The county of Essex, to the North of London, was once home to King Henry VIII and his fated wife Anne Boleyn, who resided at the Palace of Beaulieu near Chelmsford. Henry used to hunt for deer in two of the biggest green spaces of the county – Epping Forest and the magnificent Hatfield Forest. In contrast to the urban landscape of London, Essex is blessed with many beautiful country parks and some of the most interesting and varied gardens. When you are designing your own quintessential country garden, you could take inspiration from the gardens of Essex, and even bring a touch of Tudor history to your space.
The Gibberd Garden, Harlow
Sir Frederick Gibberd was a passionate landscape architect and the master-planner of Harlow New Town, which was built in the 1940s. On the edge of Harlow, Sir Gibberd bought a plot of land to build his own house and landscaped gardens, which he filled with interesting and unique sculptures. Sir Frederick Gibberd died in 1984 and the house and gardens are now owned by The Gibberd Garden Trust. The gardens are a wonderful place to explore for visitors young and old, there are more than 100 sculptures to discover, a fascinating arboretum, ponds, follies, and even a babbling brook that runs through the garden. Children will love “climbing” to the top of the moated castle, which has its own drawbridge, and swinging on the giant tree swing. When you’ve finished exploring, you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and a piece of cake out on the lawns.
RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Chelmsford
Just outside the city of Chelmsford is the garden of Hyde Hall, owned by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). The gardens were planted in the 1950s and have since become an incredible dynamic project that is ever-changing. Near the original Tudor house you will find a wonderful example of a traditional courtyard kitchen garden. When you are taking inspiration for your own fairytale English cottage garden, make sure that it is brimming with flowers to invite in plenty of wildlife. Weaving some interesting pathways around the space will make it fun to explore, and you could place some quaint little benches amongst the flowers, so that you can sit and watch the world go by. At Hyde Hall you will also find a beautiful rose garden, a dry garden full of succulents and grasses, and the Queen Mother’s Garden that is planted with impressive flowering perennials.
Audley End House and Gardens, Saffron Walden
Audley End, built in the 17th Century outside Saffron Walden, is one of the grandest mansions in Essex. The stately home has some magnificent gardens that you can visit, and many acres of parklands. A large part of the garden design was down to Lancelot “Capability” Brown, an incredibly influential garden designer from the 1740s, who created a sweeping landscape including a stunning serpentine lake. Younger visitors to the gardens will delight in getting lost in the cloud bushes, and feeding the geese.
Essex is a beautiful county with so many green spaces to inspire you. You can enjoy walking through history, taking in the sights and smells of the classic English country garden.