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Published April 12th 2016
From Kitchen Garden Of Country House To Top Garden Centre
A visit to a garden centre is always a pretty enjoyable experience, especially when Spring has officially sprung and there are a huge variety of colourful, sweet-scented plants to enjoy. But a trip out to Byrkley Park Garden Centre at Rangemore, near Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire, also has a fascinating historical back story to help pull in the visitors.
Byrkley Park Garden Centre is set within the original walls of a large kitchen garden belonging to Byrkley Lodge, a country mansion built for Hamar Bass of the Bass brewery family in the late 19th century. The famous brewer and local dignitary presided over the design and construction of his great country manor. Prior to the construction of the manor house there was a hunting lodge on what is now the garden centre site as far back as the 13th century. But alongside the building of Byrkley Lodge the Bass family developed the extensive kitchen garden which boasted heated greenhouses for a range of vegetables and plants including chrysanthemums, camellias, carnations, mushrooms, tomatoes, peaches and nectarines.
Some of the extensive plants at Byrkley Park Garden Centre
Byrkley Lodge was demolished in 1952 following the death of Sir William Bass, but in 1986 Byrkley Park Garden Centre was opened to maintain the site's gardening tradition. and has since undergone numerous extensions to include an Animal Park and an aquatic centre. Byrkley Park Garden Centre is one of around two dozen Klondyke & Strikes Garden Centres which are predominantly found in Scotland and the North of England - Byrkley Park being the only one in the Central England region. The extensive car park was almost completely full on the day I visited, and as soon as I stepped through the front door to the main shopping area I knew the reason why.
Apart from the extensive range of plants and horticultural gifts and accessories, the home and garden centres also boasts a huge clothes shop area featuring Cotton Traders and The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, a Craft Shop offering a wide selection of craft material, a cook shop and delicatessen, and also Elvestone Jewellery. And if all this whets your appetite, then The Topiary Coffee Shop and Restaurant offers a selection of meals and snacks, including an indulgent afternoon tea.
Once outside you cannot be anything but impressed by the vast plant area containing thousands of trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials and bedding plants of all varieties. And if you are spoilt for choice then expert advice will be on hand to help make that decision easier. But the outdoor plant area also has a couple of other pleasant surprises in store. As well as the adjoining Byrkley Aquatics there is also a spacious seating area and children's play area in which to relax, especially in the sun, plus a pleasant little animal farm which is usually open from March to November incorporating Hawksflight Falconry Bird of Prey Experience.
One of the animal guests at Byrkley Park Garden Centre
Visitors can also time their trips to coincide with a specific event, such as a forthcoming Food Fayre on April 16 from 10am to 4pm, and a Do-Crafts Demonstration Day on May 7, also between 10am and 4pm, in which people can learn the skills and techniques needed to create cards for friends and family. Byrkley Park Garden Centre is open 9am-5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am-5.30pm Saturday, and 10.30am-4.30pm on Sunday.