Saturday, 25 September 2010

Heaven in Devon - Docton Mill

Imagine a little bit of heaven in Devon! My visit to Docton Mill today was just that. This is a simply glorious garden just a stone's throw from the North Devon coast near Barnstaple, and as you approach the Mill you have wonderful views of Lundy Island and the Bristol Channel. I've read about this garden many times, but I've never been in the area before, so on my return from Cornwall today, I went out of my way to visit. 
The mill at Docton dates back to Saxon times and although there was a garden there in the 20th century - tended by Iris and Norman Pugh, commemorated at the entrance by current owners - it is John and Lana Borrett - the current custodians of this heavenly spot who have breathed new life into the gardens in the last ten years. They arrived here in 1999 and although they had no prior knowledge of gardens and gardening at all, they have made the Mill what it is today - an absolute paradise!
Docton Mill is set in a valley with the River Speke flowing through it. The natural course of the river runs along the western course of the garden and over the mill wheel attached to the house and then flows through the valley to the sea less than a mile away. Water is a major feature of this nine-acre garden, which enjoys a unique microclimate and allows plant and animal life to flourish. The Pugh's rescued the mill and garden from dereliction when they arrived here in 1980, but the Borretts have breathed new life into it and made it what it is today.
When you arrive, you walk along the edge of the mill leat (above), which is fringed with lovely trees, before approaching the house and tea terrace (top pictures), which are a riot of colour even on a grey day like today. I cannot imagine how wonderful Docton looks in the spring when it is filled with daffodils, or when the camelias and magnolias come into bloom. But even in September, it's heavenly and you can wander round the Woodland, Waterfall, Summer and Bog Garden areas, taking in all the plants and trees and staring in amazement at the incredible greenery.
I know how the roses smelled in September, and that's enough to etch Docton Mill on my brain until the spring! This is certainly a great place to stop for lunch - Lana's home cooking is a real joy and we enjoyed wonderful fresh food here. My husband had the best Cornish pasty (and this isn't even Cornwall) and I had delicious home-made soup. But you can also have an award-winning cream tea here.
Docton Mill is located on the Hartland Peninsula - designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. It's near enough to Bideford to take the passenger ferry to Lundy Island for a day trip if you're so inclined. I'll be reviewing all the glorious Cornish gardens I visited in the next few weeks, but this garden took my breath away, so I've sneaked it in today.  


  1. It is stunningly beautiful. They've done an incredible job for two people who claim ignorance when it comes to gardening. One to add to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing such beauty today.

  2. What a delightful garden. I've always liked that corner of England. If I make it back there I'll have to visit.

  3. Beautiful. I wish I had that much, "no particular knowledge"!