The Blickling estate near Aylsham, Norfolk is dominated by the magnificent and commanding Blickling Hall, a Jacobean treasure that quite literally stops you in your tracks; in fact as we drove along the road outside Blickling we nearly caused an accident as we rubber-necked to admire the sight of the house. The birthplace of Anne Boelyn (who reputedly haunts the hall on the anniversary of her execution), Blickling Hall was re-designed in the 1600’s by Robert Lyminge, who is buried in the churchyard at Blickling. Interestingly, the hall was used during WWII as an officer’s mess by RAF Oulton, when RAF servicemen and women were billeted within the grounds in Nissen Huts. There is a free to enter on-site museum dedicated to RAF Oulton as a tribute to the RAF pilots and ground crew who served in the Second World War. The National Trust have restored the hall and grounds to it’s former glory and the estate has been open to the general public since 1962.
LOFTY YEW HEDGES – A DRAMATIC ENTRANCE
Today, the visitor can enjoy the hall and grounds, tea room and gift shop. What an entrance to begin your visit, with towering, lofty yew hedges, first recorded by William Freeman of Hamels in 1745. A beguiling archway has been cut to either side of the yews, enticing the visitor to pass through and marvel at the cathedral-like structure of these ancient hedges, where you can see the trunks and branches actually inside the hedge, which frames the view of the hall from the road. LOTS TO EXPLORE
There is a moat, too, now nicely planted with hostas, hydrangea and buddleja. The entire estate covers an astonishing 4,777 acres and with 500 acres of woodland and 450 acres of parkland there is certainly a lot to explore! Luckily a handy guide has been produced to help the visitor get the most from their day out.
The garden as we see today was landscaped by Repton, and covers 55 acres in total. A mature parterre is located on the east lawn, with an 18th-century listed stone fountain to the centre, and 4 pleasingly large herbaceous beds, each surrounded by 4 giant acorn shaped yews. Above the parterre are terraces, with seasonal beds containing a huge selection of perennials, shrubs and grasses, all colour coordinated in plantings ranging from cool to hot. At the time of our visit the tulips were in full bloom, making a pleasing vista looking back towards the hall, with the blocks of planting blending into a rainbow of colour. The west side of the property is lawned, and dominated by an enormous plane tree, and here visitors can enjoy a game of croquet during the summer. The woodland garden has a wild feel, and within it lies a ‘secret (but slightly disappointing) garden’, with a summerhouse and sundial. An 18th century orangery is a short walk away, (although to be honest there wasn’t much going on inside) and another architectural joy to discover is the grade II listed temple, approached from the parterre via the temple walk, lined with azaleas. The original walled kitchen garden is currently undergoing a transformation, and plans are afoot to recreate a working walled fruit and vegetable garden. Original Victorian glasshouses are being restored and volunteers are sought to help the team with the re-creation of this lovely space. A return visit is now a must, in order to view the progress!