Hestercombe 18th C Landscape Garden

Blog friends, have I taken you to Hestercombe before?

Hestercombe is a very special place in that there are three different gardens here : the 18th Century Landscape Garden with all the water dashing through it and small temples and follies, the Edwardian Garden designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll  and the Formal Victorian Terrace and Shrubberies. The Landscape Garden has been the subject of a major restoration project,  and was opened to the public for the first time in 125 years in 1997.

It has an excellent cafe, which sensibly and kindly offers you two lunch options even when the main service is over and it is too early for cake (yes really!)  and has a charming and friendly manager, who listened with great interest to my suggestion that they  might usefully retail dog treats to all the visitors who come with dogs. Dogs are allowed on a short lead and they have the appropriate bins as well. I am always so grateful when we are allowed to bring the dogs in anywhere that I am more than happy to do whatever they say.

Nice shop bit too, with plants and lovely gift choices.

Fantastic quiche and freshly made salads, a creamy quivery asparagus delight, I was most surprised!

We wandered through the formal garden into the wilder landscape garden and followed the watercourse in its various incarnations.

Small lake, formal stepped falls, a wilder cascade, rills, it’s a very watery place!

We arrived when the sun was out and as it was mid week, a bit emptier than maybe it is at the weekends.

 At the top of the hill, the rain began to mizzle and we took shelter in the best 18th century tradition in a temple looking out over the fields. For the ha-ha lovers amongst you, there is one just in front of us in this photo.

I could go on about the glory of the 18th century landscape garden movement, but there are people who do that sort of thing much better than me. The thing that always amuses me is this notion that the designers were trying to recreate the ‘grand tour’ for people who stayed at home in England. These gardens are like virtual garden reality in that sense, as well as being a display of wealth and fashionable good taste.

I love the conceit of these Somerset hills being home to a little corner of an imaginary Italy set in a green valley, complete with temples, waterfalls and cascades, Turkish tents, and charcoal burners.


It was a dream when it was first built and was glorious when we visited recently –  filled with late May’s wild flowers;

We identified sweet lily of the valley (not shown) and pink campion…

…the strangely named evergreen alkanet (which is blue), though we are not very good at plants, we try to learn a few new ones each year.

There were swathes of buttercups and bluebells nestled in the fresh green grass along the paths meandering up the hillside and if I squinted it all dissolved into an Impressionist blur of tiny dots of colour.

The squirrels flicked their grey tails at the dogs on their short leads; Zeb pretended to ignore them and devoted himself to tracking the scent of earlier visitors.

If you click on the Hestercombe website link you can see a video in their Educational Services section which will give you a bit more of the flavour of the Gardens. It’s a wonderful place, and these photos only give you a small glimpse of the whole which is just fabulous.

I recommend a visit if you are over that way – there is nothing quite like an English garden and this is one of my all-time favourites. Our photos got a bit muddled up so I haven’t put credits on but they are all mine or Brian’s.

I’m away again from tomorrow, but will pop in here to say hi, so look forward to hearing from you and what you are up to. Any excuse for a chat works for me !

24 thoughts on “Hestercombe 18th C Landscape Garden

  1. Just A Smidgen

    I loved visiting Hestercombe with you today:) Particularly, the photos of flowers and your pup were so pretty and entertaining! Your lily of the valley is a different variety from ours, I think. And those bluebells, I once owned a house and had those growing wild there.. I’d forgotten about them.. I wonder if I can find them here.. xoxo Smidge

    1. Joanna Post author

      The red flower with the ladybird is red or maybe pink campion. I didn’t take a pic of the lily of the valley, so I don’t know if ours are different. I am not as knowledgeable about plants as I would like to be. I do know that in England we also get Spanish bluebells which are different from the native ones and cross easily with them to create a third hybrid variety. More here. People get quite worked up about it and in my local woodland strip they have working parties to remove them and other alien invaders. A tricky job! Glad to hear you liked the wander Smidge :)

  2. ceciliag

    I would love to visit but i am, in the wrong country, so you taking me there is the next best thing.. what a lovely day you had, I used to love walking about the big estate gardens when I was in england.. and I am a Ha Ha lover! if only to say it aloud!! so funny! c

    1. Joanna Post author

      I love saying Ha-Ha too :) You can’t really see it in that photo, so you have to kind of imagine the drop is; scenic and good animal control in one. Got to be a good thing.

  3. heidi

    Joanna, my sister, niece and I are planning a trip to England next year and I get to have a large say in our wanders. I am thinking this is a very good destination for part of our time there. Thanks for taking us along on your visit.
    I’m a gardener, baker, historian and confirmed Anglophile. The other two just want to see England.
    I’m hoping I can find lots of places we ALL like!

    1. Joanna Post author

      That’s great to hear you are coming over :) I am sure you will be able to find excursions to please you all. For the real garden fans there is something called the National Garden Scheme http://www.ngs.org.uk/ that might interest you. They produce the Yellow Book where people open their own gardens, large and small to the public for charity, though usually only on one or two days. The Yellow Book lists those as well as the major gardens and places. It’s a great read.

  4. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    What a gorgeous place! I think the late lunch options are a very clever idea – wouldn’t put them out much, and shows great thoughtfulness towards their clientele. What a lovely old place to explore! Have a great trip.. xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is amazing the number of places that we go where they stop serving food on the dot of 2 and then all you can get is cake and sweet stuff, so I thought it was worth mentioning that this place was a bit different. I wish I had been in time for their lunch menu though, it looked very good :) There have been several gardens restored like this. The one near where I used to live in London is called Claremont and when I was little it was known as Claremont Woods, it was completely overgrown with a lake in the middle and we used to run riot in there. Now it has been restored and is unrecognisable. :)

  5. Promenade Claire

    I’ve heard of Hestercombe but haven’t had the chance to visit, so thanks for the tour. There’s something magical about water gardens and gardens with water.
    I have to add that Zeb looked like he was enjoying the view too (ha-ha) :)

  6. Hasenschneck

    Thanks for the tour. i’ve been meaning to go to Hestercombe for a while but haven’t yet ventured there. There’s always tomorrow.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Quite a few places let you take the dogs round on the lead. We never leave them in the car so it’s all or nothing. Very few ladybirds so far this year, but also very few aphids, though with this sudden burst of hot weather the last few days it might all change quite rapidly :)

  7. Rose

    ::contented sigh :: It looks so very English. I always smile when I see chips (as in potato crisps) on a lunch plate but, the funny thing is, they work with the tastes!

    1. Joanna Post author

      They do look funny don’t they? It’s quite an old fashioned thing to do, but I ate them all. Love crisps (potato chips) :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      We had it all to ourselves Charlie for the best part of an hour and as we were making our way back down the hill a coachload of french tourists arrived, complete with matching raincoats and umbrellas. It is very peaceful though, I like sitting in follies looking out at the landscape. I feel sometimes as if I have strayed into a Jane Austen novel ;)

    1. Joanna Post author

      There are some truly amazing landscape gardens around, this one is a gentle and lyrical place, feeds my soul, especially in May when everything is this extraordinary luminous shade of fresh green :)

  8. Sincerely, Emily

    What a beautiful place. We are heading to England this summer and I am staking notes from your post. I know we can’t fit everything in and I still need to figure out a plan for our second week. Thanks for taking us on a walk with you. It was great! Emily

    1. Joanna Post author

      How exciting! There are bigger and grander gardens and estates you can visit than this one. Let me know whereabouts you are going to be based and I can maybe suggest a few places :)

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