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How the Victorian era influenced Harewood Bird Garden

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm

This year, Harewood House and grounds are taking a closer look at the Victorian era inspired by ITV’s period drama Victoria, which used Harewood as a major location. Although when the young Princess Victoria visited Harewood in 1835, the Bird Garden had not yet been built, (opening some 135 years later!), the era still had a major influence on the zoo you can see today.

It was during this period that animal collections and scientific study of the natural world began to develop. Zoological collections in Britain were beginning to evolve with menageries of species kept for display and travelling circuses full of dangerous and exotic animals becoming more common place.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was founded in 1826, shortly before Victoria’s coronation (1837 – 1901). As a leader in the field, ZSL’s aim was to promote the study of animals and their ecology, an ambition which remains at the heart of zoological collections today. London Zoo officially opened its gates to the public in 1828, giving people the opportunity see animals from across the world and learn more about exotic species.

The Victorians were pioneering in promoting research, discovery and conservation of the natural world and organisations founded at the time are still of great importance and relevance today. In the later part of Victoria’s reign, the Plumage League was founded (1889) by Emily Williamson, to combat the killing of birds to use their feathers as fashion accessories. She later joined forces with the Fur and Feather League (1891) to create the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), now a leading light in avian conservation across the world.

The era saw unparalleled developments in our understanding of the natural world with great naturalists such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace making discoveries that would fundamentally change how we perceive the world around us.

Since 1970, the Bird Garden at Harewood has promoted an understanding of birds and their environment through conservation, preservation and education, very much as the pioneering zoologists of the Victorian times had done. Today, we host a number of research projects each year with students coming from Askham Bryan College, Leeds Beckett University and University of Leeds among others. Studies on the Chilean flamingos, Humboldt penguins and our wide range of pheasants are either published in journals, ongoing, or in the process of being completed. These projects are all focussed towards improving the husbandry and welfare of the animals in our care. We often receive correspondence from other universities and zoos asking us to assist with projects, the results of which could be put towards the protection of birds and their natural habitats.

Visit the zoo at Harewood House in Yorkshire to see rare birds

We recently welcomed a pair of Omei Shan Liocichla, a small Chinese songbird, to the Bird Garden. This species is listed being vulnerable to extinction in their native habitat and have been incorporated into a European Studbook which will help their ongoing survival.

With this addition, Harewood Bird Garden now partakes in 12 coordinated breeding programmes and species monitors, with 16 of the species kept in the Bird Garden classified as threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species. These can be seen living with another Chinese species, the silver pheasant in the aviaries below the crane paddocks.

Go to the zoo at Harewood House in Leeds to see rare birds

In the neighbouring aviary we have two new red billed blue magpies from Nepal. These are striking blue birds with long striped tails. They have settled in very well and are currently nesting, with two eggs as I write this.

Visit Harewood House near Harrogate to see palm cockatoos

Another of our European Breeding Programme species is the palm cockatoos. These charismatic black birds with their bright pink cheeks have laid an egg again this year, the third year in succession making them the one of only two breeding pairs in the UK. The last two eggs have been successfully reared and we hope for a repeated performance again this year from our confident young family.

For those of you who want to know more about the Bird Garden and to support our ongoing conservation work, there are great opportunities you can access. From Bird Adoption to penguin feeding or our brand new Junior Keeper Experience launched this season, your support helps us to continue our charitable work, maintain and developing Harewood for the public benefit.

Thank you.

A Gardeners View of Spring at Harewood

Springtime in the gardens at Harewood means colour. Lots and lots of colour! From the dazzling display of tulips in the borders, alongside masses of hyacinths on the Terrace, down through the West Garden and all the way around the lakeside woodlands.  Here, swathes of daffodils cover the thickly wooded slopes in between groups of stately rhododendrons.

But there is always more than meets the eye at Harewood. Linger in those verdant glades a while longer. Take the time to stroll. Pause and look beyond those perennial showstoppers. Look closer. Look up, even look behind you, and you might be rewarded with a glimpse of something special. Whether it’s the billowing clouds of pure white cherry blossom against the blue sky, or the eerily striped hood of a cobra lily rising from the woodland floor, or a colony of orchids growing on a mossy roof, the richness and diversity contained within these gardens is staggering.

