Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 4 August 2008

A Trip to Great Chalfield Manor

Last weekend NAH and I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon at Great Chalfield Manor. It's not very far away, but this was our first visit. It dates back to the 15th Century and even has its own church. The buildings are lovely with plenty of views across spring fed lakes. It was a hot afternoon, so we decided to save the tour round the manor house for a rainy day and explore the gardens instead.

One of the most striking features of the garden are these clipped yew walkways. Four trees have been trained to form these and it is possible to enter them from four directions. In the middle is a cooling fountain - again spring fed.

In one corner of the garden is a lovely gazebo which doubles as an apple store. Leading to it is an unusual wall top border with plenty of self-seeded Verbascum. Below the wall are the more traditional and familiar long borders.

Behind the manor is another lake complete with very fat carp used to keep the water weed to manageable levels. A rose walkway leads you back to the house.

On our way to finding that all important cup of tea we just had to stop at the stables to admire the horses. Great Chalfield is a tenanted property and it seems the family are all horse enthusiasts.

Tea was found in a large barn - help your self and put the money in an honesty box. This was a feature of the whole visit, there was no-one to take admission monies and National Trust members had to sign a small notebook to show they'd visited. In the tea barn was a display about the Manor's history and details of the arts and crafts garden designed by Alfred Parsons. Sometimes it was hard to spot the real person in there!

Whilst I enjoyed my visit, I was also a little disappointed. Most of the borders seemed tired and too reliant on Geranium species to fill the gaps and suppress the weeds. They just seemed to be a little neglected and in need of some TLC. I was thinking to myself 'Of course July's not the best time to visit as the borders have gone over', but then found Arabella Sock's account of her visit to Hidcote the same weekend, where the borders are still romping away and looking gorgeous. It also didn't seem to have the same care and attention shown when I visited Lytes Cary Manor earlier in the year - a similar style of property in the Trust's portfolio. I wonder how much of this difference is down to the number of staff/volunteers at each property and the perceived 'importance' of the gardens? On a more positive note, it's made me appreciate my own borders a lot more; until then I'd been chuntering to myself over their lack of colour compared to earlier in the year, now I think they're not so bad after all.


  1. When I grow up I want to live at Great Chalfield-it is just the perfect manor house. With enough garden to do something amazing with.

  2. I felt disappointed as well when I visited a garden the other weekend (as per my blog). I also made the excuse that its not the best time of year but really I did feel that the owners werent coping with the garden at all.

  3. Hey VP, do you know what the plant is on my blog? Am I growing a weed?

  4. West Green House just up the lane from me is a tenanted property too, by Marilyn Abbot, an Ozzie garden designer/author. The gardens are amazing and maintained to a very high standard (been on TV several times, countless glossies and featured in Country Life last week). The house isn't open at all to the public, but the gardens are, although NT members are restricted to specific days, for a limited season in spring and summer.Everyone normally pays entry as this is the only way to keep the gardens going, pay the gardeners wages, and the constant renovation and development of it. They also stage the most spectacular opera during the season too. I guess it depends on what the tenants interests are?


  5. i would happily live in that gazebo. Threadspider you can have the manor, if you share the ponies.

  6. We visited Chalfield as part of the Wessex Gardeners' training day. I seem to remember they have only one and a wee bit gardeners (plus lady of the house) and no volunteers.

    We at Lytes, on the other hand, welcome pretty much anyone willing to pull a weed. Volunteers make an incredible difference and we couldn't cope without them.

  7. I was thinking the same thing as Threadspider - this looks like the ideal manor & how great it must have been to live there. I love the Yew walks - Threadspider can have the house, EmmaT can have the gazebo, I'll live under the Yews.

  8. The Newlyn School Gallery in Penzance, Cornwall has a painting for sale of GREAT CHALFIELD MANOR by Samuel John Lamorna Birch. Please check their website for more info.

  9. TS - It's a lovel place isn't it?

    PG - I saw your post and felt the same about this garden. It's a shame

    SOL - I'm stumped :( Have left a reply over at your place

    Zoe - It could be. There's so much potential there. I believe it's more of a spring garden though

    Emmat - I thought you'd love it. Could be a bit of a fight for the ponies. As it looks like you, TS and MMD have bagged all the other spots, so I'll have to bed down there ;)

    RPF - I think the lack of volunteers compared to your place is the heart of the problem

    MMD - It's appeared in a lot of films too such as The Other Boleyn Girl recently

    hstuke - I think you're spam, but thanks for the info


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