greentapestry : A Cathedral Gardens Visit

Friday, 13 September 2013

A Cathedral Gardens Visit

The last Saturday of August was an opportunity for me to visit a National Gardens Scheme open garden with a difference. This was the very first opening of the gardens of Chester Cathedral under the scheme and from what I gather the second only cathedral in the country to open under the NGS. Arriving at the entrance I paid the admission fee and was presented with a most comprehensive information leaflet which told visitors what they were about to see. This was a lovely touch and the enclosed map was useful for navigating my way round. The leaflet explained that the majority of the gardens had been planted over the last two years, so it would be take some time for them to "take on their atmosphere and character". In various locations several rare and exotic trees have been planted, which will hopefully flourish in the gardens well into the next century and possibly beyond.

The newness of some of the borders was jarring and in some places I think that recent planting may have struggled to establish itself during the hot, dry summer. This was particularly evident in the 'Forbidden Fern Garden' which looked most forlorn let alone forbidding.

I was beginning to feel slightly disappointed when I reached the Cloister Garth which took my breath away. Deep in the heart of the cathedral this area was planted in 2008 with the aim of year long colour and interest. Coming to the end of summer this spot was a green oasis of tranquility with the most captivating statue at its centre. I walked round the statue for quite a considerable time looking at it from every angle. Created by artist Stephen Broadbent, the 'Water Of Life' portrays a life changing encounter between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, which is told in John's gospel. The statue celebrates the life-giving properties of water. There is a continuous flow of water from the cup, over the hands and into the pool in the dish below which is illuminated. Around the base are these words : "Jesus said 'The water I shall give will be an inner spring always welling up for eternal life" - from John 4:14. Do click on the collage to see the statue in more detail. This part of the garden will remain permanently imprinted in my memory.

Going back into the cathedral there was an exhibition of garden plans and photographs of the gardens at other times of the year. I enjoyed looking at this before resisting having an early lunch in the cathedral refectory and made my way back to the usual busy streets of Chester, filled with shoppers and tourists as it is most Saturdays. Before being swallowed up by this I browsed at the plant sales table outside the entrance which I had clocked on the way in. Purchases of a pot of sempervivums were made, as well as some babies from a gigantic all green spider plant. I fancied the plant but did not rate my chances of getting it home intact on the bus along with all the shopping I still had to do. I'm pleased to say these little babies have already started to root. I hope to use them as outdoor foliage plants next year if I can get them through the winter as indoor house plants. I never have much luck with houseplants.

The plan is that the cathedral gardens will open annually but at different times of year. The next opening is provisionally Saturday 14th June 2014 and if possible I hope to be there, as I would very much like to see how these gardens develop. 


  1. What is it with house plants? I'm just the same. I have couple of orchids, which are as tough as old boots, but apart from them I only grow outdoor plants now. I think new gardens can be quite disappointing if they haven't yet established themselves, but it sounds as though the cathedral gardens have been well planned, so that's the main thing. Anything which hasn't quite got going can be replanted in time. I'm sure you'll see a big difference if you go again next year, it doesn't take long for a garden to really change once things start to grow. The sculpture is really interesting, I think water really adds tranquility to a garden and it sounds as though this is what they were trying to create in the Cloister Garth.

  2. I'm not surprised the Cloister Garth took your breath away, the calmness of the green plants and the amazing sculpture will I think stay with you for ever.Its good to see the Cathedral taking part in the NGS, I hope more follow suit. I used to live just a few miles north of Chester, which is a fantastic place to visit, thanks for bringing back happy memories.

  3. I'm deeply touched by this amazing water feature, Anna! How delightful, I shall do some research now!

  4. Wow - as you say, that sculpture is stunning! Lovely to see it so thanks for sharing. Who has access to the gardens when it is not open to the public, Anna?

  5. I also have problems with houseplants Anna - you're not alone! An unusual place to find a garden, so I do hope it is cared for and thrives. It certainly does look like a green oasis. Look forward to another post on it next summer.

  6. Many thanks for all your comments. So pleased to have bought some happy memories for you Pauline. Cathy, in answer to your question some of the garden areas are open all year round to the public. Other parts though such as 'The Bishop's Garden' were open especially for the day, as it is normally a private garden attached to a house where the Bishop and his family live. I'm not sure about the Cloister Garth. I imagine that the cathedral clergy and staff can enter all the time. Will have to find out if that particular part of the gardens is open at other times of the year as it was such an ideal place to spend some time in reflection.


All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at :


- Anna.