Hasn’t your week flown by? It’s something in the air of spring. No sooner had we blinked but it was Friday night, and a delicious, mad, funny dinner with our neighbours the Goodwins… and that Saturday morning feeling when you don’t quite think you can get out of bed safely without being ill. Our first glimpse out of the window revealed leaden, overcast skies and we gratefully closed our eyes and went back to sleep.
But the clouds were blowing away, the sun was coming out; and we knew we needed to do something otherwise the weekend would evaporate away. Charlie had a sudden urge to see rhododendrons. The garden at Minterne is a place I’d never visited before but had heard a lot about… and seemed that it would fit the bill. We set off in the car, pottering down lanes I’ve never been on.
Our first discovery was the beautiful church at Compton Valence, which was a revelation.
I loved this single tulip in the long meadow grass of the churchyard:
It turned out the church is largely an early Victorian reconstruction. It’s absolutely beautiful… plain and serene:
The flower ladies were preparing the church for the monthly service:
The countryside was filled with the brilliant acid yellow of fields of rape:
The verges bright with bluebells:
And the rolling hills of west dorset stretched away into the distance. The clouds were clearing from the coast.
We arrived in Minterne and popped into the tiny church, filled with extraordinary baroque monuments:
We loved the hand-written Flower Rota in the church porch:
And then we arrived in the gardens. Minterne is a strange, early 20th century house; not necessarily what you could call beautiful, but the setting is sublime. Into an 18th century framework of lakes, cascades and parkland trees has been planted the most beautiful Edwardian garden, of exotic Himalayan discoveries, that I have seen in the longest time. The garden reminded me very strongly of that I wrote about years ago, now, at our clients’ house in central Scotland… which you can read here. But the scale and complexity of the planting at Minterne is even more beautiful, I think.
Early May is always the best time of year to appreciate the huge richness of acid greens of woodland bursting in to leaf… straight out of a children’s illustration book. S. R. Badmin’s Shell Guide to Trees and Shrubs comes immediately to mind, which really needs a blog all of its own… but in the meantime, do you see what I mean?
A narrow path leads gently down into the wooded valley:
Past startlingly-coloured rhododendrons and azaleas…
And glades of Acers and apple blossom.
At the foot of the valley we encounter the first of many cascades:
And rainbow-hued hillsides.
The ancient stone bridge transported us instantly to an Edwardian idyll.
The Minterne Gardens are open every day between the 14th February and 9th November. You leave your £5 in the honesty box at the gate. It is a perfect place.
We had a lazy lunch in Cerne Abbas, and a perfect mooch around afterwards…
Cerne is one of my favourite little Dorset towns of all, although I haven’t been for ages. It was lovely to show Charlie.
We stopped briefly at the Parsonage to collect bags and head back to London… we had to get back in time for Charlie to go to a friend’s birthday. I took a few snaps of the vegetable garden, which is bursting with growth… and looking all the more beautiful, I think you will agree, under Charlie’s ministrations:
The last of the tulips, which are on their way out now:
And on the way back to London we stopped for a magical half hour in the bluebell woods near Sixpenny Handley…
And meandered through the perfect Chalke Valley… stopping for a few breathtaking minutes to admire Cecil Beaton’s wonderful Reddish House, which I suppose is one of the most perfect in the whole of Wessex.
My favourite sort of day. When it starts, you don’t quite know how it will end.
And it’s all the more magical for it.