Rural Oasis

This garden sits between two major motorways, fairly close to the airport and right next door to a working gravel pit; not the most auspicious setting for a beautiful Grade II listed manor. However, the manor in question is a beautiful timber framed building dating back to the C16th which has sat firm whilst the C21st has grown up around it. It sits in 40 acres of gardens, woodland and fields and has become a wonderful calm oasis in a frenetic area.

Although the house has been in my Client’s family for a number of years, he and his wife have recently moved in. They have made many improvements to the house and decided to overhaul the dated gardens – breathing some new life into many of the forgotten spaces. Having known the house and grounds for so long, the client was able to tell us wonderful stories about his childhood and his associations with the garden but, for all the memories, he was still excited to put his own stamp on the place and to create a garden fitting for his family’s tastes and their current lifestyle.

The initial brief was to re-organise the terrace and remove the remnants of a ’60’s rose garden with crazy paving paths and overgrown shrubs. Many of the spaces around the house were divided by large, unkempt hedges and the Clients were keen to open up views and vistas.

The new terrace was built using a mix of York stone and herringbone brickwork to mirror patterns and materials in the house and designed to offer seating space, an entertaining area and a wonderful foreground view from the house. On completion of the terrace, we then began opening up the adjacent areas to maximise the more distant views and to create spaces that worked with the scale of the building.

We re-styled the entrance to the house making the approach more fitting to a building of its stature. We revealed the outside of a wonderful black timber barn by removing overgrown shrubs that were growing up the walls and planted statuesque box-pleached hornbeam in Buxus beds creating height, sculpture and definition in the space. We also created new lawns, new planting areas and added to the amazing collection of specimen trees along the long driveway.

An existing moat was cleared and the view over this water into the grassed area beyond became important for the first time in years. We created a much more natural garden in this space with a large central lawn. This provides play space for the grand children and a wonderful green ‘carpet’ foil to the plethora of trees and planting around it. Woodland inspired planting wraps around the lawn and sculpture was commissioned to create drama and focal points. New paths now offer a choice of routes throughout the space and this area now forms a ‘bridge’ between the formality of the terrace and the wilder woodland and pond areas.

The old Eel ponds were cleared and a host of self seeded Alders were removed to open up the fantastic area of water. Woodland spaces were created along the stream; a large Cedar deck was constructed over the water and a long boardwalk built across the space. The area is now a haven for wildlife and newly commissioned sculpture sits comfortably alongside natural planting.

When we started on site, the large woodland area was hidden by a line of massive Leylandii, a broken fence and was filled to choking with brambles, dead, diseased and dying trees and self seeded saplings. The area flooded on a regular basis and it was almost a no-go area. By drastically thinning the trees and selectively creating groves and areas of specific planting we have created a wonderful, atmospheric place. There are beautiful Oaks which have been crying out for space and these can now grow away freely and reveal their magnificent shapes. We have also uncovered clumps of wonderful Willow which we have cleaned up but left to create very distinctive areas. Many of the fallen trees have remained untouched to form natural seating areas and some of the willow that has grown horizontally rather than vertically has been left to create interesting sculptural shapes and intriguing haunts for the children. We are leaving some areas very wild and others slightly more manicured. New paths—both wide and narrow—have been created to link all the spaces together. Bunds have been created to add to the character and to help the drainage. Foxgloves, sweet woodruff, ferns and other woodland plants have been put in place to encourage self seeding.

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