Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A garden delight at Gilbert White's House!

Gilbert White's House overlooks open fields, where he once grew crops
The garden at Gilbert White's House is a real surprise - a hidden treasure that rarely appears in garden guides - nestled in the heart of a perfect English village in Hampshire. There are no formal gardens here, just a lovely English landscape that leaves a lasting impression once visited. This was Gilbert White's home, a man who's painstaking records, published as The Natural History of Selborne (1788) - is one of the most re-printed books in the English language. 
View of the house from the "Six Quarter" garden
Gilbert White was born in the village in 1720, and died in the house that bears his name 66 years later. The house is actually called The Wakes, but is simply referred to as Gilbert White's House today. Nestled in the heart of Jane Austin country in the village of Selborne - which looks just like an English village should, with its thatched cottages and narrow High Street - Gilbert White was a skilled gardener, who grew not just fruit, vegetables and flowers, but also a huge range of crops in the open fields near the house - some 300 species - all recorded in his Garden Kalendar, from 1751-1767.
The garden is still being restored, but this is part of its charm
The house remained in private ownership until the mid 1950's and successive owners made considerable changes to the property and the gardens, so what's there today is a reconstruction of Gilbert White's garden and a testament to the famous naturalist and author. The gardens are tended by a team of volunteers known as the "Wakes Weeders" and it is only recently that an overall plan has been agreed for the long-term restoration of the garden. 
View over parkland and replica of Gilbert White's "Wine Pipe" seat
There are no formal gardens here, although you'll find a charming "Six Quarter" garden, divided into six beds which is a showcase for the shrubs and plants mentioned by Gilbert White in his journals. There is also a wild flower garden, herb garden and kitchen garden. But most impressive and enjoyable is the large tract of parkland in front of the house, with the Wine Pipe walk (above). Gilbert White's original barrel seat, known as the Wine Pipe is long gone, but there is a replica in place today. The adjoining land is owned by the National Trust, so this is a view that's here to stay.
Notwithstanding White's formidable reputation, his house and garden are well worth making a detour for on a sunny day, if you want to wander through an idyllic English village and stroll through a lovely English garden with an interesting history. Close enough to Midhurst to combine with Woolbeding House if you're there on the right day of the week, or you could carry on see the roses at Mottisfont Abbey. Open daily during June, July and August from 10.30 am - 5.15 pm.

6 comments:

  1. I live on the other side of the world and I don't usually comment on your blog although I visit very often. The gardens you feature are divine. Thank you.

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  2. Love your blog Charlotte! It's just amazing how many interesting and historic properties, and wonderful gardens, are dotted around the British countryside, and still managing to survive and be maintained in the 21st century. I look forward to each new post! My garden is on a completely different scale than the ones you feature......check it out at http://mymimicomaison.blogspot.com/

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  3. This is truly a garden I can relate to, as my gardens certainly are NOT formal by any stretch of anyone's imagination.

    Thank you again for yet another lovely tour of a beautiful garden. It must be such a treat for you to see all of these wonderful gardens in person. It certainly is a treat viewing them here via our computers. It's like being on little mini vacations.

    FlowerLady

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  4. Just beautiful! It feels like I have just come back from a trip, thanks for the morning get-away! I really do love escaping in your blog, what a gorgeous property, I think this is one of my fave's so far =)

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  5. Thank goodness for those volunteers who care for these lovely gardens. Thanks for sharing...

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  6. Lovely to see Gilbert White's garden featured on your blog. Although I live on the west coast of Canada - my Godmother lives in Selborne (just down the road from The Wakes) so I'm actually quite familiar with the lovely house & gardens & very pretty English village, and have been lucky enough to visit several times. Beautiful gardens and such a peaceful retreat set in the Hampshire countryside. Thanks for sharing.

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