Landfarm Gardens & Exhibition Halls
Colden, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 7PJ.
The gardens have been created over a period of thirty five years, within an almost treeless landscape overhanging the Calder valley where, over a period of 200 years, the industrial revolution ran its course, from a cottage industry of hand loom weavers through water mills to steam power and finally, dereliction as large scale cotton and woollen factories were being built to better exploit the communications made possible by canals, turnpikes and railways.
First came the shelter belts. With the help of friends, Calderdale Council and a band of enthusiasts that collectively call themselves ‘Tree Responsibility’, something approaching 20,000 trees have been planted over the years into this beautiful upland landscape, creating a habitat for wildlife which they have been quick to exploit. Last year 52 species of birds were recorded.
The first attempts at construction were faltering. At 950 feet above sea level and facing north east, in a semi derelict farm, often shared with fauna that squeaked at night, the weather in winter took no prisoners. The wind at times was unremitting and flattened all before it. The thought did occur that attempting to create a garden in such a clime was an act of utter folly and as a realist any time spent would be better directed at growing turnips with perhaps some carrots to relieve the fare but obduracy prevailed. I had the great good fortune of becoming a schoolteacher with a ready supply of sixth formers eager to consume home brew and accept a half a crown an hour as the going rate. They carted wall stones, raked in hollows, cleared the ground, planted trees and prepared the ground for planting. But then came the crunch: what to plant. Although a biologist I had never tried my hand at design nor had I much knowledge of garden plants. What I did not know would have filled volumes. Such a level of ignorance had to be remedied.
To attune my eye I visited gardens and art galleries and more especially their abstract rather than their figurative collections for I had realized to put a border together three variables had to be juggled: form, colour and texture, and to create a garden these had to be displayed within a beguiling structure which required a knowledge of hardy garden plants, their characteristics and how best they might be combined. I discovered a simple trick to help me discriminate between the excellent, the passable, and the rest. That trick was to look at a feature with one eye but then take it out of the line of vision by either a thumb, fingers or hand before replacing it. The results were surprising. With some artists and in some gardens to remove any element of the work was to diminish it but for those put together by a less certain eye, the effect was at best neutral and at worst enhancing.
The gardens that informed me most were those put together by a singular vision rather than those put together by a committee and guarded by a disparate and conservative membership confident of their certainties. The garden that influenced me most was perhaps Bodnant in North Wales, an extraordinary creation worth visiting at any time of the year.
We are proud to be members of, and support, The National Gardens Scheme.