Forth Valley Sensory Centre
Our history group visited the Japanese Garden at Cowden Castle this week and had an excellent time. The weather was cold but clear and the rejuvinated garden is a real delight.
The gardens were laid out in 1908 by Miss Isabella ‘Ella’ Christie following her return from travels around the globe. She employed Taki Handa, a Japanese Garden expert from Nagoya, but then studying in England, to design the garden.
Throughout the life of the Japanese Garden and the life of Miss Ella Christie, great efforts to have the garden looked after by Japanese experts were made. One such expert was Shinzaburo Matsuo who had lost his family in an earthquake and came to Scotland to care for the Japanese Garden. Respelendant in his traditional kimono, he was affectionately known as ‘The Emperor’ and is buried in a local churchyard.
Sadly the Japanese Garden was a victim of vandalism in 1963. The teahouses burnt and the lanterns pushed into the water.
The place became extremely overgrown. The garden was ignored until 2008 when it was handed over to Miss Christie’s great great niece Sarah Stewart. Taki Handa’s granddaughter visted in 2010 and serious restoration started in 2013.
The Japanese Garden is still not yet complete. However, the missing pieces of the lanterns have been recovered from the loch. The bridges have been rebuilt, hedges and overgrown weeds cleared and lots of new planting has taken place.
Yo can visit the garden, wednesday to sunday, 11am-4pm. There is a tea room and a woodland walk as well as the garden perimeter walk. Paths are still under construction but largely accessible.