The work behind the Lancashire Life 75th anniversary garden at the Chorley Flower Show

Clare Bigger's sculpture of a heron taking flight

Clare Bigger's sculpture of a heron taking flight - Credit: Chris Pugh

We’re working with some of the most talented people in the county to create our garden for Chorley Flower Show

As part of the celebrations for Lancashire Life’s 75th anniversary, we are creating a show garden for the Chorley Flower Show. 

The increasingly popular event runs from July 29-31 in the grounds of Astley Hall. And once the show closes, our garden will be moved to a permanent location in the grounds. 

Since it was launched in 2015, Chorley Flower Show has grown to become a three day event which attracts thousands of visitors to the grounds of Astley Hall. This year’s event will feature professional exhibitors, displays by local and national societies, a gardening theatre with demonstrations by experts and a range of traders.

Crowds in the Grand Marquee at a previous Chorley Flower Show

Crowds in the Grand Marquee at a previous Chorley Flower Show - Credit: Chorley Flower Show

Our garden has been designed by Greg Anderton and features representations of three distinct Lancashire landscapes: moorland, woodland and coast. The three areas will be linked by a stream and visitors will be able to explore the garden on an accessible path and to rest on a bench in the woodland area. A beautiful stone circle with a red rose carved in its centre will stand at heart of our garden, made from stone quarried at Brinscall by Armstrongs. 

The garden will mark our anniversary and the centenary of Chorley Council’s ownership of Astley Hall which has recently been the subject of an extensive refurbishment. 

Artist Clare Bigger is creating a special sculpture which will stand in the coastal area of our garden. 

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Clare, who has worked at Trapp Forge in Burnley for over 25 years, creates beautiful metal sculptures which are in private collections and public spaces around the world.

Clare adding some last touches to a statue of a female dancer Picture: Irene Amiet

Clare adding some last touches to a statue of a female dancer - Credit: Irene Amiet

Although she knew from an early age that she wanted to be an artist, it wasn’t until she was at university in Cardiff that she found her medium. 

‘I worked with bronze, stone, clay and almost everything else but they didn’t lend themselves to depicting flight and movement in the way I wanted,’ she said. ‘In my final year I made an armature – a metal sub-structure – to go in a plaster of Paris sculpture and I found I really liked the metal. It did what I wanted and I’ve been using it ever since.’ 

Clare's workshop is scattered with cut-outs, models and drawings Picture: Irene Amiet

Clare's workshop is scattered with cut-outs, models and drawings - Credit: Irene Amiet

One of Clare’s biggest, and favourite, pieces is her Leaping Man sculpture in Milton Keynes which shows long jumper Greg Rutherford in full flight. 

Her artwork for the Lancashire Life garden will depict a lapwing in flight. The birds have suffered an alarming drop in numbers in recent decades but they are still a relatively common sight in areas around Morecambe Bay and the Ribble estuary. 

Eagle with hare against a dramatic landscape (Picture: Chris Pugh)

Eagle with hare against a dramatic Lancashire landscape - Credit: Chris Pugh

Clare said: ‘I like to capture flight and movement in my work and the lapwing’s distinctive flying action interests me. 

‘I’m looking forward to seeing the Lancashire Life garden come together.’ 

Armstrongs Dimensional Stone, Brinscall Quarry, Chorley. Dave Crawshaw (left) and Gary Stone

Armstrongs Dimensional Stone, Brinscall Quarry, Dave Crawshaw and Gary Stone - Credit: Martin Bostock Photography

The three areas will be linked by a stream and visitors will be able to explore the garden on an accessible path and to rest on a bench in the woodland area. 

The bench will sit in the heart of our garden on a circle of stone from a quarry at Brinscall – just a few stone’s throws from Astley Hall. 

The Armstrongs Group has been quarrying Lancashire stone for 35 years and is now based at Brinscall Quarry which they bought 15 years ago.

Much of the stone is hand-finished with traditional tools and skills

Much of the stone is hand-finished with traditional tools and skills - Credit: Martin Bostock Photography

The company now owns five quarries – along with Brinscall, they have two near Bolton, one at Clitheroe and one at Shap which produces granite that has been used in projects across the globe. 

Most of the stone comes from the vast and impressive site at Brinscall where it is brought out of the ground, cut, shaped, worked and finished. 

