SOMERSET: Hestercombe

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By Tim Saunders

During these strange times we have had the privilege of visiting some of Britain’s finest gardens.

At Hestercombe near Taunton, Somerset we find a truly special place. It’s just over 100 miles from home and the weight of traffic and roadworks ensure that the journey takes the best part of three hours. And as we arrive the heavens open, not just light rain but torrential. Some might have just given up there and then but that’s not in our nature. And thank goodness because we find a little gem here offering four centuries of garden design spread over 50 acres including formal and Dutch.

On a wet day colours are subdued but there are still many different shades of green. Surprisingly some of the scents are strong, too. Ten minutes after arriving and we are all drenched but that doesn’t deter the children from racing round and exploring. The formal garden is a delight and is hailed as one of the finest examples of the world-renowned partnership between garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. We all love the way that stone has been so richly incorporated in the design. It also frames a wonderful stream that flows throughout. At another point stone surrounds circles and water can be seen inside this. We do have to remind Henry (4) and Heidi (7) to be careful as they race off. Wet stones can be slippery. Nearby there is a wonderful water fountain that is incorporated into the stone wall above. Yet more character is provided by the doorways that lead from one part of the garden to the next. Down at the bottom of the formal garden there is a pergola that provides a little shelter in such conditions and here grapes grow. Now, the thunder and lightning start. “What is that?” Henry cringes. He hasn’t been out in such harsh conditions for some time but when he was small the only way he would have an afternoon sleep was in his pushchair at the bottom of the garden even in the pouring rain.

In the Orangery we admire the citrus plants and even spy some lemons that are growing. “I do like the way the daisies grow around the stone paths,” Caroline comments. Yes, it does look very pretty. “This is so inspiring,” she adds.

On a day like today there is absolutely no worry about social distancing. The weather forces us to cut our visit short because the children start to feel cold. But as we walk through the plant centre we spot a tulip tree for sale. During a trip to another garden some years ago an elderly gentleman bought one of these and was extolling their virtues. We have never forgotten and grasp the nettle. At £4.50 it’s a good buy and a lasting memory of our visit here. Certainly a garden we would like to revisit in the future.

For more information visit: www.hestercombe.com

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