Photo: Sue Warren
The beautiful Bury St. Edmunds Abbey Gardens presents a fascinating combination of history and horticulture. No visit to this historic town would be complete without a stroll through these impressive gardens where there really is something for everyone.
Escape the bustle of the high street in the 14 acre park that is home to an array of formal gardens and floral displays. Set in the grounds of a former Benedictine Abbey (a portion of which can still be seen today), the gardens were originally created in 1831 by Nathaniel Hodgson. Hodgson took inspiration for the designs from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Brussels which he sought to recreate in Suffolk.
When the 20,000 plants that are bedded in the spring for the summer display come out in full force, the gardens are a staggering riot of colour. It is no real surprise that the Abbey Gardens have been the recipient of the prestigious Green Flag Awards on multiple occasions! Unwind in the tranquil calm and shade of the Water Garden and admire the many species of birds that can be found within The Aviary.
A few particular highlights within the grounds include the Pilgrim’s Herb Garden, inspired by a 13th century manuscript found within the Abbey that is now housed at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The garden features many medicinal plants, originally used to ward off evil spirits and cure ailments.
Stop by the Sensory Garden, an experimental garden conceived in 1990 designed specifically for the enjoyment of the visually impaired. Visitors will instead find themselves stimulated by the variety of aromas emanating from the many herbs and plants.
Finally, you cannot help but admire the classic beauty of the Appleby Rose Garden, home to over 400 rose bushes. Learn more about the name behind the garden and the history of American servicemen and women during the war.
This is just a small glimpse into the many gardens that West Suffolk has to offer, so if you consider yourself an amateur horticulturalist, flower enthusiast or are simply looking for somewhere to while away a summer’s afternoon, alone or with company, then get out there and get exploring!
Fullers Mill Garden
Photo: Clive Nichols
Fullers Mill Gardens in West Stow is a small slice of paradise. Situated on the quiet banks of the River Lark, the picturesque gardens that you see today were the brainchild of former resident Bernard Tickner, who created this oasis from mere scrub and woodland.
Rare species of plants and flowers can be found thriving in the dry soil conditions that are more typical to Mediterranean regions. Walk amongst perfect perennials in the Top Garden, where a breath-taking backdrop of lilies can be found in early summer.
Amble over the footbridge and past the Mill Pond, and you will become enveloped by the spicy aroma of Spartiums and other beautiful blooms, transporting you to foreign climbs before the winter weather introduces an army of snowdrops to the garden.
Down in the Low Garden, you will find raised terrace beds, tightly packed with freshly sown bulbs. The mixture of sunny glades and shady spots offer perfect conditions for all manner of woodland plants to thrive here.
A small concession fee applies to contribute to the upkeep of the garden, and a range of light refreshments (including the necessary tea and cake!) along with a range of plants propagated from the garden are also available for purchase from The Bothy.
National Trust Ickworth Park & Gardens
Photo: National Trust Images / James Dobson
Surrounding the Georgian Italianate Palace, the 1800 acres of parkland and gardens at National Trust Ickworth are a must-see when visiting Suffolk. Walk through the rolling landscape and woodland which offer a glimpse of the palace's rather grand Rotunda or stroll through the walled garden and seasonal meadow which are especially fragrant in summer.
The Walled Garden has had many different identities since it was first created in 1701. From 18th century leisure gardens to 20th century working kitchen gardens, it's the largest of it's kind in East Anglia.
In centuries gone by, a small army of gardeners kept Ickworth’s family, guests, and servants fed with fresh produce grown in the garden, which included pineapples, nectarines, peaches and figs.
In 2009 The National Trust team found the Head Gardener’s notebook from the 1900s, which outlines the fruit lists from the late 1870s and the 1920s with rough planting plans enabling the gardeners toay to follow in his footsteps as Ickworth’s Walled Garden will be returned to its early twentieth century appearance and restored to full working order. Heritage fruit and vegetables will grow in the garden, just as they once did in its heyday at the height of country house entertaining.
