We have selected nine gardens that feature in the Somerset and Devon National Gardens Scheme yellow books that can only be visited by special arrangement.
Details about the gardens are listed below which we hope will whet your appetite. In addition to the gardens one well known nursery is scheduled in our calendar.
Most of the gardens we will be visiting will have a selection of plants on sale at attractive prices.
To simplify things for this year we will be charging a fixed £7.00 per seat, per trip on the community bus. Any entrance fees to gardens will be on top of this. We hope this makes for an easier arrangement. We regret that the fixed charge is different to that previously advised but we understand that Somerset Council have now removed their subsidies on the community bus.
If you would like to book a seat for any of the trips please speak or email Jenny Boyce in the first instance.
Click on the pictures for more information about the gardens
Tuesday 7th February 2017 Higher Cherubeer. Dolton. Near Winkleigh. £4 Admission
Homemade teas available
1 ½ acres of country garden with gravel courtyard, raised beds alpine house, lawns and large herbaceous borders, shady woodland beds. Winter opening for national collection of cyclamen, hellebores and over 300 snowdrop varieties. A report on this visit HERE.
Tuesday 7thMarch 2017 High Garden, Kenton, Exeter. £4 Admission
A very interesting and wide ranging planting of trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials in a relaxed but controlled way in this 10 year old garden.Always something to enjoy including winter time. - The Plantsman nursery will be open. A report on this visit HERE.
Marwood Hill is a private garden of 20 acres with lakes and set in a small valley. There is a large collection of camellia and rhododendron and the garden has featured in Rachel de Thames Great British Garden Revival. Head Gardener Nigel will provide an introductory talk on our arrival. There are extensive refreshments available at Marwood Hill.
In the afternoon we visit Gorwell House. Created in 1978 this 4 acre garden overlooks the Taw estuary. The microclimate allows tender and rare plants to grow and thrive. Featured in several national gardening magazines. A report on this visitHERE
Tuesday 2nd May 2017 Hangeridge Farmhouse. Wellington. £3 Admission
One acre informal garden offering views of the Blackdown and Quantocks hills. Magnificent hostas and heathers, cascading wisteria and roses. Relax with homemade refreshments admiring the views and birdsong.
In the afternoon we visit Nynehead Court. We will receive a guided tour of the garden and included in the price you will be offered a cream tea. Nynehead Court Gardens are on English Heritage's list of gardens of historical interest . The garden was laid out during the Victorian period. Amongst things you will see will be an ice house, pinetum and parterre. The guided tour will be from Head Gardener Justin Cole.
Tuesday 6th June 2017 Kelways Nursery. Langport. £2 Admission
The Potting Shed Cafe.
Our visit starts with a forty five minute talk from Head Gardener Jim. Kelways has been a prominent name in British Horticulture since 1851 when it was established by James Kelway. It is famous for its peonies and irises, the Peony Valley is best seen in June.
The nursery will have on sale at special prices the plants returned from the 32 Chelsea Show gardens that they have supplied this year. So keep your eye open for a bargain. A report on this visit HERE
Tuesday 4th July 2017 Fursdon House Garden. Bickleigh. £8.50 House and Garden
£5 Cream Tea
Home to the same family for seven generations. Hillside setting with views over the countryside. Traditional and contemporary planting. Terraces of roses herbs and mixed perennials. Pond and woodland walks. This visit includes a tour of the house by the owner Mrs Fursdon. A report on this visitHERE.
Tuesday 1st August 2017 Elworthy Cottage Garden. Elworthy. £3 Admission
Tea and biscuits £1.50
Visit to Elworthy Cottage Garden, located between Watchet and Wiveliscombe.One acre plantsman's garden in a tranquil setting.Planted to encourage birds, bees and butterflies you will find a mix of scented plants clematis and unusual perennials.Elworthy Cottage are specialists in hardy geraniums. A report on this visitHERE.
Tuesday 5th September 2017 The Engine House. Waterow £5 Admission [includes both gardens]
Venn Cross Railway. Waterow Tea and cake £2.50
These two adjoining gardens cover four acres and are on the site of a former GWR goods yard on the line that ran between Taunton and Barnstaple. There are sweeping herbaceous borders, bog gardens and a hornbeam walkway. There are streams, ponds and woodland walks and railway paraphernalia to keep your interest. A report on this visit HERE
Tuesday 3rd October 2017 The Regency House. Hemyock. £ TBC Admission
This is a 5 acre plantsman's garden with many interesting and unusual plants. You can try identifying the plants or have a game of croquet. Walled vegetable and fruit garden. You will see Dexter's, Jacob sheep and horses.
