Jewels and sculptures to be seen as historic Feering garden opens to the public

Small, but perfectly formed - the jewelled garden.

Small, but perfectly formed - the jewelled garden. - Credit: Archant

Owner of Feeringbury Manor reveals the years of work involved in transforming an Essex ‘jungle’ into a stunning garden on the banks of thge Blackwater.

The work of sculptor Ben Coode-Adams provides striking focal points throughout the garden.

The work of sculptor Ben Coode-Adams provides striking focal points throughout the garden. - Credit: Archant

When Giles Coode-Adams OBE was made president of the Royal Horticultural Society in 2009 he said his ambition was to make the gardening charity “accessible”.

It is a quality he clearly still values in retirement as his wonderful garden at his home, Feeringbury Manor, which he shares with his wife Sonia, is once again open to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme every Thursday and Friday until July 27.

The couple brought the 15th Century home in 1978 and despite the 10 acres of land, believed to have once belonged to William the Conqueror before he swapped it with the Abbot of Westminster, being, in Sonia’s words, “a jungle”, they could see it had potential to make a wonderful garden.

“We knew it had the makings of something,” says Sonia. “It slopes south down to the river Blackwater and there were two ponds which had silted up which we thought we could connect to the river.”

The high pond feeds into the lower one, which then joins the Blackwater which runs past the garden.

The high pond feeds into the lower one, which then joins the Blackwater which runs past the garden. - Credit: Archant

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Giles’ role at the RHS meant the couple were often to be seen at horticultural shows where they found interesting and unusual trees and plants for the garden. During the 1990s he served as chief of the Kew Foundation, raising £16.5m and founding the Millennium Seed Bank. His efforts brought him an OBE as well as lot of trees from his grateful employers, which have grown majestically in the garden now. In the lower part of the garden, beside the river, is a small arboretum with a collection of euonymus, sorbus and crab apples, spectacular in the autumn

Other stand-out features of the garden include the “jewelled lawn”, which is a circular area of tiny bulbs.

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“It’s on an area of the garden which used to be a tennis court. Now it is dotted with tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, blue scillas and chionodoxa, yellow dwarf narcissi.

“It looks like a French tapestry with flowers.”

The view across the pond to Feeringbury Manor.

The view across the pond to Feeringbury Manor. - Credit: Archant

The two ponds, one on lower ground than the other, are now connected by a stream falling from the higher pond over a Victorian waterwheel into the lower pond, which then leads through a pretty stream bed to the river Blackwater.

Both Giles and Sonia, an artist who often holds exhibitions in the garden, have always had a love of plants and put a huge amount of work into the garden at Feeringbury Manor. Sonia is also keen to praise the help in recent years of “genius” gardener Ellen Fairbanks, who comes four times a week to ensure everything is looking its best.

The couple are happy with the results and want to share them.

Sonia says: “When the garden is looking its best it is lovely that people can come and see it. Spring is starting in the garden now. There are daffodils and tulips just coming up as well as lots of blossoms and hellebores.

“I just love having people pop in to see the garden. They can come here and take their time. There is a bench to sit on and watch the river go by.”

And it’s some bench. It is designed by Ben Coode Adams, Giles and Sonia’s son, and was built to commemorate the new millennium.

A very proud Sonia says: “It looks like a rock coming out of the sea waves, but the waves are made out of galvanised steel. It is beautiful.”

The garden shows off more work by Ben. A wonderfully intricate metal trellis which appears to loop around itself makes for an eye-catching archway over the garden’s central pathway flanked by boxed hedges.

Ben lives next door. He and his textile artist wife converted the barn in the neighbouring farm into a family home, an undertaking captured by Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

For those looking for garden design tips, Feeringbury Manor has plenty to offer. Through the National Garden Scheme, the garden, on Coggeshall Road, in Feering, can be visited on Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to 4pm until July 27. Entrance is £5 for adults and children are free. There is an honesty box in the home’s porch where you can pay and pick up your ticket.

Money from the National Garden Scheme goes towards a range of charities, but Feeringbury Manor will also be making a donation to Feering Church.

For more information on the scheme and Feeringbury Manor, visit here

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