Gardens round a gothic mansion
PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 March 2014
Sarah Ford enjoys a tour of the grounds at Tyntesfield near Wraxall where there is a waiting list of eager volunteers keen to help in the gardens
Come into the garden
2 March: Food and craft market in the courtyards at Home Farm Visitor Centre, 10am-3pm
15 March: Join a dawn chorus bird walk, 5.30-7am
20 July: National Garden Scheme Day with tours and experts.
For details about forthcoming glasshouse tours visit nationaltrust.org.uk/tyntesfield
The gardens are open every day from 10am Tyntesfield, Wraxall, BS48 1NX 01275 461900.
Spectacular Tyntesfield, once hidden away like a mysterious castle in a fairytale, found fame in 2002 when the National Trust launched an appeal to save the estate for the future.
So enthralled was it by this Victorian Gothic mansion that the public donated a staggering £3million towards the purchase of 530 acres, buildings and farm. And preview tours for local residents – desperate to finally step inside the gates – were sold out within one and a half hours!
In those early days of opening to the public thousands of visitors were bused in via a special park and ride service in Nailsea and over the years visitors have been witness to the work in progress as the trust has gradually restored the property. Today Tyntesfield continues to excite and enthral with its treasures – not just in the house itself but also in the glorious gardens surrounding the building.
Head Gardener Paul Evans has worked here since 2004 and recalls the days when public demand to see the estate outstripped capacity so visiting time was restricted.
“We hardly saw anyone because visitors were only allowed a certain amount of time and couldn’t get to see everywhere. It was like working in someone’s private garden!” he explains as he takes me on a tour of the grounds.
Lord Wraxall was the last member of the Gibbs family to live at Tyntesfield and fortunately for the trust he was fond of his garden so it was left in good condition.
Examples of the family’s enthusiasm can be found in the arboretum, an area which they named Paradise. Here the Victorian path, which does a circuit of Paradise, has been reinstated.
Paul explains: “We have an interesting collection of Victorian conifers here and eight Champion trees – the tallest and stoutest of their kind in Great Britain and Ireland. The best and most visible of these is the Zelkova Serrata, which is in perfect condition.
“A more recent introduction is a Dawn Redwood, which must have been planted by Lord Wraxall because it was only brought to the West in 1941.
“We are carrying on the tradition of planting new introductions to the garden if a newly-discovered tree or plant fits in with our ethos. For example, we have included a Wollemi Pine, which was discovered in Australia in 1994. If Lord Wraxall and the family were still here, it’s probable that someone would have given him one as a present.”
My tour includes the Rose Garden, where a new planting project will take place this year. A mixture of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and bulbs will help create beds with all-year-round interest for visitors.
In 2012 visitors to Tyntesfield helped to plant about 12,000 bulbs in the gardens. In fact, the garden team (comprised of four full time and one seasonal gardener) are never short of volunteers and there’s even a waiting list of people eager to do their bit.
Formal gardens with Italianate terraces surround the house, which is reached via an avenue of holly bushes trained into mushroom shapes.
A charming walled area known as Lady Wraxall’s Garden is an ideal suntrap for subtropical themed plants. This leads us through to the kitchen garden, which is surprisingly small for such a large estate.
Paul explains: “The family had three estates – Tyntesfield, Belmont and Charlton – each with its own kitchen garden. They worked together to produce food and some of the more common crops would have been grown on the surrounding fields.”
Today the fruit and vegetables grown at Tyntesfield are cooked in the Cow Barn Kitchen restaurant housed in cleverly-restored farm buildings. Catering waste is broken down to be used again in the garden as compost.
In the glass houses Paul shows me the first pineapple to be harvested and tells me the team plans to enjoy it later! A produce table is popular with visitors and made an incredible £5,000 last year.
“It’s good for us to know that the food we grow is being eaten on site and enjoyed by people” he says.
“One of the most important things about Tyntesfield is that we have a garden with different elements. A lot of estates have lost their kitchen garden or their glass houses for example, but we have all the component parts here, including the orangery, arboretum and topiary and that makes it satisfying to work in.
“We have a really good team of staff and volunteers and we get visitors who come back throughout the year and give us great feedback on the progress we have made.”
Recreate your corner of Tyntesfield
The colourful annuals bed is popular with visitors keen to know how to create one for themselves.
Head gardener Paul Evans explains: “We buy a selection of annuals – such as larkspur, nigella, calendula, whatever takes our fancy really – mix all the seeds together, sow them directly into the bed and let them germinate. We don’t stake them. It’s easy to do, even in a square metre patch of garden at home.”
The annuals bed can be found in the Jubilee Garden which is also known as the cutting garden as it supplies decorations for the house.
Photographer Amanda Harman captured a busy flower arranging scene in the scullery for a recent exhibition at Tyntesfield. More of her photographs of the estate can be seen a amandaharman.co.uk
This article was first published in the March issue of Somerset Life. To get the magazine delivered every month to your home, subscribe at www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/som or call 08448484217