I have travelled a few miles in the car over the last couple of months and I enjoy looking at the countryside rolling past. But what really upsets me is the layers of rubbish littered along the roadside. What I think might be snowdrops turns out to be discarded wrappers or cans. A glimpse of ‘travellers joy’ growing in the hedges turns out to be shredded plastic draped in the branches. It is a sight for sore eyes.
So it was a relief to turn off from the major road and drive along the neat and narrow lanes in an agricultural area of Hertfordshire. The garden owners had done a splendid job in signposting the way. An old rustic Garden Gate was ready to open.
Walkern Hall is surrounded by farmland. We parked in the farmyard, with English Longhorn cattle content in the fields in front of the house.
The garden owner was born here and wife Kate, a second generation NGS volunteer is on the Hertfordshire team. She gave us a warm welcome. So too did the blue sky.
We are directed to walk past the front door where an owl observes from above whilst a lion sits at the base.
The ground is dotted with aconites and snowdrops. This year they have been late in coming but are probably looking at their best right now.
The hazel catkins have also been coming out and look particularly fine by the Summer House. The inside of this intimate outdoor room is enhanced by the most beautiful wooden bench which curves gently round.
An impressive gate, but firmly closed, leads into the old walled garden sited some distance from the house. No longer teams of gardeners growing produce for the house, it is now enjoyed by teams of tennis players. I worry about stray balls flying into the magnificent glasshouses.
To the right of the gate is a Garrya elliptica enjoying the shelter of the wall. I make a note to move mine which has become totally browned off from the East wind.
The shed, sited at the end of the wall, appears more suited to an allotment rather than a garden of this size, but possesses a simple charm.
This garden is not about mixed borders and decorative flowers. It is more a landscape of green space and big trees. Mature and majestic, the trees stand uncrowded, growing away from the house.
We stride back towards the house which can be glimpsed through the Holm Oak Quercus Ilex .
A hugely tall London plane stands proudly on the lawn in the afternoon sunlight.
It is not hard to imagine this impressive fountain gently spouting water and entertaining a Victorian house party. I wonder at its history; who made it and why is it here? Curiously sited it does not seem to line up with the house, but is randomly placed on the lawn. It is perhaps that very fact, combined with an architectural splendour of a bygone era that is entertaining us today.
A small magnolia with swelling buds is waiting for Spring. It grows at the back of the house with snowdrops spreading freely around its base.
Out of sight is the back gate, a treasure in ironwork. It is well bedded-in and appears to have been open for years.
Back on the lawn we have a debate about the trees. The one on the left is definitely an oak, but the one on the right? By a stroke of luck the tree man for Hertfordshire is amongst the visitors.
He tells us that it is a turkey oak Quercus cerris, explaining that it is taller than the English oak and its acorn cups are hairy. He shows us the leaf and twig.
Enlightened we move back to the terrace on the south side of the house. It is a small area recently planted with good effect. The young evergreen lollipop shape contrasts well with the deciduous giants.
There is Box providing formality and Winter Box filling the terrace with glorious scent.
Visitors enjoy the teas served in the courtyard and are able to keep warm by the fire.
Molly is for ever hopeful.
Time to leave this spacious landscape with its impressive trees. One last look at the drifts of those tiny flowers before we drive on to London.
and although the owners are very friendly there is a reminder that this is a very private garden!