From small formal gardens, the architectural structure and arts and crafts style of Jekyll and Lutyens, to a Victorian terrace and shrubbery, to my favourite, the landscaped Georgian gardens which take up a small valley, there is something for everyone at Hestercombe.
I love a good stomp and the valley walk through woods, up hill and down dale is fabulous and so many of the follies are a delight to stumble across: the Mausoleum, all Gothic Hobbity; the Witch House's coppice-woven-comfort; the Temple Arbour, Tuscan Doric style, which is positioned to turn your back on and stare breathless at the stunning view. The cascade where nature's power crashes through the woods and knocks the stuffing out of me.
And if all that isn't enough, there is a watermill and a gallery to leave the indoory types happily indoors or sometimes I just have lunch in the restaurant - which is literally in the stables - and plan my next route around the grounds.
Hestercombe Gardens offers a magical day going through three centuries of garden design. There is a seventeenth century mill, now restored, plus an eighteenth century picturesque hillside garden with several follies, and a stream running into a large pool. There is a Victorian terrace from which, looking down, one catches one's breath at 'The Great Plat', looking like a Moorish cushion. This is part of the design : the best of Hestercombe: made in the early twentieth century by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens. It is their garden masterpiece with its many levels, rills, water spouts, pergola and glorious planting. Hestercombe has a gallery, a super shop with plants as well, plus cafe. There are events throughout the year for both the family and garden history scholars. Most of the garden is accessible for wheeled users; a lift takes you to the ticket office and onto the path past the hillside, stream and pool – but you have to retrace your wheels to get into the Jekyll garden.
Travels on Horseback is the only 'trail riding' company in England. It takes good riders out on great horses travelling across the countryside. You and your horse stay in a different hotel every night! It's such amazing fun and really, really good quality.
The riding (in the Quantocks in Somerset), is incredible. They also take people out for shorter rides (a couple of hours, day rides etc), again, just for good riders on good horses. This is what I did in April 09 and here's what I wrote about it as a testimonial for their own site:
It’s hard to believe that a simple two hour train journey out of London would take me to such breathtaking countryside. I’d booked a two hour trek with Kathryn and her stunning horses. I was instantly smitten when I mounted ‘Smooch’ right after grooming him (realising a childhood dream!).
The well-trained and happy horses clearly enjoyed their surroundings almost as much as me. We cantered up hills and through trees, trotted in the forest to the beat of a woodpecker pecking on a tree and strolled under the huge wingspans of buzzards flying overhead. As an Advanced Beginner, I learnt more about riding and horses in those precious two hours than on any riding lesson. Kathryn had responsive Smooch and me naturally entering in and out of canter from and to trot which was so wonderful. This is the best way to learn. I always felt safe too.
As a polluted Londoner, I felt as alive as Kathryn’s horses and smiled all the way home, fully revitalised and back in touch with glorious Mother Nature. I can’t wait to re-visit.
Nearest station is Taunton. Their website is www.travelsonhorseback.com and the address etc is:
01278 438 794
07900 673 632
Tribe of Doris is essentially a festival, held in the beauty of the West Country - but a festival with a difference, one that inspires and creates, sings and dances and celebrates the exploration and unity of different cultures and people from all over the world. For five glorious hot August days you can be taught the vibrant wonders of African dance or Cherokee singing, or relax with tai chi or yoga sessions. With an exquisite combination of drum, dance, song and ceremony, Doris is an absolutely sumptuous and totally unique festival experience! Tribe of Doris; Many cultures, One race.
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