You are welcome to take a picnic. A report on this trip HERE
VISIT TO HIGHER
CHERUBEER FARM, NR WINKLEIGH
Our February trip took us to Hr Cherubeer Farm at Dolton,
near Winkleigh. We started our journey in bright winter sunshine but by the
time we reached our destination, it had become grey and wet! However, we were
greeted by the owner and creator of this one and a half acre garden, Jo Hynes,
who gave us a brief history of the garden. Before beginning our tour we enjoyed
a warming mug of coffee and home-made cakes!
Jo holds the National Collection of snowdrops, hardy cyclamen
and hellebores and the garden is a joy even at this time of year with great
swathes of snowdrops carpeting the borders. She has over 300 varieties in total
including four that she has raised herself from seed, one of which she’s named
after her daughter Daisy! The variety of colours and size of the snowdrops is
amazing some standing at tall as ten inches above ground level with huge flower
Immediately outside the ancient farmhouse is a stone patio
area with raised beds supported by stone walls built by her husband. Here,
there’s a variety of spring bulbs (as well as the snowdrops) and flowering,
fragrant shrubs. An avenue of pollarded willow create an avenue of orange stems
creating quite ‘glow’ on such a grey day!
A couple of greenhouses house some of the more tender
varieties of snowdrops along with other unusual spring flowering bulbs.
All in all, there’s interest everywhere throughout the garden
and a return visit later in the year would no doubt reveal even more interest.
Before returning home on the Community bus we were revived by
a very good lunch at The Duke of York in Iddesleigh where roaring log fires
banished our winter chills!
A good day enjoyed by all.
VISIT TO HIGH GARDEN,
KENTON, NR EXETER
Our March trip was to High Garden and Nursery at Kenton not
far from Powderham Castle.
We were met by its creator, Chris Britton who, 11 years ago,
bought a ramshackle 1960’s bungalow in a 4.5 acre field. The bungalow was
demolished and a new home built and Chris and his wife set about creating the
Even though our visit was early in the year there was plenty
of interest in the form of flowering trees and shrubs many with coloured stems.
The garden is laid out with grass walkways with surprises around every corner
with various individual beds planted with an array of spring and summer
flowering shrubs and herbaceous plants; high hedge boundaries protect the
garden from strong winds and there are occasional glimpses of Kenton Church in
the distance. There are two 70m long herbaceous borders which will be well
worth a visit later in the year. There’s a delightful summer house known as ‘The
Bothy’ where we were able to purchase ‘do-it-yourself’ teas and coffees and
It was hard to resist buying a ‘bus-load’ of plants from his well
stocked nursery – all very reasonably priced.
The garden and nursery are open every Tuesday–Friday
9.00-5.00 from early January to mid-December, admission £3.50
From there we went on to the Turf Lock pub for our lunch –
which was quite an experience in itself – driving down a narrow track across
the Exminster Marshes with interesting bird life on either side! As we had
booked as a group we were able to drive and park at the lock (normally
restricted to walkers, cyclists and those arriving by boat!) We all enjoyed an
excellent lunch before beginning our return journey to Dulverton.
Another successful trip enjoyed by all.
VISIT TO MARWOOD HILL GARDEN & GORWELL HOUSE GARDEN
Our April visit combined two gardens in one day – Marwood Hill, Barnstaple and Gorwell House garden, Barnstaple.
Marwood Hill, a privately owned garden secretly tucked away in a Devon valley, was created by Dr Jimmy Smart in the 1950’s. He was a great plantsman and collector and produced a wonderful collection of shrubs, plants and trees in a delightful 20 acre landscape setting interspersed with lakes and woodland walks. The garden now contains an enormous range of camellias (over 800 species!), magnolias, rhododendron and also holds the national collection of astilbe, iris and tulbaghia. There are various sculptures dotted around the garden with an almost life-size one of Dr Smart himself! At the time of our visit the camellias were in full bloom – so many different varieties and colours; magnificent magnolia of tree-like proportions and many exquisite rhododendron.
The International Camellia Society has recently acknowledged several gardens throughout the World for the display of their camellias and in 2004 Marwood was one of only three in Britain to receive the Gardens of Excellence Award from the Society.
