Early April and a rather windy day to go for a tour of the gardens at Belvoir Castle and to see the site for something rather exciting which is going to be happening in July.
I wasn't alone....
left to right John Stirland, Grace Milham, Tom Webster, Karen Gimson, David Greaves and Andy Tudbury.
Tom Webster who's the Head Gardener at Belvoir Castle and Grace Milham, the Commercial Director, were taking a few of us on an entertaining and interesting tour of the formal gardens.
The snow, the sheer sogginess of everything after rain and more rain, plus the complete absence of anything remotely yellow in the sky had reduced my expectations of seeing a vision of colour and loveliness. However, the sheer grandeur and commanding position of the Castle is quite breathtaking.
The family of the Dukes of Rutland have lived here for nearly a thousand years but this castle was designed by James Wyatt and erected on the site in Regency times for the 5th Duke and Duchess of Rutland .
The gardens here at Belvoir were regarded as one of the greatest gardens in the early 18th century north of London, along with those of Chatsworth and Trentham. There's still so much to admire in the formal areas and in the 500 acres of woodland gardens and 15 acres of lakes and ponds.
Many of these were obtained from the original seed collection from Charles Williams of Caerhays Castle in Cornwall. I visited there last year ...see here
So why were we there for a tour and what else were we doing?
Making a radio programme for a start....partly on the gardens and we were off to see the site of the first ever Belvoir Flower and Garden Festival which will take place on 14th and 15th July .
What a glorious site for such an event, where you'll be able to see the results of the original Capability Brown designs for the landscape here. These plans which were lost over 200 years ago, found in 2013, and since developed.
So to the festival itself. Andy Tudbury is a well known garden designer based in Nottinghamshire and you'll have seen over 20 of his show gardens at many big shows over the years. I
Designing a show garden is a very different kettle of fish though to creating a whole new event. So why now, and why here at Belvoir Castle?
Well, Andy feels that the East Midlands has been crying out for an event like this for years. Granted RHS Chatsworth was set up last year, but according to Andy there's nothing this side of the M1!
So, Andy's dream has become a reality - there will be over ten show gardens and two marquees for exhibitors from top class nurseries such as Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants from Hampshire ( I hope they bring some phlox divaricata "clouds of perfume" with them - I saw them at RHS Malvern last year...divine!)
Sounds good to me, and there's such a willingness for this to succeed from so many people and organisations including charities such as Perennial, the gardeners charity and Rainbows, a Leicestershire hospice which cares for life limited children.
Karen Gimson, who is a garden designer and one of the expert panel on BBC Radio Leicester and John Stirland from BBC Radio Nottingham will taking part in live Gardeners Question Time over the weekend along with gardening experts from further afield.
Karen is also designing a show garden for Rainbows Hospice which is being sponsored by David Greaves, a landscape designer from near Melton Mowbray whose team will be generously supplying manpower, materials and more besides for the garden.
As this a completely new venture, Andy Tudbury has a lot riding on this emotional and financial investment, and so has Belvoir Castle. It's a leap of faith for everyone.
Tickets for the Belvoir Flower and Garden Show on 14th and 15th July are available from www.belvoircastle.com - tickets are limited to 5,000 visitors each day.