Glorious gardens in Essex

PUBLISHED: 11:50 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013

Audley End

Audley End

Essex Life takes in the sights and scents of 15 of the county's most stunning gardens open for the spring

Audley End House and Gardens
BUILT by Thomas Howard, the first Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer to King James I, in the early 1600s, Audley End served as a royal palace under King Charles II.
Surrounding the house is a superb park, designed in 1763 by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. At the rear of the house, a formal parterre garden, originally planted around 1830, has been restored and adds a spectacular splash of colour in summer. Audley End also boasts one of England's finest organic Victorian kitchen gardens.
Thanks to the detailed diary of William Cresswell, an under-gardener, and recently discovered drawings, this two-acre garden has been restored to its original glory.

Audley End House and Gardens
Audley End, Saffron Walden CB11 4JF
01799 522399
Opening times: Open from 10am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays in March and October and from 10am to 6pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from April 1 to September 30. Admission is £9.20 for adults and £4.60 for children

RHS Garden Hyde Hall
A VISIT to Hyde Hall is unforgettable in any season. In spring the woodland is punctuated by rhododendrons and camellias, while the banks of the Queen Mother's Garden are covered in daffodils. Summer visitors can enjoy the sweet scents of the rose garden and the Australian & New Zealand Garden. Autumn sees hundreds of spiders' webs strung across seed heads, while the mellow tones of fruit and turning leaves provide a rich display. And in winter stark silhouettes of trees and pruned roses contrast with colourful winter beds.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall
Buckhatch Lane, Rettendon, Chelmsford CM3 8ET
01245 400256
Opening Times: Open every day except Christmas Day, from 10am to 6pm March to September and 10 to 4pm October to January. February, 10am to 5pm. Admission is £5 for adults and £1.50 for children

The Beth Chatto Gardens
CREATED from an overgrown wasteland, garden-writer Beth Chatto began her garden in 1960 and set about finding plants to suit the difficult conditions. The large gravel garden has been filled with drought-loving plants. A soggy hollow has been transformed into a dramatic water garden, while the neighbouring woodland is illuminated by spring bulbs.

The Beth Chatto Gardens
Elmstead Market, Colchester CO7 7DB
01206 822007
Opening times: Open March 1 to the end of October, Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm. Also, November 1 to the end of February, Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm. The gardens and nursery are closed for two weeks over Christmas and the New Year. Admission is £4.50 per person. Under 14s are free

Layer Marney Tower
LAYER Marney Tower, the tallest Tudor gatehouse in the country, makes a stunning centrepiece for the surrounding gardens. The careful design provides interest throughout the year, with relaxed planting contained within the formal framework and an emphasis on scent and colour. Roses flourish, while mature trees shade the well-kept lawns and strong colours dominate the borders.

Layer Marney Tower
Layer Marney, Colchester CO5 9US
01206 330784
Opening times: Open March 20 to September 28, Sunday to Thursday (closed Friday and Saturday), noon to 5pm. Admission is £4.25 for adults and £2.75 for children

Gibberd Garden
IN 1956, Sir Frederick Gibberd, the Architect Planner for Harlow New Town, found a plot of land in Marsh Lane and decided to make it his family home.
He inherited a splendid lime avenue, a gazebo, a pool and length of riverbank and a 1907 bungalow which he modified and enlarged.
From 1972 until his death in 1984, Sir Frederick and his second wife, Patricia, bought and commissioned many sculptures for the garden. The result is a highly individual creation, with glades, groves and pools providing settings for more than 50 sculptures.

Gibberd Garden
Marsh Lane, Gilden Way,
Harlow CM17 0NA
01279 442112
Opening times: Open April to September, 2pm to 6pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Admission is £4 for adults and £2.50 for concessions

Hylands House and Estate
HYLANDS HOUSE is set in 574 acres of parkland, which is listed on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens.
In the early 19th century the internationally celebrated landscape designer, Sir Humphry Repton, was commissioned by Cornelius Kortright (owner 1797-1814), to make improvements to the parkland and re-model the house. Repton set about designing the Serpentine Lake and parkland, studded with orchestrated vistas, which have been restored today, together with the magnificent 15-acre pleasure gardens.

Hylands House and Estate
London Road, Chelmsford CM2 8WQ
01245 605500
Opening times: Hylands Park is open to the public throughout the year. The gates at the park entrances are opened at 7.30am and closed at 6pm in March, 8pm in April and September, 9pm in May and August, 10pm in June and July and 7pm in October

Cressing Temple
CRESSING TEMPLE takes its unusual name from the medieval monks of the Knights Templar who founded the two vast wooden barns, which form the centrepiece of this delightful rural estate.
Nestled to one side of the barns is the walled garden. Inspired by an age when gardens combined beauty and functionality, it is the result of painstaking research and archaeological excavation, and is filled with species widely cultivated at the time.
Plants have been carefully grouped according to their usage, with borders devoted to medicinal, culinary and dyers' plants, a potager and a small orchard and nuttery.

