Did you know that over 4000 private gardens are open throughout Britain as part of the National Garden Scheme (NGS)? Members of the pubic can visit these gardens for a nominal fee which is donated to charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care. Clearly lots of people take advantage of this opportunity because the NGS contributed GBP 2.6 million in 2012 as a result of this scheme. This past weekend, June 15-16, saw approximately 800 gardens opened for the weekend and I took the opportunity to visit a few.
One of my favourites was The Old Vicarage in Firle, East Sussex. The Old Vicarage is a beautiful Grade II listed house with gardens designed by the landscape architect Lanning Roper in the 1960’s. Although he was American, Roper did a lot of work in England including acting as Prince Charles’ landscape gardener for Highgrove in the 1980’s.
The 4 acre garden is set around the beautiful Regency vicarage and has views of the surrounding countryside. Traditional touches include approximately a hundred variety of roses and pleached lime trees.
There is a traditional walled garden with vegetable parterres and flower borders. Through the vegetable garden, another walled garden contains the swimming pool.
The pond is to the side of the vegetable garden and also set in its own fenced area.
An archway leads up to the wildflower meadow which hides the tennis courts from view of the house.
This garden felt like a child’s paradise.
Plenty of space to run and play and lots of nooks in which to create “secret” spaces and dens.
An adult would also have plenty of enjoyment – the walled gardens promote a sense of privacy and seclusion that would otherwise be lost in a 4 acre garden. Each area has a separate ambience so that it feels like lots of gardens. You could sit in the sunshine, lounge by the pool or putter around the vegetable patch as you felt like it.
We were quite smitten with this garden and (for a brief afternoon) we thought of trading in our urban life for pastoral bliss. The children could run around the house and gardens bathed in a hazy sunlight just like you see when someone remembers an English childhood in BBC dramas (usually Before Tragedy Strikes). I would be in a big floppy hat and long, flowing dress, carrying a trug with freshly-cut flowers for the house.
It’s a nice dream but I simply can’t imagine the expense and maintenance a house and garden like The Old Vicarage would cost. And I’d have to drive to the nearest coffee shop. Nope. No can do.
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