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Exploring Gardens 2019


Exploring Gardens 2019


Est 2016


 Exploring Gardens is a  group visiting different gardens on the first Thursday of each month. ( weather dependent) Please follow link for gardens we visited in 2019.






















Timber Hill Garden


Who would have thought that tucked away on the outskirts of Woking there was such a beautiful garden and woodland park? The established trees and plants were spectacular and the views over the north downs were outstanding. Obviously much work is in progress and I would love to visit again in 10 years when the recently planted tress and shrubs are mature. The autumn colours will peak in a few weeks' time, but we had a glimpse of what is to come. It was inspiring to hear the story of the transition from smallholding to sheep paddock to garden estate. The barn where we had our tea had a roaring log fire, just the thing to combat the autumn chill, and we stayed far too long chatting afterwards!


Mike Chamberlain & Janine Stein Photographs

Tilford Cottage, Tilford


Stuart Cottage, East Clandon


We have been so lucky again with the weather while visiting this cute 16C cottage  with tiny, latticed windows and beautiful old walls partly surrounding half an acre garden. It was supposedly an estate house, the cowman's cottage for Hatchlands Park, so the story goes.This garden is minute compared to others we have visited but packed with choice plants. John and Gayle came out to greet us all ( 19 in all) as we were milling round the plant sals. Such wonderful plants! Grown themselves from divisions  or cuttings it was hard to decide, and such good prices. 

This garden was immaculate, being smaller than others visited , so easier to keep weed free with grass edges on to the boarders neat and sharp. Gayle stressed that the gardens' content is constantly changing as they try to better it every year, which people who visit it often testify to. The walls are coveted for their own beauty and plant protection. On our visit the plants at their best were the unusual late flowering Kirengeshoma palmanta or Japanese Wax Flower with large yellow bell flowers, herbaceous clematis, an abundance of dahlias, various hydrangeas with huge flower heads, datura, lots of topiary, roses on the pergola and in the beds. A small stand of silver birch trees that Gayle keeps shiny and white white by cleaning them regulary.

If you ever have a chance to visit this garden jump at it and, as Gayle says, look at the detail. Although it is small it is perfectly formed and a plantsman's paradise. It really has to be seen to be appreciated. And, if you can nab a plant or two on your visit , from the plant sale tables, even better. ( Psssst... it is open 15th September)

Elaine Belt Janine Stein Photographs

If you would like inspiration to make your garden more visually exciting then this is the garden to visit. Pam, a spiritual healer and Rod an artist, who have lived here for 27 years, owns the house and garden. They moved in and inherited only 3 trees on the 2 acre plot. Rod quickly got to work bringing on cuttings for later planting and clearing the land. Most plants had been raised from cuttings or seed. The soil is sandy in nature so loses moisture quickly but, consequently,is well drained and, Rod says, is mostly good for growing.

There is so much to see, and easily missed if you blink. I don't know where to start with this garden's attributes. Because Rod is an artist the garden has evolved with an artist's eye. With every addition artistically thought about and Rod's contemporary artwork installed around.

There is a cute Japanese garden, wildflower garden with orchard, herb Garden with pavers interplanted with various cultivars of thyme which, when crushed underfoot, emit a wonderful scent, sculpture, topiary, arches, Monet bridge, tree house, fish pond and stocked glasshouse. From his box cuttings, Rod has created, over the years, tightly clipped box hedges and a fabulous knot garden. With his seeds he has grown some choice plants. The River Wey, on the border of the garden,gives an ethereal sense of calm there to the garden full of surprises.

The sun shone in the afternoon as we sauntered through the garden in small groups admiring and discussing the perfection. After helping ourselves to tea and cake we sat on the terrace surrounded by trellising with clematis and hanging baskets. Before we went we visited Rod's glass exhibition with affordable glass pieces.

Every garden we visit has been as good as the last or better. This, for me, shows the labour of love given to produce this pinnacle of visual excellence in only a 2 acre garden. Can a private garden be bettered? Probably not.

Elaine Belt      Janine Stein Photographs

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Shamley Wood Estate


Today we had a real treat visiting  this beautiful  garden and house on a very warm day with a near cloudless sky. Sitting high on the North Downs the house and main garden overlooks the South Downs so has magnificent views. We drove through a 10 acre deer park before we reached our destination where we met Claire along with her gardeners, Kieran and  Steve.

They garden on very dry ,slightly  acidic sand so it's very poor in nutrients but they keep a livery of 20 horses on the farm so have plenty of horse manure for digging in, which helps! They also use a mulch called Strulch that we were all very interested in buying for our own gardens as Claire was very impressed  after using it. She gave us a preamble talk about how she had been there 9 years and the changes made and hoped to make in the future.

The house was built in 1927 surrounded by woodland.York stone terraces were laid around the house and throughout the garden with steps to accommodate the changing levels. In all, there are approx 75 acres with 3 acres formal gardens.

We split into 2 groups with Claire and Kieran taking us on a tour. We walked to the back entrance of the house looking down the long path with a low box hedge either side, to the top lawn with the South Downs at the end of the vista.The woodland walk proved difficult with brambles taking over the paths,as they do, but there was enough to see and inspire us in the formal gardens so we gave that a miss. Lake, stream, dry garden, heather and vegetable garden,rose garden with mixed lavenders in full flower were enjoyed on our tour ending up at the barn where Kieran and Claire produced drinks and home make cakes and scones which were delicious.

Animals were also a highlight of the walk passing a pen of guinea pigs with all sorts of climbing  and fun things for them to play with. They came to greet us squeaking contentedly. We also met Posy, a female deer who ran up to us, probably cupboard love as she likes her food, and Kieran had a large bowl of pellets that we fed to her. She was surprisingly very friendly and Kieran thought the world of her.