Cressing Temple
Witham Road, Cressing,
Braintree CM77 8PD
01376 584903
Opening times: From March 1 until the end of October the site is open every day except Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Admission price is £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for concessions

Marks Hall
THE gardens and arboretum at
Marks Hall are an ever-changing delight. The 17th-century walled garden, alongside the upper lake, is a favourite spot, while the five gardens on the main terrace have been designed to inspire and entertain every visitor through a mix of contemporary landscaping and vibrant planting.
Each comes to its peak in succession throughout the summer. On the opposite lake bank, the Millennium Walk is planned to delight during the shortest days of the year.

Marks Hall
Coggeshall CO6 1TG
01376 563796
Opening times: Open from 10.30am until 4.30pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until March 16. Then from March 18 to November 2, everyday except Mondays from 10.30am to 5pm. Also November 2 to end of December, 10.30am until dusk, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for children

Colchester Castle Park
A jewel in Colchester's crown, this award-winning, 61-acre, Grade II listed Victorian park is set on a hill, with views extending over the Roman town wall and River Colne to High Woods Country Park.
The park is dominated by its magnificent Norman castle, built over the remains of the Roman Temple of Claudius.
In front of the castle, a formal rose garden and sunken fish pond provide a peaceful oasis from the bustling streets. There's also a badge border, sensory garden and children's play area.

Colchester Castle Park
Colchester CO1 1DN
01206 282962
Opening times: Dawn until dusk every day of the year

Gardens of Easton Lodge
ONCE the formal gardens of a large country house, the historic gardens of Easton Lodge had almost entirely disappeared before Brian and Diana Creasey purchased part of them in 1971.
In 1903, leading Edwardian designer Harold Peto was commissioned to create a suitable setting for the house. His design contained formal plantings together with a sunken Italian garden, courtyard and Japanese garden.
Today the 23 acres of gardens have a magical atmosphere, as the splendour of a century ago is gently revealed.

Gardens of Easton Lodge
Little Easton, Great Dunmow CM6 2BB
01371 876979
Opening times: Open from noon to dusk every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday for the main season from Easter until end October

Bridge End Gardens
THIS tranquil oasis is the result of the single-mindedness of two philanthropists, who used their wealth to create a private Victorian garden.
The garden was first laid out by Atkinson Francis Gibson and subsequently enhanced by his son in the 1840s. It is divided into a number of enclosures, each with a different design and fulfilling a different landscape function. One of these is the Dutch garden, famously sketched by Edwardian garden designer Gertrude Jekyll around 1914. There is also a fragrant rose garden, sheltered walled garden, extensive lawns and a wilderness area.

Bridge End Gardens
Bridge Street, Saffron Walden CO10 1BT
01799 510444
(Tourist Information Centre)
Opening Times: Bridge End Gardens are open during normal working hours although access to the garden varies during the evening, dependant on the season

SPENCERS is a small and very traditional English country estate. It is set in 100 acres of parkland with many fine, mature trees and is surrounded by gorgeous gardens recently renovated by renowned landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.
The one-acre walled garden retains the original layout dating from around 1760 and has an elegant timber-framed greenhouse, said to be the oldest in Essex. Crammed with unusual herbaceous plants, in spring and summer the borders here overflow with a rich variety of blooms. There are also vegetable beds, a peony border, a herb garden and woodland gardens.

Great Yeldham, Essex CO9 4JG
01787 238175 / 07747 091444
Opening times: Open by appointment

Saling Hall Garden
THE 12-acre gardens surrounding this lovely Elizabethan house are largely the work of the present owner, wine and garden author, Hugh Johnson, and his wife, Judy, who acquired the estate in 1970. The elegant walled garden still retains its 17th century plan, with long borders framed with topiary.
Beyond the walls there is a large arboretum, containing around 900 species, and water features including the village duck pond and old moat, plus a secluded flowery water garden nestled in a hollow. There is also a Japanese garden, a kitchen garden and a tiny secret garden.

Saling Hall Garden
Great Saling, Braintree CM7 5DT
01371 850243
Opening times: Early May until late July each Wednesday from 2pm until 5pm

Feeringbury Manor Garden
THE gardens surrounding this 14th-century manor house feature an enormous variety of plants for both damp and dry conditions. At the top of the garden, a circle of wild flowers provides a delicious entrance, with lovely views to the River Blackwater. Further down, yew hedges surround intimate areas and two ponds, linked by a stream, allow moisture-lovers to flourish. The planting is luxuriant throughout but the layout is structured, and imaginative steel sculptures, designed by Ben Coode-Adams, provide a strong framework, including a striking steel trellis backing a beautiful long border at its peak in the summer. There is also a two-acre arboretum and kitchen garden.

Feeringbury Manor Garden
Coggeshall Road, Feering CO5 9RB
01376 561946
Opening times: Open 9am to 4pm from early May to late July, on Thursdays and Fridays, but not Bank Holidays

Green Island Gardens
SET within 19 acres of woodland, Green Island Gardens represent a plantsman's paradise, with a series of structured gardens displaying a huge range of unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. Professionally designed by their owner, Fiona Edmond, the gardens have been planned to ensure interest all year round and include mixed borders together with a seaside garden and a Japanese garden. There is also a woodland garden filled with ornamental trees and shrubs and underplanted with unusual bulbs as well as a water garden.

Green Island Gardens
Park Road, Ardleigh CO7 7SP
01206 230455
Opening times: Open 10am to 5pm, from February 1 to October 12
on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Bank Holiday Mondays, plus
the first two Sundays in
February and November

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