Cheshire's gardening greats - photos of the county's most spectacular gardens.

PUBLISHED: 01:16 22 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:15 20 February 2013

Cheshire's gardening greats - photos of the county's most spectacular gardens.

Cheshire's gardening greats - photos of the county's most spectacular gardens.

Coddington photographers Alistair and Jan Campbell swapped bombs for blooms when they got exclusive access to some of the county's most spectacular gardens. Emma Mayoh reports

Alistair and Jan Campbell spent years avoiding bombs and bullets as photographers for the military. But when it comes to gardens, there is no way Alistair can disarm his wife. The 54-year-old is used to being taken around spectacular gardens all over the country by passionate gardener Jan. But when they were asked to capture 24 of Cheshires most spectacular gardens, they both jumped at the chance.

Jans always dragged me around lots of lovely gardens, Alistair joked. Ive always appreciated a nice garden but Jan really relished the chance to capture some of the gardens throughout the seasons.

We also knew that photographing some of the countrys most prestigious and glorious locations was never going to be an onerous task.

The couple, from Coddington, had spent decades working with the Royal Navy and were out in the field during the Gulf War and Falklands War. They did everything from surveillance and intelligence photography to training projects. But when their careers ended five years ago they decided to set up their own photography company UK City Images.

After working on books focusing on Cheshire and Chester, they were commissioned by Visit Chester and Cheshire to photograph their Cheshire Gardens of Distinction project.

Alistair and Jan spent a year capturing the changing seasons, flora, fauna and features of 24 beautiful gardens at historic estates like Tatton Park, Cholmondeley and Capesthorne Hall as well as at lesser known spots like Mount Pleasant in Tarporley, Stonyford Cottage Gardens in Northwich and Dunge Valley Rhododendron Gardens in Kettleshulme on the Cheshire border.

The couple, who were given exclusive access to the gardens, spent months waiting for the right weather and light to capture all the different places at their best.

It certainly kept us on our toes, Alistair said. The winter weather last year meant it was a late spring and everything appeared at once so we had a frantic time making sure we captured all the gardens before the daffodils and bluebells faded.

Winter presented challenges too. I think we were the only ones hoping for more snow so we could have pictures with no footprints in. In summer we had to make the most of the few good days we had and autumn was spectacular. Cholmondeley Gardens in particular put on a good display.

It has been a fantastic project and an honour to be asked to do it. Were very proud of what weve done and it was something we enjoyed a lot.

Photographers at war

Jan and Alistair may now get to spend their days visiting beautiful gardens and vibrant cities but for years their career was quite different. The couple met when they were both working as photographers for the Royal Navy. Between them they have photographed the military in action all around the world.

Jan has worked on everything from jets to submarines until her final appointment in charge of all defence photography.

Alistair was awarded a British Army Commendation for work he carried out in Belize and a British Empire Medal in the 1992 Queen's New Year Honours List for his efforts during a Kurdish relief operation in the northern Iraqi mountains. During his career he worked on the high seas and in jungles, deserts and Arctic conditions.

When they left the military the couple launched their photographic company, UK City Images and now spend their days doing what they love most. They have also created several books that showcase their work and are currently seeking sponsorship for another book which will
feature photographs from the Cheshire Gardens of Distinction project.

To learn more about taking your own beautiful photographs in Cheshire's Gardens read Jane Burkinshaw's Cheshire Life blog here

Jane Burkinshaw Photographing Cheshires Gardens

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