a lovely range of vegetables and a hand cart which displayed some of the excesses for sale. A wall, had an amusing story about how an Irish man had taken a button into a tailors and said, “can you put a shirt on this button” but I’m not sure what the connection was and there were lots of greenhouses with a great selection of sedums and cacti.
In a central area, was the old market cross which stood in the centre of Enfield until 1904, when it was removed to a builders’ yard and was destined for rubble until rescued by Bowles.
The tea room is small, but we sat in a shaded lovely courtyard area. Service was a little slow but there was a good range of cakes and jacket potatoes. We had four coffees and shared two large cakes for less than £10. In the centre was a small selection of plants that were as reasonably priced, as the cakes.
Compared the “RHS Garden Hyde Hall”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/176013 we’d visited the day before, this was a much lower-key experience but one that we enjoyed just as much – it was a bit like comparing a flashy, glitzy party with a small homely supper with close family.
Entrance is free (the pay and display car park is £2.50) and wheelchairs were available.