Easton Walled Gardens have been on my ‘bucket list’ for a while and so I was thrilled to be able to visit recently. Our visit was thwarted when we turned up on a Saturday (note to self; read the opening times before arriving) but as we were en-route elsewhere we decided to return the following day.
The estate has been in the Cholmeley family since 1592 but sadly the Hall fell into gradual decline following its Victorian heyday and was subsequently used as a convalescent hospital during WW1 and as barracks in WW2. Unfortunately the house did not fare well and was damaged beyond repair leading to its eventual demolition in 1951.
Luckily for the grounds, a major renovation project was started by the Cholmeley family in 2001. The 12 acre garden, surrounded by fields is approached through the former stableyard, now employed as café, gift shop, plant centre and lavatories.
It is fascinating to read about the history of the house and estate and the ‘monster project’ undertaken in 2001 by Ursula Cholmeley and her team of family and friends as they hacked back undergrowth to reveal the bones of the original garden. The garden was granted planning permission as a ‘tourist attraction’ three years later and the grounds are constantly evolving with new ideas and plantings.
Today, a limestone archway (the Gatehouse) marks the entrance to the garden where the visitor is led through to what would have been part of the house itself. A small orchard of cherry trees marks the original entrance to the Hall whilst further on, a broken arch is all that is left of the main carriage entrance. Nearby steps are flanked by the ‘velvet borders’ – colours and textures associated with velvet.
We wandered on towards the ‘white space garden’. Formal box hedging planted in spirals (apparently shaped to follow the outline of our galaxy with an urn marking Earth’s position within it) are complemented by a simple white and green planting scheme.
Steps lead from the upper terrace (and the site of the original house) towards the River Witham where a stone bridge crosses to a gravel path and the 80′ long border, bursting with yellow, blue and white. Bisected by a towering tunnel of yews, the Tudor walled meadow garden beyond is simply planted with an orchard on one side and David Austin roses on the other. In its former life, the yew tunnel was a clipped hedge which can be seen in old black and white photos of the garden here: https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/history-of-the-gardens
My visit coincided with Sweet Pea Week at the garden where a huge array of sweet peas are grown in dramatic rows in the kitchen garden. People are always amazed when I tell them I don’t much like sweet peas (I find the scent too cloying) but these were something special. The kitchen garden is quite charming, with greenhouses, a cottage garden area and pickery featuring flowers grown for cutting alongside vegetables which are grown for the café.
Easton Walled Garden is open throughout the year and the estate also rent holiday cottages. There is a small gift shop and café serving light lunches and teas using produce from the garden.