£136 was collected and given to Claire for her chosen charity NSPCC. We had all had a grand afternoon out although the drive there was smitten with problems what with road closures  and road works, but after all, well worth the effort. We thought this one of the most beautiful gardens ( and house) we have visited and plan to return, on Claire's request, in about 2 years time when a lot of plans for the garden will have been realized. But we may return before that as 3000 bulbs have been planted so a spring visit could also be on the cards.

Elaine Belt Janine Stein Photographs

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Westways Farm, Chobham


The original part of Westways Farm was built in 1720, small then, but with later additions, in the Queen Anne style. It has a 6 acre garden laid to lawn, terraces, sunken pond, numerous beds and specimen trees skirted with woodland.

The present owners, Nicky and Paul Biddle have lived here for 29 years. The garden was laid out in the 1940's but it was overgrown when they moved in with the woodland almost inaccessible.

Nicky and Paul gave us a warm welcome along with Rolo.their black Labrador. They were a little  concerned when Rolo entered the house on his own while we chatted outside, fearing he may eat all the cakes. It has happened before at a wedding when he devoured the top layer of a wedding cake during a reception!

On our way round to the back of the house we passed at least four listed Magnolia graniflora growing up the front and side. A most beautiful mature Cornus kousa ( flowering dogwood) tree was in full bloom to the left of the garden, near a covered Victorian glasshouse with vines and nectarine growing on the back wall. We ambled past a white flowering Wisteria that had made its way to the top of a tall conifer. It was past its best but we still looked in awe at its near perfect hanging racemes. A few of us took the opportunity to stroke some young lambs being held in a pen and later on the walk admired horses in the adjoining paddock.

The woodland gave us many surprises including still flowering rhododendrons , one striking red, large  and sprawling, and a Magnolia Wilsonii with its drooping white, showy flowers and Kalmias ( calico bush) with there pretty dainty pink flowers but poisonous to humans and some animals and will produce toxic honey if the pollen is collected by bees.

We meandered through the woodland, back to the sunken pond, well planted including numerous, colourful water lilies.

It was time for refreshments so we sat on the terrace in the sunshine and had tea and cake that, luckily, Rolo hadn't found although he did enjoy licking crumbs off our plates. Conversation was flowing with Nicky and Paul joining in but but it was soon time to depart. Finely, we pondered over an array of plants Nicky had for sale before we made our way back to the cars. We had all had a very enjoyable day, rain not stopping play, and Nicky and Paul raising £152 from our donations for their chosen charity.

Elaine Belt & Janine Stein Photographs

NGS Caxton House


Ockham Mill,Ripley


There were 23 Butterflies visiting this 7 acre National Gardens Scheme garden on a typical Spring afternoon of showers and sun and with a definite bite to the air. The drive up to the house took us past many Prunus sargentii looking spectacular with their cloud of brilliant rose-pink blossoms. Bob, the owner, was there to meet us with his gardner, Richard, who took us on a tour of the garden. Bob had moved here with his wife 19 years ago when 5 acres of the garden had been a golf chipping course. The garden soil is slightly acidic sand. They first started making changes to the garden with planting an arboretum. These trees are now mature and looking splendid even though some of them had not yet come into leaf but the tree shapes and bark colours were many and could still be appreciated.


Richard,along with the neighbour's cat who liked to join visitors on their walks, took us along a mown path through the trees. We walked through an abundance of spring flowers i.e. mixed Narcissi, Scilla, and Helleborous.


On reaching a lake Richard mentioned it had been formed in 2002 but it looked as though it had been there forever and complete with duck house in the centre. Next came a gothic folly built in 2007, complete with a rambling rose draped over. The garden also houses an impressive 6ft bronze stag, an antique Otterman fire pit pot, shipped all the way from Turkey, along with other statuary.

The garden has a wisteria walk, a small parterre, a hidden round, grassed private area with seating for quiet solitude.

After the tour we were shown into a room off the house where Bob supplied us with tea and cakes.Although it was a bit nippy everyone enjoyed the first garden meet of the year.

We shall definitely be back, maybe next time to see the garden in its summer splendour or autumn when the Acers and Amelanchiers will be giving us a fabulous show.

£161 was raised from the group for Bob to give to various charities in the Scheme.

Elaine Belt & Janine Stein Photographs

What a delightful place to be in this tiny hamlet, accessed from Mill Lane which is next door to the RHS Garden at Wisley. There were 21 of us meeting on this perfect weather day, greeted by the owners, Tina and her husband . We entered the garden admiring the mill house and,before walking around the pond,were given a talk on how they had restored the mill and garden in 2012. Their resident swan greeted us with a growl waiting for his bread snack. He was a little intimidating but we were told he's harmless as long as he gets his bread!

Ockham Mill is a 2 acre water garden on a stream with pond and a Grade11 listed water mill.We were shown the 15ft diameter working water wheel and gearing which was an added bonus to the garden. On show in the same room, were artefacts found in the garden, old mill working tools and photos taken through the ages. We then took an amble around the mill pond which is large,well stocked, with five tiny islands, some connected via bridges and one with a gazebo. The planting around the pond was mostly informal: shrubs and perennials under the mature trees. The stars of the show, on the sunny garden walls, were spectacular climbing roses in full flower along with a fabulous Ceanothus. By the pond a feathery Tamarix and clumps of Zantedeschia ( arumlilies) were also eye catching.

Tea was served with a selection of delicious cakes made by Tina. We took a seat in her beautiful kitchen and dinning room on the first floor admiring her quirky interior design, cutlery and china. A great time was had by all with £168 raised for their chosen charity.

Elaine Belt & Janine Stein Photographs

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