Val Corbett came to talk to The North East Group on a rather pleasant afternoon in March. She was billed (by me) as simply a garden photographer, yet I had no idea that she’s a lot more than that: she travels the UK on behalf of Country Life magazine taking photographs of some of the most stunning gardens in the country, and many of her shots end up on the cover of the magazine. I have since found out that she’s also responsible for many of the most beautiful postcards from the Lake District.
Despite all of this, she came across as a very modest woman, who almost seemed surprised by her talent and success. She hails from Penrith, so her heart is most firmly in the North of England. Her two favourite gardens are both in the North: Levenshall in Cumbria comes second, but her first is our very own Herterton in Northumberland. One of the most interesting comments she made was when comparing gardens in the South of England and those in the North and Scotland. Apparently, southern gardens tend to have more money behind them, and are therefore often ‘bought in’ when the new owner of a large house employs a designer to create a whole garden from scratch. Although these gardens are stunning, they can lack the personality of a typical northern garden, which may have been in the same family, who have employed the same head gardener, for many years, if not generations (although clearly a garden that old would have to have a change of head gardener!).
As Val showed us her collection of favourite gardens around the country, she also shared some useful and not so useful tips with us. For example, I have always been told to avoid shooting into the light, yet Val’s photos showed that the opposite is true: you can shoot into the light as long as you shade your lens from the direct sun, either with a hand, a hat or a nearby tree. But her favourite tip was that, in order to get the best view of a garden, you need height. If you’re lucky, there may be a high point in the garden you can use, or a wall that you can climb on (assuming you dodge the head gardener, of course), but if neither of these are available then the next best alternative is to bring your own step ladders. I can just imagine what the bus driver will say if we all pile onto the coach to Malvern with a step ladder each!
Val was kind enough to supply us with a list of the gardens in her talk, which I am sure will form the basis of many North East trips to come.
Photograph above is © Val Corbett.