Louise Fisher explores the secret (and not so secret) gardens of Norfolk and Suffolk
Now the weather is perking up, the sun is peeking through the clouds and spring has made its mark on the landscape, it’s a great time to explore some of the incredible gardens spread throughout the East Anglian countryside.
Whilst some are well known and have quite a reputation, there are others that are little known to the general public. These surprising hidden gems will make you pause in awe. Idyllic spots nestled deep in the countryside; the perfect space to stop, take a breath, soak up the sound of the bees and the chirruping of the birds. Horticultural fans will no doubt enjoy the bursting blooms but you don’t need to be a gardening buff to enjoy the beauty of a well-tended garden.
Let us start the journey with Fairhaven Garden and Water Garden, hidden away in the heart of the Broads. Set within a vast 130 acre ancient woodland, the garden took 15 years to build. It was created in 1946 by Major Henry Broughton (who later became the 2nd Lord Fairhaven) who was a keen organic gardener and firmly believed that the best gardens didn’t need chemical fertilisers – only homegrown leaf soil should be used. This philosophy is still followed to this very day.
Although it’s a little late to catch the spectacular display of Candelabra Primulas in May, Fairhaven boasts some of the finest wildflowers, dragonflies and Hydrangeas for miles. Visit in August to enjoy these at their best. And it’s not just plants that Fairhaven is known for – it is home to 95 recorded species of birds including Marsh harriers, Bittern and Kingfishers. It is open all year round, but go now to catch some of the blooms.
Heading further north in the region, we come to Hindringham Hall Gardens which have been described as ‘Perfect in every detail’ and we would have to agree. The grounds include of a moat that dates back to 1100 (and is designated an ancient monument), a wild garden, water garden, and a stunning walled vegetable garden. The latter is now in full swing: scented Roses and Clematis will be having a second flush this time of year. Every corner you turn, you are greeted by beautiful blooms. Agapanthus, Anemone, Autumn Crocus, Dahlia and Asters are all on top form at the moment. The current owners have been gardening here for 23 years but the history dates back much further – don’t forget to enjoy the medieval fishponds. Hindringham Hall is open only from April through September, so make sure you plan a visit now to enjoy the garden at its best.
Just a short drive from Hindringham Hall is Pensthorpe Natural Park, which won Norfolk’s Best Large Attraction in 2014 and 2015. Pensthorpe combines four wildly different gardens; Woodland Wave Garden, Wildlife Habitat Garden, Millennium Garden and Hootz House Garden, each offering different concepts and ideas and each coming into its own at different times of the year.Buy Now