Exploring the Quiet Gardens of the county

PUBLISHED: 10:52 15 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:52 15 May 2017

A bridge over the pond

A bridge over the pond


The peaceful tranquillity of the gardens at Goosebury Hall near Epping are the perfect place to refresh the spirit.

The labyrinth areaThe labyrinth area

For Michael Chapman, the three acres of gardens at Goosebury Hall at Epping Long Green is the perfect place to pause for thought.

A summerhouse to sit in and be stillA summerhouse to sit in and be still

‘The space is perfect as a Quiet Garden,’ he says, ‘as there are plenty of places to sit and take time to be quiet, and to reflect before continuing your walk around the garden.’

Agapanthus in late summer by the houseAgapanthus in late summer by the house

Quiet Gardens are accessible, friendly and tranquil spaces where people can nurture stillness and spiritual refreshment. The outdoor space and garden act as both a context and focus to share the inner search for wholeness, natural beauty and silence, and in which contemplative tradition can be explored. As well as being part of the Quiet Garden Movement, the tranquil gardens at Goosebury Hall are opening this year for the first time for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), in the 90th anniversary year of the beginnings of the Essex NGS.

The garden is tranquil even in winterThe garden is tranquil even in winter

The gardens at Goosebury Hall first opened some 15 years ago as part of an open garden initiative in the village for the local church. A visitor to the garden in the early days was Chris Bard, BBC Essex’s Faith producer and presenter, who died suddenly in 2007.

A statue of St Francis in the gardenA statue of St Francis in the garden

‘At that time we had a paddock which had been used for our daughter’s horse,’ explains Michael, ‘and Chris thought it would make a good labyrinth.’ After some thought and research, the paddock was turned into a labyrinth, which makes a main feature of the garden and covers about a mile. You are encouraged to quietly walk the grass path of the labyrinth through long grass and wild flowers.

A welcoming gatewayA welcoming gateway

A labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many cultures around the world and can be dated as far back as 5,000 years. It is not an enclosed space that you find in a formal maze, and there’s more information available at the garden about the labyrinth. Chris helped Michael with the design of this special area, which was staked out initially to work out the route of the meandering path. Like the rest of the garden, there are plenty of places to sit, reflect and take time to be in your own space.

A tranquil pathway to wander downA tranquil pathway to wander down

Elsewhere, there are more formal gardens near the Grade II listed house and a wild copse and pond area, while the gardens are surrounded by gently rolling Essex countryside.

Reflections to reflect onReflections to reflect on

‘Despite being so close to Epping and Harlow, this area is very tranquil and has a stillness about it,’ Michael says. The garden does not have the formal borders you are likely to see in many traditional English gardens, but the planting is softer and more natural and blends with the surroundings. Michael and his wife Janet moved here more than 30 years ago and the couple worked together on the garden to create this beautiful haven.

Goosebury HallGoosebury Hall

Janet, who sadly died in 2016, was a keen horticulturalist and the gardens were very important to her. Michael, a former deputy lieutenant of Essex, opened the gardens last year in Janet’s memory to raise money for St Clare Hospice in Hastingwood, where she spent her final days, and the gardens open again in June for the hospice.

Fields ready for harvesting by the houseFields ready for harvesting by the house

Find out more

Goosebury Hall Gardens

Goosebury Hall is surrounded by countysideGoosebury Hall is surrounded by countyside

Goosebury Hall

Epping Long Green

A place to sit in the labyrinthA place to sit in the labyrinth

Epping Green, Epping

CM16 6QN

The hall and gardens nestle in fieldsThe hall and gardens nestle in fields


Goosebury HallGoosebury Hall

The gardens are open for the NGS on Monday, May 29 from noon to 5.30pm. Admission is £3 for adults, children free. Homemade teas are available and there is good wheelchair access. The garden is also open for St Clare Hospice on Saturday, June 24, from 11am to 5pm.

Near one of the pondsNear one of the ponds

The Quiet Garden Movement


Planting near the housePlanting near the house

There are more than 300 Quiet Gardens worldwide which nurture access to outdoor space for prayer and reflection in a variety of settings, such as private homes, churches, retreat centres, schools and hospitals

Lavender in summer by the houseLavender in summer by the house

How to create a quiet garden

Try some of these features in your own garden to create a place of tranquillity

Formal but natural planting nearer the houseFormal but natural planting nearer the house

Let the grass grow

A beckoning bridge in the gardenA beckoning bridge in the garden

Mow meandering pathways through an area of the lawn and take time to walk here and see what wildflowers will emerge and how that attracts wildlife.

The labyrinth in springThe labyrinth in spring

A moss garden

Green is the most relaxing colour of all, so try a mossy-clad feature in a damp, shady area of the garden.

Cottage garden flowers

Turn formal borders into an informal space by planting self-seeding cottage garden flowers that will fill the area.

Add a pathway

Create a walking space around a lawn with a pathway to contemplate and reflect, adding scented plants along the way to bush up against.

A Place to Sit

Position lots of seats in the garden to sit and enjoy planting, views and open space.

Just Add Water

He sound of gently running or bubbling water is soothing and peaceful

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