PAINTERS battled it out to win a prestigious TV competition in the eye-catching gardens of an Elizabethan manor in Cumbria.

Levens Hall hosted the final of Sky Arts’ Landscape Artist of the Year as three finalists fought to impress judges Kate Bryan, Kathleen Soriano and Tai-Shan Schierenberg with their portrayal of the hall’s world-famous topiary garden.

The Westmorland Gazette:

The series scoured the length and breadth of the UK for the best amateur and professional landscape artists and has presented them with a number of challenging subjects-from the Eden Project’s biomes in Cornwall to the Forth Bridge- to whittle them down to the last three.

The Westmorland Gazette:

Elisha Enfield, Thomas MacGregor and Afsheen Nasir planted their easels among Levens Hall’s iconic topiary-the oldest in the world- for the chance to claim the ultimate prize of a £10,000 commission for the Manchester Art Gallery, to capture the landscape of England’s North West and its industrial heritage.

The artists were also judged on another piece capturing locations in London, which was completed in their own time.

During the final, MacGregor took on a large canvas to produce a Hockneyesque piece, while Nasir took viewers through the trees with intense green and purple tones and Enfield created a dream like depiction of the garden’s quirky shapes.

The Westmorland Gazette:

The show’s judges and presenters were full of praise for the final’s location.

Presenter Stephen Mangan said: “It is Landscape Artist of the Year and this place has been landscaped within an inch of its life, so what more fitting venue for a final?”

And judge Kate Bryan said: “This is one of the coolest locations we’ve ever had.”

The Westmorland Gazette:

Richard Bagot, owner of Levens Hall and Gardens, said: “After another difficult year for the UK’s cultural sector, it was a huge boost to have the SKY Arts team choose Levens Hall and Gardens for the filming of the final of Landscape Artist of the Year. 

“This follows our December 2021 appearance on BBC Gardeners World and coincides with a huge amount of global interest in our World Topiary Day initiative, this now being embraced by 52 gardens worldwide this year, as we continue to champion the garden style of topiary and look forward to our celebrations, set for May 12 and the following Sunday. 

“All of these factors together are making us incredibly excited about our 2022 season and we can’t wait to reopen on April 3 and later celebrate World Topiary Day alongside the likes of Versailles in Paris and Longwood Gardens in the USA. 

“We are sure that TV exposure, coupled with our championing of topiary and our maximisation of the benefits to be accrued from our unique status, as the home of the world’s oldest topiary garden, will make 2022 a very positive year for Levens Hall and Gardens."

The topiary garden was laid out and designed in 1694 by Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, a former head gardener to James II, creator of the Wilderness Garden at Hampton Court Palace, and a student of Andre Le Notre, who designed the gardens at Versailles for Louis XIV.

The Westmorland Gazette:

Current head gardener Chris Crowder, who is the garden’s 10th, spoke of his pride at looking after the grounds for more than 35 years during the episode.

And after an intense five hours of painting the judges decided that Elisha Enfield was the series’ winner.

The Westmorland Gazette: