Opening their gates - 20 great gardens in East Anglia to visit this summer
PUBLISHED: 09:45 12 June 2018
Philip Hope Cobbold
How many kinds of sweet flowers grow in an East Anglian country garden? You can find out this summer by wandering through some of the many which are open to the public.
Here is a look at 20 beautiful gardens - and collections of gardens! - to visit this summer. But there are many more to choose from too, so this is just a starting-point. Many gardens open as part of larger schemes such as the National Garden Scheme, which aids various good causes, or garden trails for hospices and other good causes. Some are also open independently or in conjunction with heritage attractions.
In many towns and villages, a number of smaller gardens are opened on a specific day, often in aid of a local charity, and you may be able to pick up a map and wander around. Refreshments, including cream teas, stalls and games may all be on offer too. Most of the gardens mentioned here do charge admission fees, and some may be open on other occasions in addition to those mentioned.
Glemham Hall, near Woodbridge, Suffolk
This stunning Elizabethan mansion is set amid a 300-acre park. Many of the gardens today were designed by great 18th-century landscape designer Humphry Repton. The grounds feature an avenue of Irish yews, a traditional rose garden with lily-pond, herbaceous borders and a summer house. Some of the oak trees are at least 600 years old. Cedar and beech trees complete a very traditional setting. During your visit, you can admire the small collection of sculptures. Recent renovations have included repositioning hundreds of metres of original york stone paths. The commemorative Britten garden was designed to mark the centenary of Benjamin Britten in 2013.
When to go: Glemham Hall Gardens will be open as part of the Great Garden Trail in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice on Sunday, June 24, from 10am to 4pm, with teas, coffees and homemade cakes served in the conservatory. A number of other events are also held there each year offering a chance to see the gardens, such as house and garden tours.
Gooderstone Water Gardens, near Swaffham, Norfolk
Once a damp meadow where cattle could not graze, these unique gardens were created by retired farmer Billy Knights after his son suggested he should have a water garden. The idea might have started as a joke, but it soon turned into a reality. Coral Hoyos began restoration in 2002 as a tribute to her parents, Billy and Florence, and today the gardens are once again a popular attraction.
They include a natural trout stream, four ponds, waterways, bridges and a kingfisher hide, as well as colourful bogs, borders, shrubs and trees. There is also an eight-acre wildlife area to explore.
When to go: The garden is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm or dusk, and there is a tearoom which is open until the end of October, if the weather is fair.
Stowupland Cottage Gardens, near Stowmarket, Suffolk
One of the highlights of St Elizabeth Hospice’s Great Garden Trail is the chance to see not one but three gorgeous cottage gardens in Stowupland. As well as masses of roses, shrubs and other flowers, other attractions include water features, an aviary, treehouses and summerhouses, one of which won the “summerhouse of the year” title in a national newspaper. The gardens also include a former winner of Garden of the Year for the EADT and BBC Radio Suffolk.
When to go: The gardens will be open in aid of the hospice on Sunday, June 17, from 1 to 6pm. There is parking and partial wheelchair access.
Somerleyton Hall Gardens, near Lowestoft
Set over 12 acres, the ornate and spectacular gardens at Somerleyton, surrounding the stately home, have been renowned since the mid-17th century. One of its most famous features is a yew maze, where you can enjoy getting lost! The route out is about 800 yards from the centre, but it might seem a lot longer. My Lady’s Garden, next to the maze, is being turned into a rose garden, with restoration of four lead statues. The arboretum has been opened up recently to display fine specimen trees and bulbs. There are also historic glasshouses to admire.
When to go: The hall and gardens are open from 10am to 5pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and bank holidays until October 28, and the gardens alone are open from 10am to 5pm on Wednesdays.
The Place for Plants, East Bergholt, Suffolk
On the Suffolk-Essex border, the gardens at East Bergholt Place are run together with a plant centre and cafe. The garden and arboretum were laid out at the turn of the 20th century by the great-grandfather of present owner Rupert Eley. They include many unusual flowering trees and shrubs, and if you visit in summer, you will be able to admire a wonderful display of rambling roses and hydrangeas. The garden also now contains the national collection of deciduous euonymus.
When to go: The gardens are open from 10am until 5pm daily until September 31.
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, South Walsham, Norfolk
Just a short drive from Norwich, this site in the Broads includes 130 acres of ancient woodland, with more than three-and-a-half miles of paths. A path renewal project is currently being carried out to improve the gardens’ accessibility.
