Chelsworth Open Gardens 26/6/2016

Of all the ‘Open Garden’ events on my calendar for the summer months, Chelsworth was the one that I had been looking forward to the most. It had been 3 years since I last visited this wonderful event – in a village that I consider to be one of Suffolk’s most picturesque.

The characterful houses and cottages that line the main winding route through Chelsworth always catch the eye – and make me want to linger a while to soak up the atmosphere of a country village that seems unspoilt by the passage of time. 

The pretty 13th century church, the pair of narrow bridges that span the River Brett and the abundance of green open spaces, all add to the village’s charm – as does the Peacock Inn, which is a quintessentially English country pub, dating back to the 14th century.

The alluring prospect of wandering freely around the beautiful gardens hidden behind these gorgeous listed buildings was too hard to resist – and I was determined to visit as many as possible. There were 22  gardens in the programme and I was able to look around 16 of them. I started at the west end of the village -so I will just have to begin at the opposite end next year !

I was very excited to be taking photographs of the gardens for 2 reasons -:

Firstly, I didn’t have my SLR camera with its special macro lens on my previous visit, which prevented any close-up shots – and secondly, this year was Chelsworth’s 49th Open Garden event and they are running a photographic competition to produce a 50th Anniversay Calendar …

These are my favourite images from the wonderful selection I visited – each garden having its own special charm …


Garden 21 – Swifts 

Chelswoth Blog-1

This garden was of special interest to me, as I was hoping to see a rather gorgeous tabby cat who lived there. I had managed to capture a wonderful close-up photograph of her on my previous visit. Unfortunately, the garden was quite waterlogged after the excess of recent rain, so no doubt Tigger had found a dry, cosy place inside the house ?!


Garden 20 – Meadow Cottage

This was the first of the gardens lining the north side of the valley – with many of them lucky enough to have their own meadow land rising up behind them. Perfect for fruit trees, vegetables and wild gardens. I contented myself looking at the lovely cottage plants closest to the house.


Garden 19 – Woodstock Cottage



Garden 18 – Hope Cottage

This garden belonged to a modern cottage which had been blended in perfectly with the older properties surrounding it. The garden was also new and had been made out of a field that belonged to the owner when he had lived next door.


Garden 17 -Tudor Cottage

A very pretty cottage garden, where the owner had transferred her upper garden to neighbours since my last visit.




Garden 16 – Church View

Some of my favourite plants were growing in this garden, which was vast and divided into lots of separate ‘gardens rooms’.  My absolute favourite was the Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’  –  dancing like pretty ladies in the breeze …



Garden 15 – Oak Tree Cottage

A wonderful place for tea and cake under the shade of a glorious walnut tree – with an amazing Delphinium bed.


Delphinium Bed



Garden 14 – The Grange

A beautiful garden adjoining the church and belonging to an impressive Hall House originating from the 14th century. It had a walled garden, statuesque formal planting and lovely cottage-garden borders. The roses were beautiful and the atmosphere of this garden (which was also serving afternoon tea & cakes) was friendly and relaxing.


Garden 10 – The Summer House

This delightful garden belonged to an old house tucked neatly behind The Peacock Inn. There was a wonderful collection of beautiful roses – mixed with complementing cottage garden plants.



Garden 9 – Princhetts

A massive garden belonging to a grand old residence. It had a lovely walled garden with an inviting wrought iron gate at its far corner, leading through to a vegetable garden, trees and a wildflower meadow.


Garden 8 – Middle House




Garden 7 – The Old Manor


Garden 6 – The Old Forge



Garden 11 – Bridge House

As its name suggests, this house and garden sat just across the old bridges by the side of the River Brett.  It was an amazing garden, due in part to its wonderfully setting beside the river – although mostly because of the vision and hard work of its owners. I heard many people declare that it was their favourite of the day – and from my perspective, it was definitely in my ‘Top Three’. There was just so much to photograph …

To begin, there were the vistas –

…then the plants …

…structures and majestic urns …

… and finally, bridges …

With all of it beautifully illuminated in the late afternoon sunshine, you can certainly see why visitors adored this garden !

