Earlier this week I was intending to get to grips with making some new work, but the morning sunshine was simply far too tempting and I had to go out and visit something. As it was a particularly warm morning I decided on a trip to nearby Nymans, a National Trust house and garden.
Owned by the Trust since 1953, the house and garden were purchased in the late 19th century by Ludwig Messel who set about creating a house for family life and entertaining. His son, Lt Col Leonard Messel redeveloped the house, turning it into a charming stone manor house in the Tudor/Gothic style. At the same time, he and his wife Maud started work on expanding the gardens before opening to the public in the 1930’s. A massive fire devastated the house destroying the library which contained a library of botanical books and papers of international importance, as well as much of the belongings of the family and servants. The house was partially rebuilt and became the home of Anne Messel (daughter of Leonard), Countess of Rosse and mother of photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones,1st Earl of Snowdon. On the death of Leonard Messel the house was bequeathed to the NT who have maintained it since.
The ruins of Nymans House now preserved as a feature of the garden
I have visited Nymans several times and have always found it to be a strange garden which doesn’t seem to ‘flow’. Indeed walking through the herbaceous borders from the shop and cafe towards the house I always feel that these borders are just a corridor of colour marking a pathway through trees on the way to the Rose Garden. Interestingly I have never been to the Rose Garden when it is in full bloom, and I understand it is a sight to behold. Sadly for me, even at the end of June I was to be thwarted in this again. Some of the roses had already bloomed and were rapidly fading, while the main body of bushes were still putting on growth and not ready to pop their buds – if indeed they had buds to pop! Must be the funny weather this spring!
Two of the Rose varieties grown in the Rose Garden and view across the Rose Garden
My route toward the house took me past the Potting Shed where the Dorking Branch of the Embroiderers Guild have a small exhibition currently showing until the end of the month featuring work which has been inspired by a group visit to the gardens. Sadly the Potting Shed was too dark to take any useful photographs, but I did manage to get one of one of 3 Fantasy Flowers which were part of the exhibition.
The Potting Shed exhibition space with beautiful standard Wisteria and a
Walking on toward the house through the Walled garden and summer borders I passed under the ornate Italianate arch, opposite which are a set of stone steps that lead to the house.
Italianate gateway to walled garden and the front of Nymans House
The front garden is small and neatly tended with a delightful brick Dovecote in one corner. In the porchway of the front door was a lovely little tableau scene of some cute teddy bears in a basket together with cut flowers and arranged flowers.
To one side of the house an open weathered wooden gate gives a tantalising glimpse into another formal garden with clipped castellated hedges and newly replanted Knot-style garden.
gateway inviting you to step through and formal garden that lies beyond
Walking round the house to the back the garden opens up into a more open space eventually giving way to trees and fantastic views across the High Weald. The house itself is not without charming decorative details and as well as some interesting ‘grotesques’ and the family Coat of Arms there is a delightful weather urn standing beside a doorway as well as an old bell with pull handle which itself is weathered with the most lovely verdigris patina.
Urn, bell and dovecote
A gentle stroll back through the tree lined garden paths took me past some beautiful Allium and iris borders ( I was a bit jealous of these as my own alliums have not been very successful this year), while nestling in a tree lined glade I spotted two colourful teepees – play things for the younger visitors. Funny, but when I was a child they were always called wigwams and now they seem to be teepees. It’s odd how names for things get dropped over time and because I was interested in why this should be I ‘Googled’ it and found out that a Teepee (Tipi) is actually the correct term for the type of portable structure at Nymans while a Wigwam is a more permanent structure. Don’t you just love Wikipedia!
Iris and Alliums at Nymans
Of course any visit to a National Trust property wouldn’t be complete without looking in the shop, and although I didn’t buy anything I did spot these cute ironwork Robins…