What is Bickleigh Vale Village
In the 1920’s, still in her mid-twenties, one of Australia’s first landscape designers, the English born Edna Walling, created a village in the ‘English style’ of approximately 12 ha around her own residence ‘Sonning’. Prospective owners were required to agree to Edna Walling’s involvement in the design of their cottages and gardens, with all plants supplied from her nursery at ‘Sonning’.
Plantings included: Oaks, Elms, Poplars, Ash, Silver Birch, Hawthorns, Crab Apples, underplanted with shrubs, bulbs and ground covers. The emphasis was ‘green on green’.
Edna Walling wanted ‘everyone to be able to look through doorways and windows onto fresh green foliage; into shady courtyards, so as to live comfortably and gently’. Her desire was to create a village of enchanting cottages of stone and timber, with steeply pitched roofs and whitewashed walls, nestled into a landscape of gardens with ‘as many trees and shrubs as possible’.
Walling took inspiration from nature, and encouraged others to be ‘keenly observant’ of the ‘natural country’. Today, Bickleigh Vale Road retains the simple charm of a winding country lane.
Subsequent subdivision has created more than 30 properties. When Edna Walling left Bickleigh Vale in 1967 and moved to Buderim, Queensland, property owners – now ‘Friends of Edna Walling’ – became caretakers of the village, including its roadside verges.
In 2010 a Grant from Heritage Victoria enabled the ‘Friends of Edna Walling’ and the Shire of Yarra Ranges to implement a Roadside Vegetation Management Plan. Weeds and dead trees were removed and more than 550 trees, shrubs and ground covers planted. It is hoped this joint venture will ensure the preservation of Edna Walling’s environmental vision for future generations.
The enormous Golden Elm at Badgers Wood is a focal point for the lower portion of the garden
I have been asked by "Woman's World" to describe my scheme for the establishment of a model Devonshire village in the heart of the Victorian foothills.
It all came about quite simply. One day I realised the infinite possibilities for rural development in the land adjoining my own three acres. Here, I decided, was an ideal setting for quaint, homely little cottages dear to the heart of city dwellers and the Mecca of those who can afford to retire.
The first thing necessary was, naturally, a supply of trees and shrubs for the proper landscape effects, so a plot of ground about an acre in extent was planted as a nursery.
My own cottage naturally became the centre of the scheme, and it is here that all the planning, both for the construction of the cottages and for the garden is done, the most important thing in such a scheme being to safeguard against the erection of anything that is incongruous. Here, in my own garden, are raised herbaceous perennials and other garden flowers for planting into the gardens of the cottages, and in the nursery, as well as the larger trees, are grown little trimmed shrubs ready for transplanting into tubs for the doorways, porches and terraces of the cottages as they are built.
There will be sixteen or seventeen cottages with gardens varying from half an acre to an acre and a half, and every assistance will be extended to the inhabitants of the village in the planting of their trees and the planning of their gardens. By this means it is hoped that eventually the whole scheme will present a series of delightful landscape pictures with trees and shrubs so placed as to screen each cottage from its neighbour.
It is to the lovers of trees and those who realise their importance in the planning of homes to whom this scheme is most likely to appeal; and it is greatly hoped that the project will do much towards the encouragement of tree planting and a more extensive first-hand knowledge of trees.
When completed, the scheme will be at the height of its beauty in Spring and Autumn, as the majority of the trees will be deciduous and will be chosen for their Autumn beauty. Such trees that give two seasons of beauty will be planted most generously, and amongst them will be the crab apples, particularly Malus Marengo, with its brilliantly vermilion little apples which are covering the little trees in the nursery as I write; Malus Floribunda, whose branches are weighed down with an amazing profusion of tiny yellow apples, and the larger fruited form of Floribunda, which is even more decorative. The Yellow Siberian Crab, with its delicious butter-coloured fruits, and that soft red variety called "Currant," the purplish red apple with the amusing name of "Niedziwetskyana" (I think I have it right), and of course, all those varieties that are so exquisite in Spring, if not perhaps quite so spectacular in Autumn, such as Spectabilis, Aldenhamensis, Eleyii and Park-manii.
But these will be amongst the comparatively small trees, for it is the bold outline of Elms and the soaring spires of Poplars, the graceful tracery of Birches and the cool soft green of Willows that will first assail our eyes, and that will produce that mass and depth of shade so absolutely essential to the enjoyment and comfort of summer.
No fondness for the production of "Specimen" trees will be encouraged here, but rather will it be a place where thickets and groups and tiny little forests planted in proper forest formation will be allowed to grow undisturbed and unopposed by those who do not understand!
Virtually this is the first season of the village, for when "Sonning", my own cottage, was constructed out of a collection of materials in which packing cases and local stone formed the most important part, no thought of the fate of the adjoining land entered my mind.
Gradually the desire to see country houses take a more picturesque form, with less money wasted upon them, took possession of me and with two little houses looking rather raw as yet, the village sets forth in the year 1933!
I must tell you of "Chagford", the building of which proved to be just the most joyous task imaginable. Having chosen her block, Mrs. C. Wahlers came to me with a ground plan of the cottage she wanted, and we set to work drawing up elevations and detail sketches for the interior. By a most careful study of every piece of material that was to go into its construction, we were able to reduce the estimated cost of building down to a most surprisingly low figure, and yet produce a sturdy and comfortable little cottage of six rooms. The livingroom is 20 ft. x 16 ft., lined with half inch thick plaster sheets used the rough side out (much to the plaster merchant's disgust!). The owner's bedroom is 16 ft. x 12 ft., and the little "cabin for stray males" is 8 ft. x 7 ft. The kitchen is 9 ft. x 9 ft., and has a pantry with a cool shaft in it and a built-in dresser, the bathroom is 8 ft. x 6 ft. and the sun room - a wonderful idea which disposes of a passage is 11ft. x 7ft.
The doors, which have been much admired, are ledge doors, very simply constructed of hardwood flooring boards and fitted with wrought iron thumb latches. In the entrance door there is a leadlight panel designed and executed by Arnold Shore. It is a delightfully informal design suggestive of the bare branches of a tree.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the windows. So often a most promising cottage is ruined by the thoughtless construction and the bad placing of these, and the use of red pine instead of seasoned hardwood makes it so difficult to deal with them in any other way but by painting them. In the living-room and the sun room the windows are low enough to enable one to see the garden quite easily whilst sitting in a low chair.
The whole of the interior has been coloured a delightful pale biscuit colour, and if the outside of the cottage is a little stark and prim as yet, the inside is at once warm and intimate.
Gradually the climbing roses around the windows and the vines around the doorways will soften and make mellow the exterior walls, and the shade trees and flowering shrubs will make the little house nestle into the landscape.
The construction, of the garden at "Chagford" is well on its way. Starting out from a little brick paved courtyard, which is in the angle formed by the L shape of the house, there is to be a little levelled lawn with stepping stones leading one to the pool constructed at the foot of the retaining wall which encloses this lawn. Herbaceous borders and a little formal rose garden enclosed with masses of trees and shrubs are the only other garden features to be included in the scheme, but there will be a little forest of American oaks and an ever-so-tiny one of pines.
The inhabitants of Bickleigh Vale will always have the gratifying knowledge that future neighbours will not spoil their surroundings, but will all be taking part in the creation of a beautiful landscape picture in which each villager will live a secluded and peaceful life.
© Edna Walling Estate.
Source: "Woman's World" Magazine