Last autumn we joined the National Trust, but since then we haven't had much chance to use our membership; it's one of the things I want to take advantage of over the next few months though. So when I saw on Facebook that Fenton House in Hampstead were offering "sneak peek" tours of their garden before their official re-opening I jumped at the chance and booked myself onto Thursday's tour.
I've not been to Fenton House before, in fact I don't think I've been to Hampstead knowingly before - I'm such a South London girl! It was easy enough to get to - I jumped on a train to London Bridge and then the Northern Line to Hampstead, the property was about 300 yards or so from the tube station.
I waited outside the main gates, with this view along with two other couples for 11am, when we would be let in by Andy, the Head Gardener.
During the tour he explained the work he and his team of volunteers have undertaken over the winter months, and the push during the last week or so to be ready when the house reopens to the public next week as well as some of his future plans for the garden.
The National Trust's site says Fenton House is a "beautiful 17th-century merchant's house [which] is a hidden gem in London, a place of unique charm and ambience" and it was previously owned by Lady Binning who bought it in 1936. She bequeathed the house, along with her porcelain collections, Georgian furniture and 17th century needlework to the Trust in 1952. The house wasn't open when I visited yesterday, but I'm planning to return with MOH over the summer.
We walked up to the house, and through the formal garden and the spring borders:
And from the upper walkway, we got our first glimpse of the historic orchard:
Retracing our steps, pausing to look at this magnificent fig tree:
We walked through the rose garden and through this quiet spot which is actually in the middle of the garden:
The orchard was resplendent in the sun (thankfully the rain that was forecast held off) and the crocuses were full of bees drunk on pollen. The house usually has its own hives but they (the bees) are "on holiday in Muswell Hill" for the winter!
Walking through the orchard, we reached the kitchen garden - as you'd expect there's not much going on at this time of the year and the crops left there are to demonstrate it's a functioning kitchen garden. Alongside this garden there's also a cutting garden which is used to provide flowers for the house when it's open.
Unfortunately I had to dash off when we got to the kitchen garden as I had a lunch appointment in the City and the tour was overrunning as Andy was clearly proud to be showing off the garden to a small but definitely interested group. I was sorry I had to leave so abruptly, especially as often the kitchen garden is my favourite part of any garden. However, as I definitely plan to come back that helped!
The garden is only set in two acres, so it's not huge (though larger than most of our back gardens!) but it packs a lot in, if you get a chance I'd definitely recommend a visit.