Hestercombe’s celebrated Arts and Crafts style garden is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of garden design who finds themselves with time to spare in Somerset.
The estate dates back at least to the 11th c. and has been furnished with a 16th c. manor house, and an 18th c. pleasure garden of woods, follies, pools and cascades running through hills and valleys, but the Edwardian garden is its crowning glory.
Of course, the true test of an English garden is whether its constituent parts have atmospheric names. Daisy Steps, Chinese Seat, Great Plat, Valley of Cascades, Gothic Alcove, Temple Arbour, Witch House, Mausoleum and Grey Walk all attest to Hestercombe Garden’s greatness.
If further supporting evidence was required (which it is not), Hestercombe could claim connections with members of the aristocracy, Glastonbury Abbey, Sir Edwin Luytens in partnership with Gertrude Jekyll, and Copelstone Warre Bampfylde. The latter was an amateur garden designer who had the pleasure of owning Hestercombe and was well-connected, numbering Henry Hoare of Stourhead amongst his chums.
On our visit early in July 2019, we found Hestercombe Gardens well tended and peaceful, almost frozen in time, were it not for the flowers and children playing on the lawn outside the Orangery.
Hestercombe’s Orangery is Grade 1 listed as the finest surviving Sir Edwin Lutyens building of its type, and is still used over the winter to shelter orange trees. I particularly liked the decorative lawn laid to the front of it, in the gaps between the paving stones.
The garden’s expansive vistas are of the type that linger in the mind.
The Lutyens/Jekyll garden seems highly formal today, although when it was originally planted, Jekyll’s painterly combinations of hardy flowers were as liberating and free spirited as one could be while remaining on the right side of accepted good taste.
As so often, the quality of a garden is seen in its details. Throughout Hestercombe, the visitor will find beautiful, classic touches – a statue, terracotta pot, wooden planter, water feature, bench, paving, pergola, scenic nook or balustrade.
What I’ll remember most is, strangely, the erigeron, whose dainty daisy flowers appeared to great effect along the pathways and stone steps.
You’ll find plenty of information on Hestercombe’s website and elsewhere on the internet, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here.
I was sorry not to get a decent shot of the arbour that runs the whole length of the Arts & Crafts garden, and we didn’t catch the climbing and rambling roses along it at their height of flowering, so I’ll rely on you to let them tumble in your imagination.
As you see, it was a hot and sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky, so we ended our visit with ice cream from the tea room. Only a small cone each, honestly! There was just time for a lingering look back at the zig-zag topiary hedge before we set off on the next stage of our trip.
Those who love Arts and Crafts gardens might enjoy my post about York Gate Garden, near Leeds.