10 stunning secret gardens in Somerset & Dorset
Fancy a snoop at someone else's dahlias? Then spend the day at one of these gorgeous gardens in Dorset and Somerset usually hidden away from the public.
The National Garden Scheme sees over 3,500 private gardens in England and Wales open to the public – adults pay from £4-8, while kids go free – with the proceeds going to charity. Great for when you’ve run out of inspiration with the kids and want them in beautiful spaces outdoors and out of your hair or you’re after some in-situ clever border design ideas for just a few quid . They often offer homemade cakes, so tea could be sorted too.
Here are some of our favourite secret gardens in Somerset and Dorset to start you off on your Frances Hodgson Burnett odyssey. Please check for any changes to dates and times before you set off – this is post-Covid, things can change in an instant!
Venn Cross Engine House, Waterrow, near Taunton
Former Great Western Railway goods yards transformed into two gorgeous gardens, on the Devon/Somerset border between Bampton and Wiveliscombe. Trees, shrubs, orchid-rich wildflower meadow, bog gardens, sweeping herbaceous borders, streams, ponds (with koi carp), veg plot, hornbeam walkway, woodland paths – dotted with railway and sculptural features throughout. Sat 28 & Sun 29 Aug.
22 Avon Avenue, Ringwood
Japanese style water garden with ponds, waterfalls, water lilies, resident goldfish and sculptures, with azaleas, rhododendrons and topiary all around. Sun 12 Sept.
Batcombe House, Batcombe, near Shepton Mallet
Stunningly designed plantswoman’s gardens with kitchen terraces and a potager leading to a wildflower orchard as well as a contemporary amphitheatre with herbaceous borders, interesting trees and shrubs. Sat 11 Sept.
The Old Rectory, Pulham, near Dorchester
Formal gardens surrounding an 18th century rectory with views, yew pyramids, planted terraces, parterres, mature trees, a pond, fernery, a ha-ha (a sunken fence, typical in 18th century landscaping), a hornbeam circle and – if you’ve time – 10 acres of woodland walks. Sun 5 Sept.
Elworthy Cottage, near Taunton
A one-acre plantsman’s garden on the Brendon Hills on the edge of Exmoor. Island beds, unusual plants, wildflower areas (with lots of wildlife) and at this time of year, crocosmias, heleniums, asters and ornamental grasses. Recreate the atmos with plants from their nursery next door. Mon 30 Aug.
The Mill House, Netherbury
Six and half acres, with formal gardens – lawns, terrace, walled garden – veg patch, wild areas and orchard in a beautiful setting with mill house, mill stream and pond. Keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers! Weds 8 & Thurs 9 Sept.
The Hay Barn, Ilminster
Pretty gardens surrounding an old stone barn conversion, with unusual plants, shrubs and trees including a gravel garden, herbaceous beds, rose garden and woodland. Sun 12 Sept.
Higher Brimley Coombe Farm, Beaminster
An acre of garden with amazing views across the Marshwood Vale to the sea. Rose and herbaceous borders, prairie styled planting (yeehaw!) and an orchard with paths mown through the long grass. Thurs 9 Sept.
Yews Farm, Martock
Dramatic planting in a walled garden, with pots, cracked concrete garden (sounds intriguing), kitchen garden, greenhouses – and organic cider orchard and cider barn (with tasting!). Sun 12 Sept.
For more gardens taking part in the scheme see the National Garden Scheme’s website.