Hestercombe Gardens - design delights from three centuries
The beautiful Hestercombe Gardens in the Quantock Hills, near Taunton in Somerset cover some 50 acres. Three centuries of garden design history can be experienced here, from a Georgian landscape garden designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfield, to an Edwardian garden by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and gardener Gertrude Jekyll.
Originally built in the 16th century, Hestercombe House is now owned by Somerset Country Council and used as an administrative centre. The gardens have been restored to Gertrude Jekyll's original plans of 1904. One delightful feature is their terracing, with the Victorian Terrace seeming to float above gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
Another striking feature is the Orangery, designed by Lutyens and listed Grade I for its historic significance, as are the garden walls, paving and steps on the south front of the house. The "Great Plat" combines the patterned features of a parterre with the hardy herbaceous planting espoused by Miss Jekyll.
The eastern area is laid out as a Dutch garden with perennial plants such as large white flowering Yucca gloriosa. The effect of the garden is romantic, with stone balustrading, lichen-covered steps, and much use made of water as a feature throughout the garden.
Since 2003, the landscape and gardens have been managed by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, a charity set up to restore and preserve the site with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £3.7M. There are three different styles of garden, ranging from woodland walks to lakes and ponds to formal gardens. There are contrasts between the Georgian landscape, Victorian shrubbery and terrace and the formal Edwardian gardens.
The south facing gardens offer views of the Blackdown Hills and visitors can enjoy lakeside walks down to an interesting watermill. There is also a large colony of lesser horseshoe bats in one of the buildings - a former stable block designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
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