Newark Park, Gloucestershire
While Newark Park in Gloucestershire is mainly (as the name suggests) parkland, there is still much in the borders to recommend a visit to this Tudor hunting lodge.
When you’re looking for pretty gardens, with the added bonus of views across three counties, a good flat-white and tubs of local ice cream, you could do a lot worse than take a trip up to Newark Park – a National Trust property built in the time of Henry VIII.
The gardens are arranged over three levels with a long, sweeping border that fringes the children’s play area, through to a restored summerhouse overlooking the lake; a rockery that descends from the house to a terrace with views out to the Somerset Monument at Hawkesbury, with twisting paths to a folly, the lodge fringed with border colour and a walled garden.
Like a lot of National Trust gardens, the formal gardens are contained within high walls, with planting boxed in by Elizabethan inspired ornamental hedging. However, this isn’t a plan circa 1544, when “New Work Park” was constructed using materials from the dissolution of nearby Kingswood Abbey. No. This is a 20th century vision of what should have been, constructed by American architect, Bob Parsons, who took on the renovation of the property and its surroundings in 1970.
On a hot, sunny June day, with the murmurings of visitors punctuated by the occasional screech from the resident peacocks, the garden invites visitors to sit in the shade and soak in the atmosphere. The stark steps of the hunting lodge have been softened with allium cernuum pushing up through the gravel, as well as pots of orange wallflowers and balls of box that echo the topiary animals around the park.
In contrast to the orange wallflowers, legions of dark purple allium giganteum bob in the slightest breeze, surrounding sculptures from artist in residence, Martin Adamson, who has created works including basking otters, monkeys hanging from trees and a hunting owl and unsuspecting mouse. He is also responsible for the small but fun sculpture trail around the grounds of the lodge.
The herbaceous borders, near the lake and around the lodge are filled with the usual suspects. The vinca with fresh green leaves and blue star flowers. The fresh pink of a Japanese lilac. The dark cherry clusters of lupins baking in the sun. Clusters of hesperis matronalis Sweet Rocket. Sweetly fragranced rambling roses…
Less formal planting
There are also ellipses of unmown wildflowers including daisies, poppies, valerian, geranium macrorrhizum, corncockle, foxglove and more teeming with bees and insects.
So what did we take away?
Think about early, middle and late flowering plants. Always have something beautiful in the borders just waiting to burst into bloom. If wildflowers have self-seeded into more formal borders, let them grow. Use difficult to reach areas, such as the steep cliff under the lodge, laid to rockery, to create pockets of hardy shrubs and annuals that won’t need too much tending. Make different angles of your garden surprising, with hidden seating or sculptures – and add water to support wildlife and diversify planting.
Above all, create a new garden that feels like it should always have been there...