The plant sales area has a varied selection of plants available for sale all propagated at Marwood, so if a particular plant caught your eye you would more than likely find it in the nursery.
Lunch was taken in the delightful tea room which overlooks one of the lakes and the valley garden.
From Marwood we moved on to Gorwell House garden again created by another doctor, Dr John Marston. He created his garden 40 years ago from a four acre bullock field! Over the years Dr Marston has collected and been given many rare and unusual trees of all varieties and the magnolia are particularly outstanding at this time of year. There are various temples and obelisks set amongst the trees and a delightful shell grotto which Dr Marston built himself. The high walled garden creates a mini micro-climate where the more tender plants and trees survive.
Both gardens are well worth a second visit later in the year particularly Marwood Hill.
Our day ended with a drive back in the spring sunshine; another well organised Garden Club trip enjoyed by all.
VISIT TO KELWAYS
Our trip in June took us to Kelways Nursery in Langport on a blustery, squally day but the sun did shine when we reached our destination.
The nursery was started in 1851 by James Kelway, an experienced horticulturist, with a piece of land of less than two acres. Over the next 50 years he built up a nursery business with over 200 acres! He established Kelways with a world-wide reputation for both vegetables and flowers.
His son and grandson continued the business into the 20thcentury specialising in irises and peonies. The Peony Valley was originally created by James Kelway as a selection ground for his newest and best seedlings.
On arrival we were refreshed with a welcome coffee (and cake!) and then given a talk by Darren, who has been with the firm for ten years originally working in the nursery section but now as head of the retail business. He briefly outlined the history of Kelways and then went on to describe in detail their specialities of iris and peonies, carrying on the tradition of the Kelway family.
The company now supplies all the gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show and have their own display in the Great Pavillion, this year being awarded a Silver-Gilt medal. Many of the Chelsea plants were available for sale during our visit.
The garden centre area is vast and offers a great selection of plants for sale and many of our party were tempted – the back of the Community bus resembled a mini garden centre in its own right!
From Kelways we then went on to a local inn ‘The Halfway House’ for lunch and were greeted by two open log fires which took the chill off the day before returning home.
VISIT TO FURSDON HOUSE
Our July trip took us to Fursdon House, near Bickleigh, a
fine Georgian house situated on high ground looking across countryside to
Dartmoor in the far distance. The estate consists of 750 acres of arable land
and has been in the same family for over 750 years. There have been Fursdons
living at Fursdon since Walter de Fursdon first had the land at Cadbury during
the reign of Henry III (1216-1272). The house has evolved from a simple
cross-passage dwelling made from cob with a thatched roof to the mainly
Georgian structure we see today, with later additions.
The current Fursdons, David and Catriona, were recently
married when in 1979 David’s uncle asked him to take on the running of the
estate. At that time it was very run down, had little in the way of furniture
and the roof leaked! The couple set about restoring the house over a period of
time and opened to the public in 1982. The family have their own private
quarters on the first floor and there are two self-contained holiday apartments
within the main house. We were shown several main reception rooms on the ground
floor some of which are of Georgian origin, others with much earlier features
such as the oak panelling in the dining room which was uncovered during
restoration work. The wood was dated as having come from a tree that was
growing in the 1400’s.
We were greeted by Catriona on arrival and over coffee and
biscuits in the Coach Hall were given a brief history of the house and how they
came to be there before our tour started. The rooms we saw were warm and
comfortable and very obviously ‘lived in’ by the Fursdons. The hall carpet Catriona
designed herself with the help of a friend and was made by the Axminster carpet
company. The pattern incorporates the family crest of three feathers and is
repeated throughout whilst the border reflects the frieze found in the drawing
The gardens and grounds at Fursdon total four acres and are
informally laid out with sheltered terraces and seating areas behind the house,
the views from which are spectacular. There is a meadow garden below the house
which has been planted with wild flowers to encourage wildlife and this leads
to a large pond.
The house and gardens are open to the public during June,
July and August on Bank Holiday Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with guided
house tours at 2.30pm and 3.30pm. They open the gardens as part of the National
Garden Scheme four times a year, the next occasion being 9th and 10th
Leaving Fursdon we arrived at The Fisherman’s Cot at Bickleigh
for an excellent lunch beside the River Exe and our eventual return to
Dulverton; an interesting and enjoyable day.