Hydrangeas, Philadelphus and many wildflowers flourish here over the summer. The garden has stunning views over its own private broad, and it’s possible to take a boat trip, weather permitting, offering the chance to see kingfishers, grebe, swans and maybe an otter.
When to go: The garden is open all year round, and opening times are daily from 10am to 5pm until September.
Hidden Gardens of Bury St Edmunds
Historic Bury St Edmunds is famed for its fine buildings, but its annual Hidden Gardens event, in aid of St Nicholas Hospice Care, gives people a chance to discover a wealth of beautiful gardens hidden behind the walls, facades and gates. More than 30 gardens in the town centre are featured in the event, all within walking distance of each other, so you might want to concentrate on just a few!
When to go: This year’s event is on Sunday, June 17, from 11am to 5pm. All the featured gardens are listed in the programme, which is also your admission ticket. Tickets can be bought in advance from various outlets in the town, or you can buy them on the day from a marquee on Angel Hill, from 10.30am. Many other gardens are also opening over the summer in aid of St Nicholas Hospice, so see their website for full details.
Blickling Hall Gardens, near Aylsham, Norfolk
One of the National Trust’s best-known properties in East Anglia is historic Blickling Hall, which has 55 acres of grounds, including both formal and informal gardens, woodland, yew hedge topiary, a kitchen garden and sweeping green lawns. The glories of the garden include an orangery with a statue of Hercules, an 18th-century temple, a lake and a wilderness garden. With families in mind, gardeners have created two secret tunnels, one of which has tree stump seats for a secret picnic.
When to go: The gardens are open daily from 10am to 5.30pm, and there are daily guided tours of the garden at 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Helmingham Hall Gardens, Suffolk
Among the best-known gardens in East Anglia, Helmingham Hall gardens are Grade 1 listed, surrounding the spectacular moated hall, which has been owned by the Tollemache family since building started back in 1480. Red deer wander through the park, and the gardens include parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses, a walled kitchen garden, as well as many other striking features.
Well-known garden designer Xa Tollemache has had a strong influence on the gardens, redesigning the parterre in 1987. The herb and knot garden and a beautiful rose garden were also created in the 1980s.
When to go: The gardens are open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays until September 16, from 11am to 4.30pm, and also on bank holidays. There are also some special events held in the gardens over the season.
East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, near Happisburgh, Norfolk
This privately-owned garden has a reputation as one of the finest in Norfolk, including an amazing collection of rare and unusual plants, hedgerows, wildflower areas and ponds. Areas to explore include a rose garden, woodlands, a Mediterranean-inspired garden and even a desert area, inspired by the dramatic landscapes of Arizona. There is also a traditional cornfield area which has been left retaining the weeds and wildflowers of past eras. The site includes a tearoom and a plant nursery.
When to go: Opening times are from 12 noon to 5.30pm from Wednesday to Sunday and on bank holidays. There are also various guided tours which need to be booked via the website.
The Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market, Essex
These celebrated gardens were founded by the late Beth Chatto, an award-winning plantswoman, who took over an overgrown wasteland in 1960 and turned it into an inspirational informal garden. She continued to oversee the gardens into her 90s, and her family is continuing to manage them. One of the most famous areas is a Gravel Garden, which is never watered. The grounds cover around seven acres, and there is an on-site nursery and a tearoom.
When to go: The gardens are open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 10am to 5pm until the end of October.
The Plantation Garden, Norwich
This Norwich gem is nicknamed the “secret garden”, but it is not that hard to find, as it is close to the Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist. A three-acre restored Victorian garden, it is run by volunteers for the community. It was created by 19th-century upholsterer and cabinet maker Henry Trevor, who spent 40 years transforming a former chalk quarry into an oasis. The garden includes a fountain, terraces, greenhouses, walls and follies.
When to go: The garden is open every day from 9am to 6pm, with teas served on Sundays from 2 to 4pm until September 9. There are various special events over the year, and the garden will be included in the Heritage Open Day on Sunday, September 9.
428 Norwich Road, Ipswich
Spectacular gardens might be something mainly associated with the country, but ex-police officer Bob Lawrence has created a green oasis just one-and-a-half miles from Ipswich town centre.
The garden’s attractions include a sunken terrace leading to a box parterre, as well as a bog garden on an island bed, a fountain, herbaceous borders and a sundial, an orchard of fruit trees and an asparagus bed. All this and more is included in a third of an acre.