And that’s just what’s in store for visitors now. Things are only starting to get interesting. Because for gardeners, springtime, of course, means more than colour. It means growth and renewal. It also means a lot of hard work. Harewood is very much a developing garden. We’re busy planting some amazing plants, many of which visitors will see flowering in the gardens this summer, while some will put on growth and then flower next spring, and there are others that may take some years to reach flowering size. The important thing for us is continuity – evolving the gardens through the constant addition of new plants. Enjoy the gardens this spring!

Yorkshire Gardens visit Harewood House Harewood House in Yorkshire has rare plants Flowers in bloom at Harewood House in Yorkshire Rare plants at gardens in Harewood House in Yorkshire See spring plants at Harewood House in Yorkshire Visit Yorkshire Gardens and see Harewood House Gardens in Yorkshire include Harewood House Visit Yorkshire to see stunning gardens at Harewood

 

Your Photographs

Each year we are privileged to see your wonderful images of Harewood. From striking landscapes and penguins to quiet picnics and big events, your images are a part of Harewood’s history. If you would like to share your images with us our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter are perfect places.

Early Autumn in Harewood’s Gardens

Views of the Terrace garden at Harewood House in Leeds

A note from Trevor Nicholson, Head Gardener, Harewood House Trust

The gardens team at Harewood are responsible for maintaining over 100 acres of beautiful Grade 1 listed gardens, grounds and woodlands. From the elaborate colour schemes, flower borders and fountains on the Victorian terrace gardens, to the naturalistic planting around the lakeside and in the Himalayan garden, the team and I work extremely hard to ensure that every space is not only looking its best, but also being planned and developed to eventually reach its full potential.

The Victorian parterre, on the south front of the house, is the jewel-in-the-crown among Harewood’s well-known gardens. With over a mile of box hedging clipped into an intricate pattern and filled with thousands of seasonal plants and bulbs, this formal garden takes a great deal of precision and care to maintain. At this time of year, Tom and Harry, the terrace gardeners, are busy pruning, dead-heading and weeding, as well as implementing a programme of turf improvements in preparation for the winter months. The tall hornbeam hedges have been clipped and, in the coming few weeks, we will start lifting and dividing tender plants in the herbaceous borders, moving them to other parts of the gardens and making way for the planting of thousands of tulips.

The Archery Border, situated at the foot of the terrace wall, is in its prime at this time of year. The south facing aspect coupled with the 15ft high sandstone wall provides the right environment for growing a range of exotic and tender plants. The hot colour scheme for late summer interest includes Mediterranean and tropical plants, and is a bold and vibrant display. We’ve just a visit from two gardeners from Kew who have written to me describing the Archery Border as being still “amazing!” at this time of year. The twelve-foot-high giant Dahlia (D. imperialis), flowering gingers, red hot pokers and Mexican sunflowers, as well as the ‘Devil’s Tobacco’ (Lobelia tupa) are all making the most the mild conditions of early autumn.

Visit Yorkshire to enjoy gardens at Harewood

The bridge was added in 2006 to increase paths through the garden and offering new views of the area.

The Himalayan Garden is one of my personal favourites; I have spent more than twenty years researching Chines and Himalayan plants and sympathetically developing this charming and tranquil garden. Helen, the gardener who maintains this area, is busy weeding the primula glades ready for new planting to be incorporated for spring colour. These boggy areas are being enriched annually, and with the candelabra primulas in late May and early June creating a vivid carpet of colour alongside the waterfall and stream, it’s a wonderfully vibrant display, which I would recommend visiting every year.

Harewood House has an popular walled garden

Beyond the formal gardens, Harewood is also home to an historic Walled Garden. It may not be widely known that the Walled Garden was in fact one of the first structures Edwin Lascelles had built when setting about constructing the Harewood you see today. Built in stages from 1755, a couple of years before the first stones were laid for the house, the warm red brick walls are worlds away from the formal Terraces many of our visitors are so familiar with.

At the time, the Walled Garden, with its double-brick ‘hot’ walls, was cutting edge cultivation technology. The desire to have soft fruits and exotic foods out of season, which was at the height of Victorian fashion at county houses like Harewood, which would host lavish dinners with grapes, figs, and melons normally only grown in warmer, European climates.

The enclosed space with high walls acts perfectly as a suntrap, literally! The south-western angle of Harewood’s Walled Garden captures the sun’s rays, warming the soil quickly to create perfect growing conditions for fruit, vegetables and flowers. They also act as protection from wildlife such as deer, and as a visual barrier between the designed landscape and the functionally arranged spaces necessary for intensive production.