VISIT TO ELWORTHY COTTAGE PLANTS
trip was to Elworthy Cottage garden and nursery near Williton situated 600ft
above sea level at the eastern end of the Brendon Hills. We were very fortunate
with the weather in an otherwise very wet week.
The proprietors, Jenny and Mike
Spiller, moved to the house forty years ago with just a one acre field and very
little else. They bought the site originally to graze their goats but over the
years the goats have gone (except for one!) and the garden and nursery have
evolved. The garden is a pure delight and being on a gently sloping
site gives varied interest to the landscaping with large herbaceous beds full
of colour – an absolute haven for bees
and butterflies. Mike and Jenny propagate the majority of the plants that are
for sale in the nursery specialising in hardy geraniums, and have a large range
of choice of other perennials with some
uncommon plants as well.
The garden and nursery are open on most Monday and
Thursday mornings 10.00-1.00pm from April until the end of August, but they do
advise you to ring first (01984 656427) just in case they’re away at one of the
many shows they attend. There is a minimal charge of £3 to the garden which is
also open for the National Gardens Scheme throughout the year; the next open
day will be Monday 28 August.
From there we went back to Bampton for lunch and eventual
journey home. Another very successful and enjoyable day out.
VISIT TO VENN CROSS RAILWAY GARDENS
Our September visit was to two very different gardens at Venn Cross, the former GWR station and goods yard on the Barnstable to Taunton line at Waterrow. The first one we visited was the garden to the former engine house where large sweeping herbaceous beds have been laid out, full of colour and interesting planting schemes interspersed with various sculptures and railway relics.
The owners have developed the garden over the last 11 years since buying the property and have created a haven for wildlife leaving a one acre wild flower meadow to attract butterflies and bees in the height of summer. There’s a large koi carp pond, a nursery area where plants they have propagated themselves are available to buy, a hornbeam walkway; productive raised beds full of vegetables and several greenhouses full of tomatoes. The garden is open as part of the National Garden Scheme on Sundays during June, July and August (check the Yellow Book for details)
garden was just a few steps away following the line of the original railway
cutting with the station house positioned above. Having cleared years of
discarded engine parts and railway paraphernalia and rubbish the owners set
about creating their garden -one bed of particular interest containing over 20
varietiesof salvia, some of which are
not of the hardy variety and have to be potted up to over-winter in their
ends at the top of the tunnel (now securely fenced off by B.R. with rather
unsightly grey railings which the owners have partially covered with a huge
gunnera!) There are woodland walks with access to the top of the tunnel from
which there is a good view of the whole garden. They have an interesting
display of ‘before and after’ photographs showing the extent of their labours
and the tremendous task that faced them when they first set about creating the
garden. Sadly, the garden will no longer be featured in the National Garden
Scheme, we were their last visitors.
Waterrow we went to Wiveliscombe for a very hearty lunch at ‘The White Hart’
and our eventual return to Dulverton. Another very worthwhile trip – even in
TRIP TO REGENCY HOUSE, HEMYOCK
Our final trip for 2017 was to Regency House at Hemyock, a
former Rectory, on a fine early autumn day. We were greeted on arrival by the
owner who offered us refreshments in the form of tea, coffee and delicious
Built in 1855 it’s more Georgian than Regency and various
renovations over the intervening years have brought it into the 21st
century and is now a well established B & B but the main interest of this
splendid house has to be the gardens, in particular the walled garden, the main
feature of which is the wall itself! It’s of double-skinned construction, of
flint and brick and surrounds three sides of the very productive vegetable and
fruit garden. It’s an amazing feature, in need of repair in places but full of
old nails and plant supports but does a good job of keeping out the deer,
rabbits and wind and creates a micro-climate for the plants within radiating
warmth from the bricks. It’s a haven for wildlife, too, with drifts of butterflies
just basking in the autumn sun.
The lake is another fine feature; stream-fed and frequented
by kingfishers, geese and ducks (of course!) The banks are planted with shrubs
and moisture-loving perennials. There are areas full of other interesting
shrubs, bulbs and climbers. Grassed areas are planted with interesting trees,
many coming into their autumn colours at the time of our visit.
The owner works tirelessly in this beautiful garden with help
from a gardener for two hours a week; her current project is draining one of
the ponds to find a leak!
It was difficult to drag ourselves away from
this oasis of calm and eventually make our way to a local hostelry for lunch
(this is becoming a habit!) and our return to Dulverton. Another interesting
and immensely enjoyable day.