The animals will always be the stars of the show at Beale Wildlife Park – but there are many who take pleasure too from the beautiful gardens and grounds. Our new head gardener, Gillie Davis, is very aware of the responsibility and is brimming with ideas for the future.
Gillie comes to the role with six years of Beale experience behind her and a very capable team providing support and inspiration. “The gardens have evolved significantly over the years, but continue to offer the same tranquil respite from the action and adventure of the park,” she says. “They are especially popular for wellbeing walks, photographers, older visitors, and our many wonderful guests with additional needs. The park is fully accessible to those with disabilities. Many visitors really enjoy the opportunity to discover exciting plants they may never have seen before.”
As the gardens season gets into full stride, Gillie and her team are starting to see the benefits of significant new planting. As with most large parks and gardens, the pandemic had an impact, which was further complicated by flooding, resulting in the loss of plants. Thanks to plenty of propagating and careful over-wintering, the gardens should be full of colour this year – from the pendulous flowers of the brugmansias to the glorious pinks and purples of the heavy-headed dahlias. Gillie adds: “We have had many comments focused around how important the garden spaces have become since the pandemic, as people come to grieve, heal and reflect.”
The gardens have provided a strong supporting act at the 40-acre wildlife park since it was first established in the 1950s. Dotted across the site are formal gardens and verdant pockets that are enjoyed by visitors of all ages looking for a peaceful spot with a view.
The Japanese Gardens (also known as the Jubilee Gardens) are perhaps the best known area, especially the black and red bridge and exotic planting. They feature specimen plants such as tree ferns, swamp cypress, and many herbaceous perennials. Some of the most impressive specimens are found in the tropical beds around the lake and train line – including aeoniums, bananas and palms.
The formal rose gardens next to the ticket office have been specially re-planted for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, with each rose named after a key member of the royal family.
For the future, the team has particular plans to make the gardens more accessible and enjoyable for all, including better signage and trails, with guided tours under consideration. They are also working hard on the sustainability front with trials of peat-free compost, an end to buying new plastic pots and storing leaves to make leaf mould.