A lesson in history

PUBLISHED: 15:23 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:04 20 February 2013

The fount and star pool

The fount and star pool

Reflecting the Medieval origins of the site, Cressing Temple's Tudor Walled Garden is abundant with fascinating plants. Philippa Pearson explores this historic garden

WITH its origins in the 12th century and links to the Knights Templar crusade, Cressing Temple boasts two of the finest Templar barns in Europe and a site rich in archaeological history.
During Tudor times a merchant's manor house stood in the grounds which had a sumptuous Walled Garden, built in 1623. The passing of time and change of use for the site had long erased the manor house and its garden until Essex County Council bought the site in 1987.
Encouraged by archaeological information, the former Walled Garden was gradually rebuilt and planted up over four years using information from site records and other surviving Tudor gardens.
Today the garden is a delight for all the senses with plenty to see in each season. The Walled Garden is divided in to several different areas, each with its own purpose as the space has been re-created as it was in Tudor times when a garden was a source of food, healing and cleansing products.
Herbs, both medicinal and culinary, grow next to fruit, vegetables and flowers - everything has a purpose in this garden. The entrance borders feature plants often grown in pots or under windows to provide colour, scent and interest near the house, while the Pool Garden has an interesting collection of plants with particular household uses, including washing and insect repellents.
The four segments around the fish pool each have a Gallica rose whose strongly fragranced dried petals were an essential ingredient of pot pourri along with lavender, lemon balm and fennel. Soapwort was used in the laundry.
Fragrant and sweetly-scented flowers are in abundance in the Nosegay Garden where the flowers will have been used for garlands, decorations and cosmetic purposes, while the potager supplied vegetables, salads and herbs for cooking; fruit and nuts are found in the recently developed orchard which has several old varieties of apples.
Plants grown for their healing use are in the Medicinal Border including angelica, foxglove, lungwort, selfheal, comfrey and mandrake. The only remaining artefact from the original site is a brick terrace running along one side of the garden. Here an oak viewing platform looks down over an intricate Knot Garden.
The nearby Flowery Mead is a carpet of cowslips, primroses, snake's head fritillaries and other flowering bulbs in spring. For inspiration for your own garden, look no further.

Email Philippa at gardens@essexlifemag.co.uk

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