English Gardens - South
wonderful gardens are in the steep wooded Torrington Valley. They are
designed to provide colour and interest throughout the year. In Mid May,
there were still spring bulbs in flower, lots of blossom, particularly
cherry blossom and friitllieries naturalised in the meadowland. There is
something for everyone to enjoy with woodland, meadows, ornamental
gardens, bog garden along the lake and stream and, not forgetting,
fruit and vegetable gardens. The younger visitors are not forgotten
either and play areas are provided for them. As one would expect with
RHS, the gardens are carefully maintained with a heavy mulch of chipped
bark keeping weeds down. Nearly all the plants are labelled and there
are small information boards around the gardens.
The house and gardens around it were bought by the father of Lady Anne Berry as a fishing lodge and she inherited the estate in 1931. She notably described the gardens as ‘dull and labour intensive, typically Victorian with a great use of annuals in beds around the house.’ The stone garden was created by Lady Anne’s mother and, with its steps and dwarf flowering shrubs, was the first attempt to create interest.
Lady Anne was in Spain in 1959 recuperating from measles. when she met Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram who was a keen plant collector and gardener. He introduced her to the glories of gardens and gardening. She gradually developed the gardens around Rosemoor House over the next thirty years, travelling around the world to collect plants for it. The gardens were opened to the public in 1974 and a small nursery established specialising in rare and unusual plants.
The house with 8 acres of gardens around it and another 32 acres of mainly coniferous woodland were left to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1988. Since then, the Society has bought more woodland on the other side of the A3124. A visitor centre has been built. Commercial conifers have been felled and replanted with deciduous or ornamental conifers. Grassland has been returned to wild flower meadow, pond dug and a stream and bog garden created. New formal gardens have been created as well as orchards and a walled vegetable and fruit garden. The gardens are evolving all the time with a new cool garden opening this year.
Bisected by the A3124, the gardens form two very distinct areas, linked by an underpass.
Leaving the Visitor Centre takes you into the newest part of the garden with a brightly coloured border filled with seasonal bedding. Below is the Formal Garden with its neatly trimmed yew hedges dividing it into different areas.
To the left are the winer and model gardens. Beyond on the far slope, is woodland. To the right of the Formal Gardens is an area of wildflower meadow with the pond and stream garden.
Beyond that is the orchard and walled fruit and vegetable garden.
The underpass leads to the Bicentenary Arboretum and woodland. At the far end is the house and Lady Anne’s original garden.
The gardens are open all year and visitors are given a map with a trail highlighting areas and plants of interest at the time. Make sure you choose a dry day to visit as there is no shelter in the gardens. There is a cafe and shop selling a wide range of plants by the Visitor Centre. The Wisteria Tea Room in the house is open from the end of March until September and sells cakes, ice creams and drinks. Shepherd’s Rest in the stream field sells wraps, cakes and drinks.
The gardens are off the A3124 just over a mile south of Great Torrington. The post code is EX38 8PH ad the grid reference is SS 500179.
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