11 September 2018

Hever Castle Gardens


Delighted gardeners' photocall at the loggia by the lake

The brightest jewel in our "garden of Edenbridge" has to be the grounds of Hever Castle. OK - it's a bit pricey to enter, but boy do treats abound! From lakes to loggias, plinths to planters, daisies to dahlias, gargoyles to grottos - the delights and surprises come thick and fast. 
John and Heather Guy having a quick "moment"
in the Italian garden

After a sustaining coffee, 15 garden lovers climbed back up the hill to discover the first "secret" - a sunken garden hidden in the trees, new to most of us, full of ferns and water loving plants with a stream winding under dinky bridges. This led us through to the dahlia walk opposite the now "dark" outside theatre and an eye-popping display of the numerous blousy varieties of this late summer bloomer. (My gardening grandfather used to water his with neat urine to "keep the earwigs off"). 
Then we dropped down to the loggia terrace past perfectly formed cotoneaster - who would have thought of turning this untidy shrub into a cloud hedge - and walked alongside dripping walls supporting mosses, lichens, hostas and a number of "bosses" - appropriately called as it happened as one looked a dead ringer for our U3A leader Mike Collins!!  Grapes hung heavy above us as we turned into the famous Italian Garden built by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor in 1904 to display his classical statuary some of which is 2000 years old.
The Wildflower Meadow

What a perfect mix of ancient and modern.The planting here is immaculate set off to perfection with statues of Pan, Bacchus, Chinese dragons, cherubs, Roman columns etc. punctuated by dark green, pencil-thin, cypress trees.  At the end of the Italian garden, a large loggia fronts the lake (scene of the upcoming triathlon swim 22nd/23rd September) so we paused for a group photo echoing the numerous wedding photo calls that use this stunning backdrop. Behind the loggia sits the renowned rose garden, now in its second flush of the summer but lacking somehow the heady scent of blooms in the June sunshine. So generally the roses looked better than they smelt but then we all know people like that.

The dreaded Japanese knotweed

The restaurant now called us. After a rather indifferent (mostly the staff) lunch several people had to head off for various reasons leaving the intrepid amongst us to "walk the lake". The large lake is fed by our very own River Eden and is about a one hour walk around its perimeter. We were somewhat aghast at the amount of Japanese knotweed fringing the lake doing its best to look innocent as it sprouted pretty, creamy blooms.Through the woodland walk and along to the waterfall occupied by swans and cygnets daring one another to go to the edge, we stopped to acknowledge a memorial tree planted for a would-be SAS soldier who died during training in a heatwave on the Brecon Beacons in 2013. He proposed to his girl friend whilst boating on the lake and later married at Hever, an iconic spot to RIP but such a sad story.  As we rounded the head of the lake we could all see the most glorious bank of colour up ahead. As we approached it was clearly a stunning wildflower meadow planted for the first time this year. It was not strictly "wild" but this mattered not - bright pink cosmos, blue cornflower, yellow daisies, red poppies all blooming together to create the most glorious of pallets. We popped  into the Japanese Tea House - a folly of course - there was not a porcelain cup in sight!  Then back via the water maze where we mostly all became 5 again and jumped through spurts of water triggered by our weight as we aimed for the safety of the tower folly at the centre. 
Garden lovers

Alongside the castle maze (which we knew better than to try) we discovered another waterside garden fringed in box hedging and sporting a topiary chess set - Henry VIII style. Some pleasant moments were passed sniffing everything we could reach in the herb garden. We made our way back to the entrance passing the picture-book castle and then some reindeers, birds, turtles and pigs - all crafted out of box hedge and displaying the rather hopeful suggestion that we "keep off the grass". All in all a day full of beauty, history, nature and friendship. The perfect way to spend a sunny Monday in retirement!

Happy Days-  Briar.

NEXT VISIT: 10th October
Circular walk around Knole Park - morning only, followed by lunch at the White Hart. Please let me know if you would like to join us.