Monday, June 25, 2012

Paradise Restored

Last year I had planned to make a trip to Cornwall and revisit some favourite gardens but a broken foot and six weeks on crutches rather threw those plans but here I am at last ensconced in a cosy hotel in Truro after two days of horticultural overload. Yesterday, on my way down I visited Hestercombe. Although it has been on my 'To Visit' list for quite a while, it's never been a priority and I must admit that as I approached the property and saw the signboard  proclaiming 'Hestercombe - paradise restored', I inwardly scoffed. How wrong I was - this place is a horticultural jewel!

The house - tantalisingly closed and shuttered - it used to be used as Fire Brigade headquarters

There has been a house and garden here for many centuries, although the current house was remodeled in the late 19C. The gardens and landscape surrounding the mansion demonstrate styles from the 18C through the 19C and early 20C - very much two centuries of garden history on one site. The gardens were very overgrown  until the 1970's when the Somerset County Council started to undertake restoration. It was then that the original Gertrude Jekyll planting plans were discovered in a derelict potting shed - fairy story stuff! Over a twenty year period, The Great Plat and other parts of the Edwardian Garden were painstakingly restored.

Getrude Jekyll often worked with the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Whilst Jekyll designed the planting, Lutyens planned the framework and hard aspects of the landscape, paths, walls, steps and so on. This combinations of geometric skeleton overlaid with soft informal planting was very much the style they developed in many schemes.

The Great Plat with the pergola behind

Planting detail of the Great Plat - an odd mix but said to be authentic - cannas & gladioli to follow

The Orangery by Lutyens - licensed now for weddings and civil partnerships - dream location!

One of the two Rill Gardens - typical Jekyll/Lutyens

Moon Pond at the head of the rill

Through the pergola

Detail of Lutyens stonework with naturalised planting

Eryngium giganteum - often called Miss Willmott's Ghost - the dear lady was also a gardener in the early 20C and it is said that whenever she visited a garden she sprinkled a few of these seeds to leave a ghostly reminder of her visit - nice story - true?
The Grey Walk - one of the restored borders authentic planting

A reproduction of a Lutyens designed seat

Just one detail of the beautifully restored garden architecture

Some nicely framed views

Updated caption - Corydalis ochroleuca - 'a superior wall weed' - thanks Chad for the ID again!

Moon window - just one of many details

Tiny white clematis - which one is it?  Chad - any idea? Probably C. terniflora or flammula, he says.

Late in the 20C, the Victorian Terrace was also restored and now displays authentic Victorian bedding schemes.

Bedding on the Victorian Terrace

Also in the 1990's work started on restoring the landscape garden. This was originally created in the 18C by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde, who inherited the estate in 1750. He created a series of Arcadian landscapes based very much on classical scenes captured by Italian painters working in the 17C. (Most people have heard of Capability Brown who created similar scenes.) By the late 20C this landscape garden like many others, had almost disappeared under woodland growth and the buildings had become derelict or disintegrated entirely. The lake had silted up without trace and the Great Cascade disappeared under vegetation. Restoration started in 1995, clearing excess tree growth, dredging the lakes and restoring the buildings and features. Pathways were opened up, once again linking the attractions on a circular walk which was originally planned as entertainment for a gentleman's guests in the 18C.

The Great Cascade the feeds the lake and also an early hydro-electricity plant

The Mill Pond - fed from the pear pond

The rustic seat

Temple Arbour
View from Temple Arbour

The Mausoleum - just a name - no skeletons!

The Octagon Summerhouse
In April 1997, after major restoration, the garden was once again opened to the public for the first time in 125 years. More information can be found on the inevitable Hestercombe website and this is one that's well worth a visit. And before I forget the tea room  is well worth a visit too!

That's it for tonight's blog but I've had a busy day at the Eden Project - WOW - read about it next time!


  1. It’s not Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba' Ian. There are no ‘lockets’ to be seen in the flowers. That is a Corydalis. I think it is C. ochroleuca, a short lived but generously seeding species of superior wall weed!

    I’m not good on Clematis, so have called in help from Charlie at Roseland House Nursery. I’ll let you know if I get an ID.


  2. Charlie says either C.terniflora or flammula, with the former more likely and known to be in Hestercombe gardens.


  3. Wow, stunning photos of a stunning garden! Great timing too as you've got good weather with you. We've been to Cornwall so many times and yet there are so many gardens there we have yet to visit, including this one. I've bumped up Hestercombe up the list seeing your photos now. Have a fantastic time in Cornwall!

  4. Fantastic, must add that to the list of places to see.