Spanning an acre of land, the Walled Garden currently houses twelve plots and a fruit orchard, all of which is maintained by Jen, our gardener, along with Tom, our new horticulture apprentice from Askham Bryan College. The mixed flowers and vegetable beds create a strong visual impact as you arrive through the old wooden door.

An authentic Walled Garden at Harewood

Cabbages are grown in the Walled Garden at Harewood

This year, the harvest has been particularly good. The warm weather has created a long growing season, and with high soil temperatures has supported bountiful yields of such things as potatoes and brassicas.

Before Harewood closes to the public on October 30th, visitors should come and see the beautiful dahlias in full bloom and enjoy the wonderful orchard bearing autumnal fruits. The late tender and hardy perennials are looking great too.

Across the entire gardens, we are also turning our attention towards our spring bulb planting schemes. It’s a huge undertaking each year which is made possible with the help of many of our garden volunteers. I am busy designing new tulip schemes for the Terrace, daffodil glades along the lakeside and bluebells for the woodlands.

Maintaining this wonderful space is a real privilege and one that we enjoy sharing with our visitors. We hope that you can join us and enjoy the last of the autumnal summer sun.

Chief Executives Report 2016

A huge amount of work has been going on behind the scenes this winter and I am very much hoping it will bring some excellent, new things for you to see and do in the coming season. There has been so much change. Read on!

The landscape at Harewood was sculpted by Capability Brown

As 2016 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Capability Brown, we will be opening up the South Front to allow you to see the House and parkland from a different perspective. You will be able to have a closer look at the foundations of Gawthorpe Hall, the medieval manor which pre-dates Harewood House.

The House itself is naturally one of the best viewing platforms to see Brown’s amazing work. We will be making sure this is well interpreted through a series of exhibitions and displays providing both a historical and contemporary context. Please see inside for more details.

Harewood House is used as a location for ITV's Victoria

The House has been very busy over the winter period hosting a large ITV production. Filming is an important part of our income and we will have updates about what we’ve been working on this winter soon.

We have begun a three year programme of development in the Bird Garden which will re-launch this much loved area of Harewood.. We are developing a Himalayan theme within the bird collection and plan to introduce several bird species from the region later this season. This will sit very closely with the many plants, trees and shrubs that can be seen in our own Himalayan Garden. Alongside this work, we are creating a strong education and conservation message to best interpret the birds on display.

Across the wider Estate, Harewood has introduced many successful conservation initiatives. We felt it was important to show you some of these projects through fresh interpretation. Plans are in place to introduce this additional interpretation throughout the season. Restored areas of the Bird Garden will be devoted to indigenous species of birds, mammals and insects. We are also introducing a new minibeast trail too!

Not only will we be portraying our message about British wildlife, but also the importance of conservation worldwide. There will be a strong message about critically endangered species across the globe, and we will be advising visitors about how they can do their bit supporting animal conservation projects. Last but not least, our “old favourites”, the penguins, flamingos, owls and parrots will be better displayed and we will be telling you much more about them.

I hope that this project will create considerable interest and there will be opportunities for everyone, adults and school children, to get involved and engage with the Bird Garden at several levels.

Harewood-Farm-Experience-credit-Harewood-House-Trust-and-John-Steel-(3)

For the first time we will be offering a Farm Experience geared to our younger visitors. There will be rabbits to pet, donkeys, goats and pigs, and maybe even alpacas! Please bring your children and grandchildren to see this exciting new attraction.

Our Visitor Information Centre and Visitor Experience Team are moving from the car park to the eastern side of the Courtyard where it will be co-located with the Gift Shop. The former space occupied by the Gift Shop will become overflow catering space on busy days. The Courtyard will be buzzing with things to see do and eat!

The old Information Centre is being redeveloped into an unmanned satellite Information Point which will be staffed on busy days. A new Yorkshire Dales ice cream kiosk is opening alongside the Yorkshire Larder and we hope that this will be popular with those who wish to picnic and play games on the North Front.

Our boat, The Capability, will be sailing again! Please check our website for details of the sailings.

There is much going on, exhibitions, events, new attractions, our second hand bookshop and last but not least the Adventure Playground. Please see inside this letter for the various details you may want and I really look forward to welcoming you back this year.