Nayland Open Gardens – June 2016

Nayland is Boxted’s neighbour, down in the Stour Valley and just across the border into Suffolk.  It is an extremely picturesque village, with listed buildings and quaint cottages whose gardens line the river and mill stream.

The weather threatened rain for my visit, although it was hot and humid. My backpack of camera gear and brolly seemed heavier than normal – however the latter was a great deterrent – as the afternoon thankfully stayed dry. The sky was cloudy but the light was soft rather than dull, which was perfect for taking my photos.

I decided at the outset not to try to visit every garden – as I knew that this would hamper my creativity and concentration – so I took my time enjoying just 6 of the 16 gardens open to visitors. There was one particular garden that I had really enjoyed on a previous visit – so my only plan was to make sure that my walk around the village would take me to it.

I would like to feature 4 gardens from my afternoon – each special yet with very individual styles. These particular gardens gave me inspiration and planting ideas for my own garden, as well as providing an array of beautiful plants and vistas to photograph.

Garden 14 – Loretto, Church Lane

This garden was a revelation to me. It had been created only 3 years ago by its present owners, who have tastefully matched its design to reflect the ‘feel’ of the village and the era of the victorian red-brick house to which it belongs. It has a superior location near to the parish church and is blessed with a wonderful feeling of space surrounding it. There is no other building to overlook it – and this has an extremely calming effect. The owners have created a croquet lawn, a red-brick path which appears to have been laid for many years and a choice of planting that upholds the great tradition of the herbaceous border.

I was amused, when once again ( as had happened in Long Melford) I was asked by the owner to identify the Thalictrum, which was drawing the attention of the many visitors for its soft-pink blooms adding height to accentuate the borders.


To reach the next set of gardens, I walked alongside the mill stream, which ran along the front of the picturesque cottages of Fen Street. I had forgotten just how breathtakingly beautiful this area of the village was – as it is “off the beaten track” – and I had not ventured this way for some time. The houses that line the street are joined to the roadway by quaint bridges across the stream and their gardens are unashamedly ‘cottage’ in character.



Garden 12 – Lopping House, 28 Fen Street

This garden belonged to a modern property, which was part of an attractive line-up of cottages bordering the village mill stream. I was pleasantly surprised by the choice of plants, which certainly did not represent mainstream conventions. The garden may have been small compared to the others I had visited, however the borders were ‘big on’ appeal to plant-lovers. I was swayed immediately by the presence of a Cephalaria gigantea in full bloom – whereas mine is hardly visible above ground. There was also a gorgeous purple semi-cactus Dahlia in bloom – which seemed very early – and a striking Sambucus nigra with its plate-like rose white blooms and finely dissected leaves.


Garden 10 – Longwood Barn, 38 Fen Street

This garden was my 2016 favourite, because it seemed to have a ‘Secret Garden’ feel to it. The walled garden bordered the mill stream and the owner had opened the gate to allow visitors a wonderful vista towards the timbered-house and its beautiful garden. The air was filled with the scent of roses and the atmosphere in the garden was one of serenity and beauty in perfect harmony …


Garden 8 – 14, Stoke Road

This was the garden which I had planned not to miss. It had been my favourite on my previous Open Gardens visit and I was eager to return.  It was also my last garden of the day and a fitting end to a lovely afternoon.

The garden rises up the side of the Stour Valley to overlook an open field as the land continues to rise – and the views back over Nayland village alone are worth the climb to the top. The garden itself is filled with attractive trees, shrubs and perennials and has been designed perfectly to suit the terrain – which some may have found too daunting to transform. The owners have lived here for 41 years and admitted that they now had help to mow the steep lawn areas …

I loved it as I had done so before – especially the beautifully proportioned suffolk-brick facade – with its canine sentinels. The late-afternoon sun finally broke though as my visit came to an end – lighting up the plants and throwing a warm glow onto the garden as a whole. What a perfect end to a perfect afternoon …


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