The parterre at Helmingham Hall

We’re getting about a bit this week with the posts I’m sharing, so in between quick visits to Lisbon on Tuesday and Italy tomorrow, today we’re somewhere a little closer to home and have landed in Suffolk. In the parterre at Helmingham Hall to be precise. It’s a great garden to visit, another independent garden where you’re never quite sure what you’re going to find.

We visited during our Suffolk break, and I was surprised to see I’ve only shared a single post from our visit so far, and if you’re a fan of knot gardens, then this is worth a visit if you’re in the area. I originally planned to share photos from the Potager, but somehow my fingers had other ideas, but who am I to argue?

formal lines provide a relaxing space at Helmington Hall in Suffolk

While first off this garden might look very traditional, and its choice of plants - box hedging and santolina, it’s not quite as traditional as you’d expect. It’s in good company as that’s the combination used in the formal gardens of Chenonceau too, though the santolina (the light coloured plant) was more densely planted in Suffolk, which brought a bolder ‘stripe’ to the parterre.

great lines that you just want to follow

The other less traditional thing, but gorgeously so, are these pink cosmos which on our visit were used in the central bed.

cosmos fill the central bed

From a distance, I assumed they were roses, so it was quite a discovery when I got close enough. While I’m converting to roses, i think because these weren’t roses, it was even more of an exciting discovery. It’s quirks like this, or the plant you don’t expect to see that makes a garden a garden and not a forumaic reproduction of what we know works.

the symmetry is reasuring
box topiary in the parterre at helmington hall in Suffolk

It’s a great space, calming and viewable from the house across the moat - which if I’ve not mentioned before is pretty and fascinating, though sadly not open, but I mean, it has a moat. And surely that means you can imagine anything you like about the place and the reality would never match up to it.

The other thing this garden has, which appeals to me, is those gates which lead to the Potager. So soon, I’ll share more of what’s behind them as I’m rather partial to those too, as i discovered at Cheverny.

The Dutch Garden and Orangery at Hestercombe

We visited Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset earlier in the year, much earlier in the year, which explains the grey skies in some of these photos. In fact later on the day of our visit it snowed, and we ended up cutting short our weekend, which we learnt this past weekend was a good call as the Devon village where we were staying was cut off for three days. Or perhaps, we didn’t make the right call after all, depends on your viewpoint I guess…

This shot of the ornate garden was taken on the Dutch Garden side looking through to the Mill Pond, and it’s a hint at the formality and grandeur of the Dutch Garden.

A pretty gate to entice you in to this part of the garden at Hestercombe

Turning around, you can see the more formal planting, along with those grey snow-laden skies I mentioned before.

A moody and grey sky from the Dutch garden at Hestercombe

As you can see the planting had yet to spring into life, the pots would be full of tulips in the weeks to come, but not for our March visit. It’s at this time of year though that you can more easily see a garden’s structure, and I always think if it looks good without the plants, then it can only look better when they’re in flower.

large terracotta pots in the Dutch garden

We’ll have to go back again when there’s more in the garden, as I’m sure it will have a completely different feel. It’s a good garden to visit, so it won’t be any hardship, and you know how much I’m a fan of independent gardens as well as those of the RHS and National Trust.

We knew from the garden map that there was an Edwin Lutyens Orangery near to the Dutch Garden and looking to our right we quickly spotted it looking majestic a few steps away.

looking across to the orangery at Hestercombe

As with many of these gardens we visit, even the pathways have added interest and we discovered this to be the case as we walked past the in bud magnolia to see more of the Orangery.

fancy stonework on the pathway

And stepping inside was everything I expected an Orangery to be, and quite an elegant space.

heading inside the orangery

With citrus fruits too, although they had a way to go before picking I’m sure.

one of the fruits in the orangery
outside the orangery

The exterior uses Somerset’s yellow hamstone which even on the greyest of day has a great colour. Looking at the Hestercombe site, it’s available to hire for weddings, which seems a great use for the space, now I’m thinking I need to be a wedding guest there, but on a sunny day please!

Enjoying Castle Howard

Before I even start editing my photos from the weekend in Devon I thought we could all do with some Yorkshire blue skies to remind us of that glorious summer, before our memories are washed away with all the rain we’ve had lately. I don’t know about you but the (relatively) short downpours, which seem as if someone’s turned a shower on, are a bit like running the gauntlet aren’t they?

So far I’ve still avoided being caught in the worst of them, although yesterday I did have a couple of attempts to leave the house, stuck my nose out the door and delayed it for a few minutes before trying again. I was lucky that this didn’t go on for the whole day, but when I did choose to step out with every intention of getting the bus, I realised it wasn’t quite so bad after all and the walk was quite enjoyable.

But that’s not the blue Yorkshire skies, is it? These are though.

Castle Howard against the blue Yorkshire sky

Before we caught our first glimpse of Castle Howard we’d spent quite some time exploring the Walled Garden, which was by far my favourite part of our day. We’ll come to that part I’m sure, but blue skies are what’s needed I think, and these are seriously blue skies. The fountains in front of the house really show off the sky, and even the algae looks pretty.

The fountains at Castle Howard

The exterior of Castle Howard evokes so many memories of Brideshead Revisited, for me, the one from the 1980s which although I wasn’t an avid watcher, I was a fan mainly of Jeremy Irons, and was keen to take a look round the exhibition in the house. And when I did I realised just how much my admission of not being an avid watcher was true, and how much I’d forgotten, or perhaps didn’t even know from this iconic series.

One of the "wings" looking majestic

The grounds are extensive and provided plenty of space for visitors to enjoy without being on top of each other. For me that’s one of the best things about visiting places like this, having space enough to make believe it’s yours for the short while you’re there. Although this one was a push, even for me.

Looking across the lake at Castle Howard
framing the lake with the grasses

The lake was huge and provided a great place for a stroll, and some great pictures which emphasise the space available.

reflections in the lake at Castle Howard

It’s calming isn’t it? And a great place to visit, after our stroll around the lake we headed through the grounds to the Temple of the Four Winds, which I’ve already shared here. So if you want a double burst of blue skies, head over there and soak that sky up too!

In the meantime, don’t forget your brolly again today…