We visited one such garden a few days ago. It is Beechenwood Farm, near Odiham in Hampshire (less than 6 miles from our house).
This delightful property is in a very secluded location, approached down some very narrow country lanes with scarily few passing-places. I was very worried about meeting a farm vehicle coming the other way, because with my Fibromyalgia I have limited neck mobility and find reversing the car very difficult!
The NGS's description of this place begins "2 acre garden in many parts". This is definitely true. Almost every different aspect of gardening is represented: formal beds and borders, informal and "wild" areas, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a pond, lawns, an orchard, statuary and garden art, even a so-called "Belvedere" - a raised platform (with plentiful seating) from which you can admire distant views of the surrounding countryside.
|View from the Belvedere, looking North towards Odiham.|
Right from the start I was impressed with how neat and well-organised this property is. Everything seemed so under control. Owner Michael Heber-Percy greeted the visitors, sold the tickets, issued the photocopied maps and presided over the array of homemade jams and pickles offered for sale, courtesy of the local Womens' Institute Market, while his wife Sarah ran the plant sales area. We found both of them utterly charming and most welcoming. I'm not quite sure who was manning the "Teas in the Garden" side of things...
One of the aspects of the gardens which we liked best was the profusion of benches on which to sit and admire the views both near and far - a sure sign that the garden is there to be appreciated! As you would hope, the garden was a-buzz with bees and hoverflies, making the most of the exuberant flower borders.
We saw lots of red Damselflies enjoying the water features. The soft burbling of the fountain in this little pond near the garden entrance added a tranquil note to the surrounding Herb Garden area, filled with a profusion of flowering and foliage plants.
|The circular pond.|
There is no denying that Beechenwood Farm has a wide range of very beautiful flowers.
However, if you know me, you probably know that I'm not hugely impressed by flowers. I often prefer the other features of a garden. I loved the Woodland Garden area, which is populated with a mix of mature native trees and smaller specimen trees, surrounded by very natural long grass and Cow Parsley in amongst which you could see the faded seed-heads of Alliums, and the yellow leaves of long-departed Daffodils. Many of the big trees here are Ashes, which have relatively thin foliage, and this allows in a very pleasing amount of dappled sunlight.
|The Woodland Garden|
This is another feature that I loved:
I asked what it was for, and was told that it is primarily ornamental (and it's good at that!). It was originally a rack for drying re-used milk bottles.
On the opposite side of the lane to the house and gardens, there is an 8-acre area of woodland, much of which was planted by the current owners back in 1992. It has a wide range of tree types, making it full of interest. A 1/3 mile circular walk is well marked out with red-painted wooden pegs to help visitors navigate this area. Fortunately for us the weather was perfect on the day we visited - bright and sunny but not too hot - and walking through the woodland was truly a delight. I was even more delighted to find a number of interesting fungi, including a couple of types that I have been hoping to find for ages, such as this (rather elderly) Polyporus squamosus (aka Dryad's Saddle), which was right by the car-park!
No post about this property would be complete without a mention of the resident cat, Amber. Apparently she likes to get into cars, and a sign in the car-park asks people to check their vehicles for stowaways before leaving! She evidently believes that the road / lane belongs to her too (no surprise there!).
Having said earlier that I'm not overly-impressed by flowers, is this the point for me to admit that I did succumb to temptation at the plant sales area...? This lovely Geranium was only £2 (not including the pot or home-made trellis), a bargain not to be missed!
If you are within reach of this property, I strongly recommend a visit. Full details are on the NGS website, but here's the address:-
Admission is £4 for adults, free for children.