Hestercombe, near Cheddon Fitzpaine in Somerset is a magical juxtaposition of different garden styles with the Georgian Landscape gardens rolling down a wooded valley dotted with temples and follies and a fabulous Edwardian garden – the masterpiece of Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll.   The estate was continuously owned by the Warre family from 1391 until 1872 and references to a garden can be found as far back as 1249.  The Landscape gardens with a succession of ponds and cascades, were planned out and commissioned during the 18th century and when the last of the Warre family died, the estate was bought by Viscount Portman who undertook extensive alterations in the Italianate style to the house and added a Victorian terrace.  Then, in 1913 his grandson commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to create a formal garden beyond the terrace – and he conceived the Great Plat working with his mentor and colleague, Gertrude Jekyll who created the planting.

The Great Plat is breathtakingly beautiful in its design; with pools and rills running down the sides of the garden, it is laid out in a cross-shape with the signature Lutyens round steps at each of the four corners and a fountain at its heart.  A long pergola runs across the foot of the garden with views to the Vale of Taunton beyond.

All of the gardens were in a state of complete disrepair when the Somerset County Council Fire Brigade, which owned the property, initiated a restoration plan for the formal gardens in 1973.  Fortuitously, Gertrude Jekyll’s original garden plans were found in a potting shed and the hard landscaping was restored whilst the planting has been continuously revisited, notably in 1998 as new research was undertaken.  The Georgian Landscape garden was a hidden valley and the lakes had all silted up when Philip White discovered the garden in the early 1990’s.  Philip was to become – and still is – the driving force behind the restoration project for Hestercombe and is Chief Executive of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust which is in the process of taking over the lease of the gardens from the County Council.

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