LOUISE MIDGLEY recommends a delightful day out in Swannington exploring English country gardens rounded off with a traditional cream tea
The owners of 10 gardens in the Norfolk village of Swannington, will be throwing open their gates to welcome the public to a feast of horticultural delights and a walk through centuries of history on Sunday 28 June.
As villages go Swannington may only be small but dates from medieval times. It is even mentioned in the Norman Domesday book of 1086.
Its name derives from the Nordic term for “Swen’s settlement” from when it was inhabited by Vikings; the village pays homage to its ancestry with a sign crowned with a Viking helmet.
This is the fifth time Swannington’s gardening fraternity has welcomed the public into its private gardens. However you don’t have to be a garden-lover to enjoy the day. The committee responsible for the event has also organised a variety of diversions to make it memorable for all members of the family.
There is an art exhibition in the church, which will feature sculptures and paintings from local artists and no fewer than three classic-car exhibitions on Swannington Common.
Swannington Farm to Fork is providing a barbeque, Panther Brewery will be ensconced in a beer tent and there will be a selection of stalls to explore.
Properties along the Swannington in Bloom trail include Swannington Manor, where the garden has previously been described as “the most romantic in Norfolk”.
The house built in 1700 creates a stunning backdrop to the garden. An impressive 300-year-old yew hedge, thought to be unique to this country, dominates creating a natural framework for the mixed shrub and herbaceous borders. Specimen trees, a sunken rose garden and a knot garden add further interest.
Manor Farm House
Accessible from Swannington Manor’s driveway is Manor Farm House, currently inhabited by John Powles who began his horticultural career, aged 16, as the gardener’s boy at the Manor.
John now runs the adjacent, Romantic Garden Nursery, which specialises in topiary, mature shrubs and a huge range of beautiful specimen plants.
Manor Farm House was built in the 1600s but the domestic garden was only planted about 40 years ago. It has more recently been improved with a knot garden and rose garden.
The moated Swannington Hall is another highlight of the trail. The formal gardens to the rear of the house and the semi-formal beds on the far side of the moat have been re-designed by regular Chelsea gold medallist Yvonne Innes.
Over 60 young trees have been planted in the paddocks and a raised-bed vegetable garden has been added, along with a new greenhouse.
The gardens will open from 10am-5pm. Tickets cost £5 per person on the day (under 16s free) or £4 in advance (available at a number of local outlets or by post until June 12). Homemade refreshments will be available in a number of locations.
For more information visit: www.swanningtoninbloom.org