Somerset has certainly got more than its fair share of 5*gardens and with the wonderful weather we've been having recently, I've visited some smaller properties that tend to get overlooked - Lytes Cary (above) and Tintinhull - which are within a few miles of some of the better known gardens like Cothay Manor, Hestercombe and Montacute. But both are delightful and worth making a detour for!
Lytes Cary has a fascinating history although it was a chapel, rather than a house that is first recorded on the site in the 14th century. William de Lyle held the estate in 1286 and his descendents remained in possession of the property until 1755, including the medieval herbalist Henry Lyte. After that it was inhabited by a succession of tenants and it was not until 1907 that Walter Jenner - son of Queen Victoria's physician - and his wife Flora moved into the property and restored both house and garden. When he died in 1948, he left the estate to the National Trust, who commenced restoration of the garden in Gertrude Jekyll tradition in the 1960s.
Today Lytes Cary is a glorious house (above), with a magnificent six-acre Arts and Crafts garden. Notable features are its immaculate topiary, bursting flower borders and extensive orchard (great for picnics!) - well worth making a detour for if you're en route to other gardens and, with the summer holidays coming, easily accessible en route to the West Country. It's open every day except Thursday.
Nearby Tintinhull (above) is another immaculate National Trust garden within a short drive of Lytes Cary (but remember it's closed on Monday and Tuesday, so if you're visiting both together, it has to be Wednesday, Friday or the weekend!). This is another interesting house surrounded by two acres of formal gardens, attributed in part to Harold Peto of Iford Manor fame, but subsequently expanded and planted initially by Captain and Mrs Phyllis Reiss, who bought the house in 1933. Mrs Reiss moved here from Gloucestershire, was much influenced by the planting at Hidcote and made many changes to the garden.
In 1954 the property was given to the National Trust, who rented it out to a succession of tenants including well-known garden designer, Penelope Hobhouse, who lived here between 1980 and 1993 and invested much time and effort in the garden. Notable features of Tintinhull are it's gloriously peaceful water garden (above); it's stunning frontage and the fact it's rarely crowded.
** FOR A FULL LIST OF GARDENS TO VISIT AND REVIEWS