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Easton Walled Gardens

EASTON WALLED GARDENS

After many weeks in ‘lock down’ and self-isolation due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the history group decided it was possibly time to venture out in a safe, responsible way. Wednesday 8th July was our preferred day to visit the Easton Walled Gardens during their Sweet pea fortnight.

So, on an unfortunately damp day we travelled in our own cars instead of car sharing to the delightful Easton Walled Gardens meeting in the car park at 1pm, brollies at the ready!
We made our way to the ticket office and soon got a flavour of the history of the estate as the little shops and garden plant courtyard are based around the old coach house and stables. We then set off to explore the gardens and all looking forward to seeing the sweet peas and smell their wonderful scents.
We shortly came across some remains of the original house set on the brow of the valley with wonderful views of the meadowlands, original kitchen gardens and estate with the small river Witham running through.
We discovered that the Manor of Easton was acquired by Sir Henry Cholmeley in 1592. There are surviving walls and walks that date back 400 years to the Tudor period.
The Hall had many alterations over the centuries, one famous visitor in 1900 was the future President of the USA Franklin D Roosevelt. He apparently fell in love with Easton and described it as ‘a dream of Nirvana… almost too good to be true’.
During the 2nd world war, it became home to the Royal Artillery and the 2nd battalion, the parachute Regiment (of Arnhem fame) for four years. Sadly, during this time it suffered considerable damage both to the fabric of the building and the contents, including many family records.
Home to the Cholmeley family for nearly 400 years, it was sadly demolished in 1951, never having been lived in again by the family. The family still lives on the estate.
The gardens that we saw and enjoyed are due to the hard work and dedication of the Cholmeley family as by the mid 1990’s every building was on the highest at risk register, walls were collapsing, roofs fallen in, water and damp in every structure. Trees were growing out of the roof tops, brambles swamped the footings. The vinehouse had disappeared and walls collapsed.
In late 2001 work started on the revival of the gardens. Friends and volunteers moved in to clear the undergrowth, diggers removed roots and elder trees and gradually the terraces and gardens were rediscovered. The gardens that are continually being improved, were first open to visitors in 2000.

On our trip we wandered through the grounds looking at the potting sheds and greenhouses, that still have the shading panels and the ironwork still in full use. The Pickery where the vegetables are growing and the magnificent display of Canterbury bells and dahlias. The sweet pea display was wonderful, and the scents were a delight. We met Mrs Cholmeley amongst the sweet peas as she was cutting a few of them to sell in the shop. She was very helpful answering a few of our questions.
Although the conditions were a little damp it didn’t stop us from enjoying all the sights and smells. We finished our wander with a cup of tea and cake. Usually the little café offers a full range of meals and treats but due to social distancing they have had to reduce what they offer.
Many of us spent time in the shopping area, some purchasing some sweet pea seeds hoping to be able to produce our own display next year. For some of us it was the first time we had been shopping since the lockdown.
We all enjoyed our trip, and now we have discovered the wonderful Easton Walled Gardens, we will be back to explore again, and hopefully sample some of the delights of the tea shop when the pandemic is over.

Avril

 

Photo’s by Andrea & Chris