Dave Crawshaw and the well-named sales manager Gary Stone

Dave Crawshaw and the well-named sales manager Gary Stone - Credit: Martin Bostock Photography

Chorley-born production manager Dave Crawshaw said: ‘We don’t use the stone straight away, some pieces wait for years, others for a few months. They’ve been under tremendous pressure in the ground and when it comes out it can take time to relax. If you use it too soon, it can warp and bend. 

‘Our stone has been used on projects all over the world, and lots of private gardens, homes and businesses closer to home as well.’ 

Armstrongs Dimensional Stone, Brinscall Quarry, Chorley.

Armstrongs Dimensional Stone uses a combination of traditional skills and big modern machinery - Credit: Martin Bostock Photography

Brinscall stone has been used for around a decade in the on-going work at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona where building work began in 1882. The expected date for work to finish has been pushed back many times – most recently by the Covid pandemic – but it won’t be before 2026, by when tons more Brinscall stone will have been used. 

Stone from Armstrongs has been used in memorial tombs, street furniture and renovation work at stately homes. Housing developers and businesses have also used their stone and stone from Brinscall was used to reproduce a sundial in the terraced gardens at Rivington where Dave often walks his partner Lauren, children Jacob, Amelia and Alfie and dog Bertie. 

Much of the stone is finished by hand using traditional tools and techniques and nothing goes to waste: off-cut pieces of stone are recycled for other projects and water used in the cutting processes is filtered and re-used.

The team at Armstrongs with the stone circle that will be the centrepiece of our show garden at the Chorley Flower Show

The team at Armstrongs with the stone circle that will be the centrepiece of our show garden at the Chorley Flower Show - Credit: Martin Bostock Photography

The stone for the circle in the Lancashire Life garden is around 330 million years old and was extracted from the foot of the quarry. 

The circle will be made up of 25 stones, each hand finished, and the central stone has been engraved with a red rose and words celebrating our 75th anniversary and the centenary of Chorley Council’s ownership of Astley Hall. 

‘It has been an interesting project to work on,’ Dave added. ‘It’s nice to do something for an event that’s close to home and that so many people in Lancashire will see and enjoy.’

How our garden grows 

The Lancashire Life garden has been designed by Greg Anderton who runs a plant centre at Lytham Hall and has created a range of domestic gardens. 

Greg has loved flowers since he was a toddler and the roots of his Leafy Lytham business can be traced back to a summer fair at his primary school in the town where he ran a plant stall which raised £40. 

Greg Anderton

Greg Anderton - Credit: John Cocks

‘That was when I thought I could do it as a career,’ he said. ‘I used to walk round my grandparent’s garden with a watering can when I was tiny and then all through secondary school I sold planters and hanging baskets to the teachers.’ 

After studying business at Edge Hill University, he returned to Lytham and started to look after hanging baskets, window boxes and floral displays for Lytham in Bloom. He now runs the plant centre at Lytham Hall where he specialises in plants that grow well in the area. 

This is Greg’s first show but he is working alongside Elliott Smith of Heysham-based Crafted Landscapes who has won gold medals for show gardens he has created at Tatton, Southport, Holker and Harrogate. 

He creates stunning gardens for home owners and businesses across Lancashire and the Lake District and is looking forward to working on our garden at the Chorley Flower Show. 

‘It’s particularly exciting that this garden will be remaining in the grounds of Astley Hall long after the event closes,’ he said. ‘Show gardens are usually taken down after the show and you only have the pictures to remember them by. It will be nice to be able to take my family back in the years to come and say “We built that”.’ 

The outdoor areas at Lytham Clifton Arms Hotel were re-designed by Elliott Smith

The outdoor areas at Lytham Clifton Arms Hotel were re-designed by Elliott Smith - Credit: Elliott Smith

Elliott studied at Myerscough College and worked at Barton Grange before launching his own business. One of his final jobs for Barton Grange was the re-modelling of the gardens at the front of Lytham’s Clifton Arms Hotel. 

His recent projects have taken him across the North West where he has worked on a range of designs from the very traditional to the uber contemporary. 

One of Elliott's contemporary garden projects

One of Elliott's contemporary garden projects - Credit: Elliott Smith

‘I love being my own boss and I really enjoy the variety of the work I do,’ he said. ‘I’m looking forward to the pressure and the challenge of creating the garden for Lancashire Life’s anniversary.’  

One of Elliott's domestic garden designs

One of Elliott's domestic garden designs - Credit: Elliott Smith