July 14th, 2007
Arley Hall Gardens

Arley Hall Ilex avenue
Looking south down the Ilex Avenue.

Dateline: July 12, 2007
Margaret and I revisted Arley Hall Gardens again today. I never tire of it because, of course, it’s never the same. The underlying structure is the same but the varying combinations of plants and colors constantly reveal new surprises. Updated photos when I return to Texas.

Dateline: August 31, 2005
I can’t suppress my discontent over my own sorry garden now wasting away in the last days of a Texas summer, not when I remember some of the magnificent gardens we visited in England.

Recently the gardens at Arley Hall, in Cheshire, have been voted one of the top ten in England. In a nations full of beautiful gardens that is no small feat. Arley Hall is still home to the Viscount and Viscountess Ashbrook whose family has lived there for thirteen generations. While Arley Hall lacks the grandeur of Castle Howard, one can’t help but exclaim, as Charles does, “What a place to live!”

After walking through the pleached lime avenue, buying tickets, nosing around in the Tudor era barn, passing under the clock tower, and goggling at Arley Hall itself, we entered the gardens via the Furlong Walk which spans the southeast side of the triangular space. Benches are placed in sheltered spots along the walk and we sat here a long time watching the sheep graze in the fields surrounding the gardens. Then we explored the double herbaceous border.

Arley Hall Double Herbaceous Border
The north wall of the double herbaceous border. A complementary border runs the length of the south wall.

The double herbaceous border is perhaps Arley Hall Garden’s most famous feature. It was laid out in 1846 and has been maintained since. Designed to blend and change colors with the seasons, it is one of those rare gardens that always looks at its peak. You could come here every week and see a different border.

Arley Hall Walled Garden
The Walled Garden.

Arley Hall has two walled gardens, a formal garden and a kitchen garden. The walled garden is very romantic. I imagine secret meetings in the moonlight at the gated archway.

We tried to figure out how high the brick walls are. Maybe 15 feet? They are impressive and provide a sheltered spot for plants that prefer more tropical climes than England. The truly heat-loving plants are protected in the vinery, a long greenhouse built along the southside of another brick wall.

From the north end of the walled garden your eye follow the gravel paths past the fountain, through two arches of the herbaceous border, and to the Ilex Avenue. This is my favorite vista. I love walking through the Ilex Avenue and sitting on the steps at the south end, overlooking the Sundial Circle and watching the sheep in the fields beyond. Time seems to have stopped somewhere in the 19th century.

Off the Ilex Avenue is the more intimate Fish Garden. Behind that is a water garden and the Rootree which has a small stone room hidden in the bank that could be the dwelling of hobbits or fauns.

Arley Hall Fish Garden
The Fish Garden framed by the Ilex Avenue.

There’s much more: rose gardens, herb gardens, a tea cottage, the horse graveyard–too much to see on one visit or five. A friend of ours has a sign in her garden which says, “You never step into the same garden twice.” That’s more true at Arley Hall Gardens than anywhere else I can think of.

by M Sinclair Stevens

One Response to post “Arley Hall Gardens”

  1. From Angelina (Oregon):

    The walled garden really does it for me. I would love to turn my garden into a walled garden. I imagine it would be somewhat cost prohibitive, but if ever I’m out of my financial uncertainty and have a little to spare-that would be my dream project.

    I wish I could have toured the English gardens. I’ve never done that. I’ve been to Scotland twice but never England. My boys wouldn’t particularly love such a tour. One day though, I’ll just have to do it.

    I love walled gardens, too. In Austin, we have height restriction on fences (something like 6 feet with 2 foot extension for open trellis-work). However, people are allowed to build monster houses within 5 feet of their lot lines. I figured I should get a permit to build such a house and just do the brick walls. Then I’d have the perfect walled garden. Brilliant, ne? — mss