The Manor Reborn

Even bluebloods share an understanding of the unique connection that we mere mortals have to the land. Sifting through the soil with bare hands – or royally gloved, joining the children and the dogs for a frolic on the lawn or just enjoying the bounty of a patio-side tomato plant, these are pleasures we can all appreciate.

At Kensington Palace in London this past year, the idea of reconnecting was top of mind. The palace’s outdoor space and its layout, known as Kensington Gardens (above) – the work of Charles Bridgeman, royal gardener from 1728 to 1738 and key botanical influencer of the time – acted as a seamless link to the neighbouring public park. His plan was open and uninterrupted, suiting the natural flow from the palace and of its surrounds.

In more modern times, however, fences, gates and other blockades were put up, along with random plantings of shrubbery and trees closer to the home, impeding the organic nature of Bridgeman’s vision. With this in mind, the non-profit operator of the Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) undertook a massive two-year transformation to restore the outdoor space to its more welcoming and accessible roots, marrying the house to the garden once more and, according to the HRP, unearthing the last surviving example of a complete Bridgeman landscape.

“The new gardens not only reunite us with Kensington Park but will provide an easier approach for visitors,” says Graham Dillamore, gardens and estate manager for HRP. “[It] respects the historic landscape and engages fully with the visitor. The mixture of old and new is a harmonious one …”

The aims of the new garden, adds landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, are “to create a more coherent and dignified setting for the palace, to recover historic views to and from the gardens, and to reconnect the palace to the park. “The new royal garden,” he says, “is a contemporary response to the palace, the park and the needs of a modern audience.”

For those with limited mobility, the Hyde Park Appeal offers Liberty Drives, a seasonal, free electric buggy service of half-hour rides around the park. (www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace)