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…

Wow! Heather at Compton Acres

Compton Acres is a fabulous independent garden in Poole, Dorset and the Heather Garden there was just one of the gardens that blew us away when we visited in March last year.  The garden has over 100 different forms of heathers, and if I'm honest who knew there were so many?

I don't seem to have much luck with heathers in my own garden and while there's some heather around the lake in Greenwich Park, nothing on this scale. But we weren't aware of what lay ahead of us until we turned the corner and saw this:

Who'd have thought heather could give so much colour

Yes, exactly. 

I told you it was quite something.

Originally this space, which is south facing and full of rocky banks was the summer home of Thomas Simpson's cactus and succulent collection, which I'm sure would be equally as impactful. That was lost during World War II and after it was transformed into what would have been, at the time, a highly fashionable heather garden.

A lovely march day in the Heather Garden at Compton Acres

There were walkways and benches to get up close to the heather, and so that's what I did.  Each plant was full of colour, and nothing like the sorry plants I've had in my garden, and which has led me to give up on heather in this garden. It's all in the soil, and my woodland-like garden isn't where they want to be.

Getting close up to the heather at Compton Acres
waves upon waves of heather at Compton Acres in Poole

As you can see from the colour of the sky March last year was much different to this year, which I'm grateful for, but I can't help but wonder if the Heather Garden was as spectacular with a grey backdrop. It may well have been.

There was a bit more than heather in the garden though, but oh the colours

Despite being wowed by the overall sense of the garden there were still quirks to discover as you explored its paths.  These two lead statues were fun and elegant at the same time.

A couple of statues also enjoying the heather at Compton Acres

So who knew that heather could be this amazing, certainly not me and I couldn't help but be a little envious of the residents close by who overlooked this part of the garden.  I've plenty more to show you from this fascinating garden, and I'll do that over the next few weeks, but if you're in the area - or even close by - do go and have a look for yourself, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.