Churchill and Fitzwilliam Colleges, both opened their gardens last Sunday afternoon. In walking distance of each other they possess today that rare commodity in Cambridge, free parking space.
Designed in the 1960s as a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill this college is set in over 40 acres. Sculptures are an important feature of the gardens, similar to much of the planting they provide all year round interest. We begin in front of the college buildings with ‘Southern Shade 1’ by Nigel Hall.
Over 700 trees have been planted over the years and a Silver Birch is prominent by the entrance from Churchill Road.
Further down the road is a Huntingdon Elm Ulmus x hollandica ‘vegata’, still managing to resist the Dutch Elm disease.
We first visit the small orchid house where we find a cocktail of colour, beautifully arranged and clearly labelled.
The flowers range from the charmingly exotic,
to bright dripping poached eggs,
the utterly weird,
and the familiarly wonderful.
While they grow up, the air roots cascade down.
Across the road in the Master’s Garden, the border with 21 different plants named after Churchill, is not yet in flower so we are drawn to ‘Two Circular Forms No 1’ by Robert Adams in painted steel.
In the corner of a nearby quad is Michael Gillespie’s cement white ‘Spiral’,
and further out in the open, Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Four Square (walk through)’ stands solidly in bronze opposite residential buildings.
Nearby at the corner of a building, lying amongst the daisies and worked in stone is Michael Dan Archer’s ‘To Boulee’.
Tree planting is ongoing and this avenue leads up to what we thought might be a chapel but turned out to be a dining room.
Cherry Blossom is in abundance.
and in particular the Great White Cherry Prunus Tai Haku looks glorious against a cloudless sky.
The grounds are wide open spaces and looking back towards the college buildings is ‘Diagram of an object (second state)’, it was created by Dhruva Mistry who was artist in Residence at nearby Kettle’s Yard with a Fellowship at Churchill College (1984-1985).
A moment for reflection in the chapel looking at the John Piper stained glass.
Cutting through the buildings to return along Churchill Road, we come across a quirky pot,
and trees find a place in the paths, with mellow underplanting.
The viburnum will soon be in flower,
and Rosa x xanthina var. spontanea ‘Canary Bird’ is always one of the first roses to bloom.
Pleached lime trees are an added interest to the complex shapes of the buildings.
I have become accustomed to Primroses growing along ditches and banks, so it is a surprise to see them in a pebbled area.
We can just pick out the star shape in the box parterre,
it has to be the most beautiful design for a bicycle park!
‘Past, Present, Future’ by Denis Mitchell appear to lean up to the sky.
Along the other side of Churchill road away from the buildings the variety of planting helps to soften the straight line, and
the blossom on the trees is reflected in the buildings.
The rounded evergreen oak Quercus Ilex makes a perfect back drop to the slender ‘Gemini’ by Denis Mitchell.
In amongst the well maintained magnificent green spaces, Churchill College garden has so much with its fine trees and amazing sculptures. I cannot leave without mentioning the compost bins; the 6 orderly bays are surely a masterpiece!
We crossed over Storey’s Way and make our way towards Fitzwilliam College.
We entered the Porter’s Lodge where Head Gardener Steve and his team greeted us and gave us this colourful map.
The college was built in 1960 by the architect Sir Denys Lasdun. We decided to begin our tour by turning left towards New Court.
A welcome splash of rhododendron caught my eye.
Prunus serrula maintains its winter interest with its coppery peeling bark.
There is very much a feel of the modern but every now and again a touch of the old appears.
The sensuous branches of Zelkova cretica the Caucasian Elm fill a corner of the Fellows’ lawn,
while diagonally opposite Prunus Maackie gently twists its trunk.
The cafe lies sunken behind a mixed shrub border,
which is predominantly green and white.
Tables outside are decorated with pots of tulip and grape hyacinth.
Up the steps is the appropriately named Tree Court where Himalayan Birch rise up from the border,
and a handsome English Oak stands on the lawn.
A line of tulips stand guard by the path.
Viburnum softens the hard brick behind.
Beyond the perfect circle of ‘Dark Planet’ by David Harber is The Grove. This elegant house was built in 1813 and was home to the Darwin family.
By the house the garden gate is open
which leads us out onto more lawns dominated by a large plane Platinus hispanicus is over 200 years old.
The sundial parterre looks stunning.
The rose winds up the pillar.
The clipped box Snails add a little amusement to the sunny border.
There is dappled shade too in the woodland walk.
where we find ‘The First Undergraduate’. This was commissioned for the College’s 125th anniversary and created by Christopher Marvell.
Further along is Wilson Court where a Japanese maple Acer palmatum ‘Sumi-nagashi’ is the centrepiece.
We cross the elegant avenue of limes leading up to The Grove.
Many wild flowers grow along the grassy banks including the snake’s head fritillaries fritillaria meleagris .
Returning to the entrance we pass through Gatehouse Court. Modern structures have been built around the mature trees. Clipped yew hedges become walls and follow the lines of architecture.
These guys look towards the way out, expecting us to leave.
There is a gentle flow of visitors today but I wonder why there are not more. It is such an interesting garden. The variety of spaces have been skilfully managed to incorporate the modern with the traditional, the neat with the naturalistic. Hidden away it is so peaceful too, and yet so close to the heaving tourist city centre.