Walk a little further away from the house and you are surrounded by the rolling fields; a working estate, it is home to grazing sheep who maintain the grassland (along with two Shepherds). It's the perfect place to enjoy a walk with the dog, or a family picnic in the picturesque Suffolk countryside.
In the small town of Euston just south of Thetford sits Euston Hall, a grand country house that has been the official seat of the Dukes of Grafton for centuries.
The extensive grounds surrounding the house are a fine exercise in 18th century landscaping, featuring designs by William Kent and Capability Brown, who worked intermittently here for some time. These designs compliment the original planning of the estate’s parkland, established by John Evelyn in the 1600s.
The gardens that you can enjoy today include 110 acres of parkland and 65 acres of pleasure grounds. Particular sights of interest include a charming watermill on the banks of the river Blackbourne, dating back to the 1670s, and ‘The Temple’ (unfortunately this is not open to the public), an unusual octagonal folly that was one of Kent’s additions. Walk through the garden’s balustrade terraces and the many herbaceous borders before enjoying the formal rose gardens and perfectly manicured lawns.
The stunning gardens of Kentwell Hall are a perfect combination of ancient features and careful landscaping.
The three quarter mile long Avenue of ancient limes by which the visitor approaches the Hall was planted in 1676. Another Lime Avenue but not nearly so long was planted in 1978 to mark HM The Queen's Silver Jubilee.
Enjoy the Walled Garden, which still retains the shape of its early origins with the additions of a large Herb Garden and a Potager. The shrubbery boasts magnificent Acers and a succession of spring bulbs and flowers.
Some of the Yews in the grounds are of great age, others are more recent planting. Clipping ancient ones, some 50 ft. high, into geometric shapes, and modern ones into lively topiary (such as the striking Pied Piper) is all part of recent changes. A dry section of the old Secondary Moat is where a Herbaceous Border is now being formed. This Lawn in summer has massed Wild Pyramid (and other) Orchids.
The great Cedars in the hall's grounds date from the late 18th C. The Sculpted Tree, on the theme of the Tower of Babel, perhaps the UK's biggest single wood carving.
National Trust Melford Hall
Enjoy a gentle stroll through the garden of National Trust Melford Hall or a brisk walk in the park. Discover the colours, scents and sights of the seasonal planting throughout the gardens, from bright blooms in spring, to the buzz of the colourful herbaceous borders in summer.
The garden at Melford Hall is in two distinct parts on the north and west sides of the house. The West Garden is dominated by the Banqueting House built by Sir Thomas Savage to entertain his most favoured guests. At the other end of the garden, there is the crinkle-crankle wall originally built in 1739 and rebuilt after the gales of 1987. There are a number of specimen trees such as the Oriental plane or the Judas trees covered in pink blossom in late April and May. Additionally in the lawn is Lady Ulla’s pond which is being renovated and will be a reflecting pond. The pond provides a habitat for Great crested newts and other amphibians, which we're carefully managing to ensure they can thrive.
The herbaceous borders by the west wall are at their most splendid in the months of June to August, although the 100 year old wisteria will be showing off in May.
In the North East corner there is ‘Lord Somerset’s residence’, a quiet woodland corner planted with a variety of shade loving plants. The woodland supports a variety of wildlife and is a favourite spot to look for insects or catch a glimpse of our smaller garden birds. After exploring the garden the North lawn is an ideal place to relax on a sunny day, enjoying a cup of tea and a view of the wider estate and parkland where cattle and sheep graze.
Melford Hall is surrounded by a deer park created by Sir John Savage in 1613. A short walk will enable you to take in the splendours of this picturesque park. You can obtain a map from Visitor Welcome which will guide you from the start at the Northern end of the car park. As you walk up the hill you will have views of the North and East facades of the Hall which has been standing for close to 500 years.
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