Monday, 7 June 2010

Longstock Water Gardens - a watery wonder on the River Test

This weekend I finally got to a garden that I've been trying to visit for two years!  I've read about it; I've seen pictures; I've tried to get there on numerous occasions and failed.  But on Sunday I made it to Longstock Water Gardens which are 2*-rated garden by "The Good Gardens Guide" (less than 10% of those listed achieve this!); and listed in "1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die". 
Longstock is part of the much-loved John Lewis empire - the shop that's "never knowingly undersold" and which is, to us Brits, the same kind of household name as Macy's in the States. It's normally only open for store "partners" or employees, although the public are allowed to visit on the first and third Sundays of the month, from May to September, when it opens for various charities. And I finally made it this weekend!
The seven-acre garden is actually a series of man-made islands, linked by wooden bridges (above), occupying part of a much larger lake dredged here in the 19th century. It was John Spedan Lewis, founder of the department store, who created the gardens that survive today. Located on the banks of the River Test - one of the best fishing beats in Britain - the clear water that meanders through the garden, opens up into regular pools and is fed by a river that has been described as "clear as gin". So clever is the design of Longstock that the islands, linked by simple wooden bridges, appear to be completely natural, and because of the aquatic setting many unusual plants flourish here.
Part of the charm of this garden is the amazing reflections of the magnificent plants in the water, which make it appear larger than it is.  Particularly impressive at this time of year are the white wisteria (top) and the swathes of irises.  But equally awe-inspiring is the way these gardens are maintained - they are absolutely immaculate! It's definitely worth planning ahead to see Longstock since public access is so limited and, if you want a really wonderful day out, combine it with Heale House nearby, or the magnificent Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey.
Longstock is in the heart of one of the most beautiful parts of England and you will see many thatched cottages on your way there .... like this one above, covered in roses. I will be writing about the best gardens for roses next week, but in the meantime, I'm off to the Cotswolds, so later posts this week will be from there.

7 comments:

  1. Charlotte, Congratulations on your timing. And another beautiful garden to add to my 1001+.

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  2. I want to see thatched cottages in England ! Beautiful tour, thanks ! Gina

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  3. Hampshire is a beautiful county and this garden is fascinating. What a wonderful visit!

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  4. Oh I love that whole part of England! I've never been to this garden though. I'll have to see if I can visit next time I plan a trip "home"

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  5. Beautiful garden. Can't wait to see your post on rose gardens.

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  6. Yet another beautiful garden to add to our adventuring list.

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