Garden 13 – The Coach House

My last garden of the day – I arrived almost as the clock struck 5 o’clock. The friendly owner told me not to worry or rush, which was a lovely relaxing way to end my visit. The garden, set behind an extremely attractive red-bricked house, was full of charm and delicate colours. It was surrounded by fields and had the sense of being miles from anywhere …


My ‘garden pilgrimage’ of Chelsworth was at an end – and to be honest, I was exhausted. My schedule to cover as many gardens as possible had meant that there was only time for one refreshment break – and so I felt that a well-earned cold drink at The Peacock Inn was the perfect way to conclude my visit to the village. The Open Gardens event had been superbly organised and the garden owners were friendly and enthusiastic. There was a lovely atmosphere amongst the many visitors to the village, who – like myself – were seriously impressed with the beautiful plants and garden designs, as well as the gorgeous old buildings.

Is it possible that this year’s event could ever be surpassed ..?

Something tells me that the gardeners and their friends will be doing their utmost to make Chelsworth’s 50th Anniversary Open Gardens in 2017 the ‘best ever’ !

 See you there …








Leaven Hall Open Garden, Leavenheath

WC - Leaven Hall-1Mark and Shirley Ellis run a luxury Bed & Breafast at their home in Leavenheath. The hall, which originally dates from the 15th century, is peacefully located down a long gravel drive and surrounded by a beautiful 2 acre garden. I have travelled past this driveway several times a week for the past 5 years and always wondered what was hidden at its end.

So – when on a scorchingly hot Sunday afternoon in June – the Ellis family opened their garden for charity as part of the National Gardens Scheme – I had to tear myself away from the very enjoyable ‘Open Gardens’ event in Boxford to ensure that I didn’t miss my opportunity to visit it and find out …

Arriving to park in one of Leaven Hall’s surrounding fields, amongst row upon row of other cars, I was amazed to see that an awful lot of other people obviously thought the same thing !

Luckily 2 acres, including a delightful area of garden given over to a temporary vintage tea garden, was enough room to absorb the crowds and leave us freedom to wander around peacefully. It was far too hot to rush anyway, so I found myself a shady bench beneath some trees to the south side of the house from which to admire an informally planted area of foxgloves, candelabra primulas and astrantias.

Once cooled and rejuvenated, I began to capture some images of the wonderful array of plants – starting with the foxgloves and primulas.

The garden had a section to suit every plant-lover’s taste – the practical vegetable plot and ‘cutting garden’, herbaceous borders and a ornamental pond surrounded by flag irises and adorned with lily pads. There were beautiful colours all around me. I loved the vivid magenta spikes of the gladioli and the delicate blue of the irises.


WC - Leaven Hall-24My favourite part of the garden was an area of flower beds encompassing a flagstoned central section with a decorative stone urn as its focal point.  Although the design sounds formal, it was far from it – with its intermingling of geraniums, columbines and meadow rue around the outside and its red lupins with purple alliums in the inner beds. The stone paving was delightfully uneven with thrift and Verbena bonariensis growing through the cracks between the stones in a romantically, unkempt fashion. The stone flower urn was reminiscent of a church font and had a tumble of pink rock cress escaping from within. I would like to think that this is the oldest part of the garden; the design and perhaps the stones and urn dating from when the hall was first built. I have no doubt that the owners work hard to maintain its unnurtured appearance …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


My top plants of the day were the Alliums – these 2 images are my favourites …

WC - Leaven Hall-20


WC - Leaven Hall-21


It seems to be a great year for Aquilegia and I’m really appreciating the wonderful variety I’ve seen growing this season -all shapes and colours. These were my favourites from Leaven Hall -:


As the afternoon wore on, the visitors started to leave, so that by 5 o’clock there was only a handful of people remaining. My friend Lisa and I stopped for tea, cake and delicious local strawberries next to our favourite part of the garden and soaked up the late afternoon sun. The heat had lost its overpowering intensity and the light was much more suited to photography – which we carried on with enthusiasm until the garden closed at 6pm.

We found the family to be very welcoming, friendly and keen to chat with us about our photography – their lovely tea garden and the relaxed atmosphere of the whole event made the visit a pleasure.

When I had arrived 3 hours earlier, I had been unsure whether the decision to leave Boxford had been a good one. The hottest day of the year so far and the strong light were initially hampering my efforts to enjoy my photography and be creative.

Patience – and adapting my methods to suit the conditions paid off – and the rewards of being left as the last visitors in the early evening sun at the beautiful garden at Leaven Hall made me immensely glad that I had driven down that long gravel drive …

WC - Leaven Hall-27

An idyllic place to stay …