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 !