It’s been a while since I have been out to visit somewhere and this being a bank Holiday weekend seemed the ideal time for a day trip. With the weather forecast being a bit doubtful for the Saturday and Monday and Sunday being the bets day, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that we chose Sunday for our trip; but no, Saturday was the day first suggested and Saturday was the day we went! The destination for our visit was Pashley Manor Gardens (www.pashleymanorgardens.com) near Ticehurst in Kent, and so after an easy journey we arrived at our destination deep in the Kent countryside. Getting our of the car the first thing we noticed was how very quiet it was, apart from the deafening sound of multiple birdsong that is! But of course that just goes to show how quiet it was that the birdsong was so audible.
Parking in the field designated as the car park, we walked down the driveway to the front of the house. The house (as it is today) itself was built in 1543 by Sir Thomas May and extended again in 1720 when a Georgian facade was added to the Tudor timber frame building. A Grade 1 Listed Building, the house is a private family home and not open to the public. The front elevation is limewashed render in a pink colour with an abundance of oak beams with beautiful climbing roses that echo the colour of the house rambling across the walls.
Pashley Manor House
The main reason for our visit was the annual Sculpture Trail that wa staking place over the Bank Holiday. Personally I really like to see interesting sculptural pieces in a garden, and Trails such as this offer a great opportunity to see some interesting work in often spectacular settings. This particular trail was a mix of local and well known artists with prices to suit most pockets. This year was also the 20th anniversary of the Tulip Festival, but sadly we were about a week late for this as most of the tulips had mostly ‘gone over’. That said, I can imagine that they would have looked fantastic a couple of weeks ago – could be a good reason to visit again next year!
The garden is not huge, but is well laid out with formal lawns giving way to a lake with its own island and temple, a woodland walk, ornamental pond complete with ducks, and three smaller ponds fed by the lake and larger pond. A peaceful walled kitchen and formal private garden (with a small swimming pool) lies to one side of the house with stunning borders, and an abundance of produce growing in the balmy micro climate created by the walls.
Map of Pashley Manor Gardens, Kent
Old Pump and Stone Trough in the Walled Garden
Selection of plants in the greenhouse in the walled garden
Sculpture of a boy reading on the diving board
This has got to be one of the best tended gardens I have visited and I particularly enjoyed the woodland walk around the perimeter of the whole garden.
A cheeky Hare sculpture pops up from behind an area of wild grass
A sculpted lady sits by the lake reading her book
At the bottom of the woodland walk is a small pond which revealed a quirky sculpture of rowers carrying their boat…
Four Man Crew by Guy Portelli
This is such a fun and well modelled sculpture which provides a suprising interlude to the densely wooded area surrounding the pond.
My favourite sculptures were the stylised Italian Renaissance inspired figures by Philip Jackson. I know that they can provoke a ‘love them or hate them’ sensibility, but if I had the right place to site one and indeed the budget to afford one, then I would have one in my garden, I love them!
Glass Slipper by Philip Jackson
The Sword Master by Philip Jackson
Of course no visit would be complete with out the obligatory tea and cake, or in our case we had lunch first, walked round the gardens and then cake just before leaving! The food was very good, freshly made on the premises with a good selection of cake as well! The staff were friendly and helpful, and there was plenty of seating both inside and out. While we ate our lunch we were joined by some of the many ducks that live on the lake, scavenging for dropped crumbs! One pair made a bid to go inside the cafe but were shooed out, but not before shrugging their shoulders! Apparently they know they aren’t allowed in and usually turn round when told and almost always shrug their shoulders as they leave!
Ducks at lunch!
As we left, we stopped in the shop where we bought ourselves a lovely copper tulip made by the artist Emily Stone (who was also exhibiting in the trail) as part of the Tulip Festival. The flower itself is the “Classic, elegant Rembrandt” variety and looks spectacular in burnished, lacquered copper.
Copper Tulip outside my studio
One final, sneaky purchase before we left was this fabulous printed scarf in vibrant jewel colours by Hem and Edge.
New summery scarf!
Pashley Manor Gardens is small but beautifully formed. Open April to end September the garden hosts a small but interesting programme of events to delight visitors. All of the gardens are accessible to the disabled and wheelchair users and the path which forms the woodland walk has a proper surface – no slippy or muddy bits! All in all a peaceful and pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.