Visiting Mount Pleasant Gardens in Kelsall for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking a whole team of gardeners spends seven days a week tending to the 10-acre site. In fact, all the hard work is a labour of love by owners Dave and Louise Darlington over the course of the past 25 years.

When the couple moved into the property, the land that came with the house was a bare hillside plot of a third of an acre. Gradually they started to work on the garden and eventually acquired more land to create the wonderful and diverse landscape we see today.

Great British Life: Red Bridge in the Japanese Garden. (c) Alison MooreRed Bridge in the Japanese Garden. (c) Alison Moore

The setting is stunning, with views over the Cheshire Plain and many different areas to explore, including a wildflower meadow, a Japanese garden and a number of ponds and water features. Something that makes it quite unique though, is the sculpture trail where many artists from Cheshire and further afield exhibit their work.

My journey of discovery through the garden took me along a bright perennial border filled with poppies and delphiniums and past the first of the water features, with its cascading waterfall. I crossed the road to the wildflower meadow where more colourful perennials grow at the perimeter and mown paths take you around a number of the larger installations, including a magnificent Roman chariot. This pays homage to the fact that the major Roman road, commonly known as Watling Street, passed through this part of Kelsall en route from Chester to York.

Great British Life: Sorting Out The Economy by Simon Conolly. (c) Alison MooreSorting Out The Economy by Simon Conolly. (c) Alison Moore

I moved onto the area that plays host to the sculpture trail, where the planting here is as wildlife friendly as the meadow and attracts numerous bees, butterflies and insects in summer. Not that I quite expected to encounter a large eight-legged creature like the enormous metal spider sculpture when I turned a corner, but it blended perfectly if somewhat surprisingly with the surroundings. I think one of my favourite pieces of art though was the one entitled Sorting Out the Economy, by Simon Conolly.

Meandering down the hillside, I came to the vegetable plot and greenhouse, where I found Dave hard at work in one of the borders. As we chatted about the work involved in creating a wildflower meadow, the effect of the cold winter and his plans for a bluebell walk, I could hear the rhythmic tap-tap-tapping sounds of the aspiring sculptors coming from the nearby workshop. Louise’s brother and resident artist Andrew Worthington runs regular stone-carving workshops throughout the summer, and some of his own work is displayed in the garden.

Great British Life: Horse and carriage in the wildflower meadow. (c) Alison MooreHorse and carriage in the wildflower meadow. (c) Alison Moore

In the lower part of the garden, paths diverge under the shade of mature trees, large shrubs and wonderful tree ferns, which came through the winter remarkably well thanks to TLC from Dave and some protective horticultural fleece. I loved the fact there is no right or wrong way to explore here. Turn one way and you discover the laburnum arch, take another path and you enter an area of lush planting full of foxgloves and candelabra primulas. Water is a common theme throughout the garden, with the various ponds and waterfalls being fed in part by a natural spring.

Heading back up the hillside, I found the Japanese garden with its traditional red bridge, and I stopped to take photos. The colour red means ‘wisdom’ in Japanese culture and it seems a very wise decision to end my visit with refreshments in the little café run by Louise.

Great British Life: Magnificent tree ferns. (c) Alison MooreMagnificent tree ferns. (c) Alison Moore

Mount Pleasant Gardens is open until September 30 between 11am and 4pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is one of the RHS Partner Gardens and entry is free to RHS members. Workshops on stone carving, needle felt and photography are regularly held and full details can be found on the website.

Great British Life: The sculpture trail and a surprisingly big eight-legged guest. (c) Alison MooreThe sculpture trail and a surprisingly big eight-legged guest. (c) Alison Moore

Great British Life: A summer show of lupins and delphiniums. (c) Alison MooreA summer show of lupins and delphiniums. (c) Alison Moore

Great British Life: Pond and cascading waterfall. (c) Alison MoorePond and cascading waterfall. (c) Alison Moore

Other RHS Partner Gardens to visit in this part of Cheshire

o Stonyford Cottage Gardens

o Bluebell Cottage Gardens

o Cholmondeley Castle Gardens

o Abbeywood Gardens

o Arley Hall and Gardens

Alison Moore of Renaissance Garden Design is a garden designer and photographer based in Sale. She writes a blog about her own garden and others she visits in Cheshire at

Instagram: @alisonmoore Twitter: @renaissancegd