Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful private gardens that I have ever seen - Seend Manor, a grade II listed Georgian house in Wiltshire. The village of Seend lies on and around a hog's back ridge in the triangle formed by Melksham, Devizes and Trowbridge. The garden was opened to the public as part of Open Garden events in aid of Dorothy House Hospice Care.
This 18th Century walled garden is divided into quarters that transport you to the four corners of the globe. It was absolutely enthralling and worth the six hour round trip in the car from London. I went alone and armed with my Nikon DSLR camera. The weather wasn't great and it rained briefly but by mid afternoon the sun came out.
Stephen and Amanda Clark are the owners of Seend Manor and its walled garden inside the 28-acre grounds. I was fortunate enough to meet them both and they invited me in for coffee. The Clarks divide their lives between England and Hong Kong. Stephen is a founder and managing director of the Anglo Chinese Group, an investment and corporate advisory company; Amanda, who grew up in Hong Kong, is a director of Altfield, a business manufacturing, importing and retailing Chinese decorative objects.
The gardens were designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who have worked on many country house gardens from John Paul Getty to the Prince of Wales.
To the front and rear of the manor house, the grounds are elegant, green and restrained, with old trees, yew topiaries and hedges set off by large expanses of grass.
Stephen and Amanda have spent a lot of time travelling the world so it seemed natural to design the garden based on geographical themes in a series of four geographical areas which are separated by wide gravel paths up to 20 feet wide to accommodate the hornbeams running along them.
Firstly, there is China. The Clarks came up with their own design for this garden and for the central pagoda or ting. It took six weeks to build the ting but 18 months to erect. Twelve antique hitching posts surround the pagoda, each topped with a foo dog, the mythical lion-dog that guards against evil spirits.
The second "room" is Africa, because Stephen was born and grew up in Kenya and lived in South Africa. A stone obelisk is the centrepiece of Africa.
The third "room" is Italy because they have had many a happy holiday there.
And last but certainly not least is England and this is the garden with the most flowers - it is a romantic, box-edged garden full of roses. The Bannermans adore roses – their own rose garden at Hanham Court, near Bristol, is regularly open to the public. There are the old-fashioned roses that bloom only once a year and also those roses that repeat flower each year like 'Alister Stella Gray'. She has also included the modern, repeat-flowering bush rose 'Little White Pet' as standards among old roses such as crimson 'Tuscany Superb' and pink-striped 'Versicolor' ('Rosa Mundi').
In the rose garden are also peonies, lupins, delphiniums, pelargoniums, catmint, irises and many other English country garden flowers.
There is also a corridor of ferns and tree ferns set among stones and a grotto at the end of this. In this corridor there are 6ft lilies - the scented, white Himalayan Cardiocrinum giganteum, which find just enough moisture and nutrient to thrive.
The 180 degree view from the front lawn over a wild flower meadow and the Wiltshire countryside is absolutely incredible.
There are a number of lovely outbuildings including a large adjacent cottage with a large cottage style garden
and a huge stage block part of which they use to run their business and one wing is a cottage that they rent.
The vegetable garden has a series of raised beds as well as a berries and cherries protected from the birds and a series of fruit trees.
You are never far from the sound of water as there are fountains everywhere
And the stunning little village church, Holy Cross, is right next door.
I spent four hours wandering the gardens and enjoyed chatting with Amanda at length. I could have spent even longer there as there just sitting on all the seats and soaking up the views. After I left there I stopped at a pub on a canal near Devizes and sat in the sun for a half hour.
A wonderful day out of London and one that I shall never forget. Thank you Amanda and Stephen for your hospitality and the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labours. This is the only house & garden that has moved me to tears!!