Lea Gardens are situated on a narrow lane between Lea and Holloway. The lane is quiet for most of the year, but not when the gardens are open to the public. Visitors come from far and wide to admire the rare collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers and enjoy the lovely woodland setting. A visit to the attractive little teashop, where seating is available both inside and out, is a good way to complete your trip.
The gardens are set on a south-west facing slope at an height of 700 feet above sea level, and have been open to the public, when the flowers have been in bloom the public since 1960. As the flowering season is comparatively short, the gardens are normally open only from mid-March to the end of June. Try to pick a sunny day well before the end of the flowering season for your visit and you will be rewarded with a magnificent multi-colour display of flowers.
It is remarkable that two such famous people as John Smedley and Florence Nightingale both lived in the small village of Lea within seventeen years of each other. The impact they made on Victorian England was immense, Nightingale for her nursing skills and Smedley for his hydropathy treatment. Smedley died in 1874, and it was John Marsden-Smedley, one of his descendants, a keen gardener, who had tried planting rhododendrons in various areas of his estate who set up Lea Gardens.
The gardens are sited on the remains of a medieval millstone quarry and cover an area of approximately four acres. Early planting trials had deemed this the ideal position as it provided the necessary shelter for the plants to survive and prosper. Further protection from the wind as well as providing some shade was afforded by the mature trees lower down the hillside. Birdlife has been encouraged by the placing of bird-boxes in strategic locations below the main gardens.
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LEA RHODODENDRON GARDENS
Hold a rare collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers in a lovely woodland setting, at 700 feet above sea level. This ensures the plants are hardy enough for most gardens - plant purchases are available to visitors and by mail order. Advice is given on planting schemes.
The attractive teashop provides seating both inside and out. For further information contact: Lea Gardens, Lea, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 5GH - Tel No. 01629 534380 or 534260. Fax 01629 534260.
Born in Lea, in 1867, he spent most of his life in the village. He was the owner of John Smedley Ltd, a manufacturer of quality woollen garments, which is still in business today.
In 1895, he rebuilt the farm at Lea Green into a fine house, which is now used as a residential and day centre by the local education authority. He was a keen gardener and not just content with his garden at Lea Green. At the age of 68, he set about building his own rhododendron garden on what he considered an ideal site behind his existing garden.
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