Last Updated 11.02.2020 12:07 v1
Updated 21st October 2019
Emsworth Horticultural Society
Trip to Rotherfield Grays, New Milton & Chawton House, Alton 23rd July 2019
Another delightful trip organised by Annette Wood and her crew. We began with a pleasant drive down to New Milton through the New Forest and although we arrived at around 9.30 the temperature was already in the mid 20s. An elegant house built in 1906 sat in about an acre ( correct ). Our hosts, Dr Peter Clode and his partner Dr David Smith have been developing the garden for around 6 years and seeing the soil was poor, decided to remove some of it & mix the rest with compost and manure. Our visit began by Peter giving an outline of their project; the planting began in 2016. Self-confessed amateurs, they built up their skills and knowledge through trial and error , but the result is a remarkably varied and pleasing collection of borders, raised beds, ponds, boggy area, wildflower and wooded sections along with a row of mature olive trees, imported from Spain, a pergola with grape vines and small lawns. Their planting is unconventional but breathtaking and at this time is full of hot colours. Fortunately for us, there are cool areas to sit dotted around the garden and we were treated to tea and cake by Peter’s very efficient crew. Sadly 11 o’clock came all too quickly and it was back in the coach to go to Chawton. Luckily the coach had efficient air-conditioning, and a skilful driver who managed to deposit us in the centre of Lyndhurst for lunch and whisk us away after we had eaten and explored. Chawton House has belonged to the Knight family since the 16th century, with a fascinating history that I have no room for here. Suffice to say, if you get a guided tour of the house you will not be disappointed. Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, inherited the house and in 1809 offered Jane, her mother and sisters a cottage in the village. At present the house and gardens are leased by a foundation which was set up in 1992 with a huge investment by Dr. Sandy Lerner, an American business woman, with the purpose of researching into early women writers and preserving the Chawton library as well as an extensive collection she had made of early women’s literature. Our interest in the gardens was satisfied by an excellent volunteer guide, Yvonne, who explained some of the history of the building and began by showing us a series of terraces designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, the one at the top giving a magnificent view of the house and estate. Next was a very large walled garden, also with a fascinating history. At present the estate lacks a permanent gardener but nevertheless is well-looked after and gives an insight into the way that it was cultivated in earlier times. The strict formal lines on which the walled garden was set up have been much softened by the planting of a wide range of flowers and a small herbarium or physic garden. (Can anyone remember the name of the lady botanist who inspired this?) On a cooler day we would have been keen to explore the grounds a bit more but after standing in the hot sun and climbing slopes and steps , many of us were inclined to find some shade or explore the house and church. There was also more tea and cake! A grand day out! Chris Shaw