When to go: The gardens are open on June 9 and 10, in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice, from 2 to 7pm, and refreshments will be available.
Elsing Hall Gardens, near Dereham, Norfolk
These romantic, privately-owned gardens are set to open this year as part of the National Garden Scheme. They surround a medieval moated manor house dating from the 15th century. A striking feature of the gardens is its large number of old English roses, including hundreds of varieties, which are in the walled garden, many borders and also adorning the walls of the house. June is the perfect time to see the roses in full bloom. There is also a walled garden and a formal garden, a Gingko avenue and an interesting pinetum and terraced garden.
When to go: The gardens will be open on Sunday, June 17, from 1 to 4pm, with refreshments in aid of Elsing PCC.
By The Crossways, Kelsale, near Saxmundham, Suffolk
Looking for a change from formal gardens? This wildlife-friendly garden in an East Suffolk village might well be to your taste. The garden has been designed within an organic farm, reflecting its principles, with wilderness areas lying next to productive beds. It has winding walkways, lawns full of wildflowers and a large vegetable garden, as well as a distinctive crinkle-crankle wall. This garden has been designed to look good all year round, not just in summer.
When to go: It is opening in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice on July 22, from 11am to 4pm, and on September 9, again from 11am to 4pm, under the National Garden Scheme. Refreshments will be available on both occasions.
Thetford Open Gardens
Around 30 gardens will be open in Thetford this year for garden lovers to explore, the 12th year that this event has taken place in aid of St Nicholas Hospice Care. This includes some natural gardens leading to the river, and some which are small, but still full of interest. Programmes are available from the event’s website or from a number of venues in Thetford.
Expert gardeners will give tips and advice to visitors, and there will be plants and refreshments on sale in many of the gardens.
When to go: The open day is on Sunday, July 1, from 11am to 5pm.
Ickworth Gardens, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Owned by the National Trust, this Italianate Georgian palace has gardens which also have a strong Italian flavour, largely created by the legendary garden designer Capability Brown. These are the earliest gardens of their kind, designed by the first Marquess of Bristol as a pleasure ground for his family and guests.
Bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to Suffolk, the gardens include endless lush lawns, trees and pathways, as well as the Temple Garden with a classical summerhouse. An unusual feature is the stumpery, made up from the stumps of trees that were uprooted during the Second World War, when fields were sown to ‘Dig for Victory’.
When to go: The gardens, parkland and children’s playground are normally open from 9am to 5.30pm or dusk if earlier daily, but check the website for more details.
Bressingham Gardens, near Diss, Norfolk
The famous gardens at Bressingham cover more than 17 acres, with six different gardens to visit. Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden was created back in the 1950s by the founder of the family nursery, and boasted nearly 5,000 different species and varieties by the early 1960s. Adrian Bloom’s Foggy Bottom Garden is full of mature conifers, heathers, trees and shrubs, while the Summer Garden is full of different varieties of the Japanese ornamental grass Miscanthus sinesis.
Adrian’s Wood is being replanted with North American plants, while the Fragrant Garden is full of scented plants, as its name suggests. The Winter Garden has colour during the colder months.
When to go: Main season opening hours are from 10.30am to 5pm daily until October, in conjunction with the Bressingham steam museum. However, you can buy tickets for the garden which don’t include rides if you prefer.
Chelsworth Open Gardens, near Lavenham, Suffolk
It might be a tiny community, with only around 140 villagers, but Chelsworth has a big reputation for its Open Gardens Day.
This will be the 51st year the village has held this annual event. More than 20 gardens will be open, with live music, refreshments, plant sales and specialist stalls.
When to go: This year’s event is on Sunday, June 24, in aid of All Saints Church. The day runs from 11am to 5pm. Event passports, with details of the gardens taking part, will be available from car park attendants.
Pensthorpe Gardens, near Fakenham, Norfolk
Pensthorpe Natural Park includes four stunning gardens. The Millennium Garden is a one-acre patch full of colourful perennials and grasses. The other gardens are the Corten Infinity Garden, featuring banana and ginger plants, the innovative Wave and Wave Line Garden, a shaded woodland garden with semi-circular seating areas, and the Wildlife Habitat Garden, a water-focused setting which attracts dragonflies and damselflies, amphibians, butterflies and reptiles.
When to go: The park is open daily from 10am, with a closing time of 5pm up to July 24.