20 secret gardens in England

by Katie Rowe

Category: The great outdoors
August 18 2016

England is world-famous for its grand manicured gardens but there are plenty of leafy hidden gems that are worth a visit too. Here's our guide to 20 of the most beautiful gardens you've probably never heard of...

1) Great Fosters, Surrey

Great Fosters, Surrey

Great Fosters offers you a grand estate of 50 acres of formal gardens and parkland. Explore the knot garden with its topiary and romantic statues, or stand on the wisteria-laced Japanese bridge overlooking a bubbling fountain. You can even catch ducks and other wildlife if you venture out into the grounds.

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2) Laskett Garden, Herefordshire

Laskett Garden, Herefordshire

Discover a hidden oasis designed by Sir Roy Strong, former director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman. As you wander through glades decorated with bear statues, dazzling displays of tulips and towering hedgerows, you see that the couple have left their creative mark on every inch of this place.

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3. Kensington Roof Gardens, London

Kensington Roof Gardens, London

This tranquil rooftop garden feels like a million miles away from the bustle of the capital and yet just 100 feet below you’ll find Kensington High Street abuzz with shoppers. Head on up and disappear into a tropical haven where flamingos roam freely and three themed gardens, including the Spanish Garden based on the Alhambra in Granada, sprawl over one and a half acres.

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4) Westonbury Mill Water Gardens, Herefordshire

Westonbury Mill Water Garden, Herefordshire

A garden filled with follies and hand-built by its loving curator, the Westonbury Mill Water Gardens are a Herefordshire haven. From the mill powering water through the mouth of a grumpy gargoyle, to a sparkling dome made from glass bottles, there’s a variety of things to explore. 

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5) Adlington Hall & Gardens, Cheshire

Cherry Blossoms at Adlington Hall

Alongside a house dating back to 1581, you can explore a garden from the 18th century, thought to have been designed by Charles Legh in the style of Capability Brown. Float through the rose garden with its beautiful scents, and roses climbing pillars and rope swags, or enter a world of dancing water in the formal Flower Parterre.

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6) The Garden House, Devon

The Garden House, Devon

If you’re looking for an archetypical English country garden then this is the place. Located close to Dartmoor National Park, while away the hours in the Cottage Garden where views stretch across the surrounding countryside and soak up the heady scents of magnolias and rhododendrons in the Bulb Meadow. Don’t leave without seeing the Jubilee Arboretum with its glistening lake, cascading waters and bridges.

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7) The Beth Chatto Garden, Colchester

Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex

Beth Chatto took a boggy, overgrown scrap of land, and transformed it into an inspirational informal garden in 1960. Now open to the public, it’s a delight of different garden styles. Relax in the woodland garden with its ferns and daffodils, or explore the lake of the water garden, containing lily pads and various reeds. There’s even a shop with comprehensive collections for you to take home and plant yourself.

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8) Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, Yorkshire

Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, Yorkshire

Stroll through gardens restored to their Victorian beauty with romantic statue walks and wild rose dell. Hide away from the world in the summerhouse, with views of the formal gardens, alternatively you can find a spot in the fern dell grotto to relax in a gorgeous green space. The Brodsworth Hall gardens have seasonal blooms as well, meaning whatever time of year you visit, there will always be a new sight to drink in.

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9) Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire

Biddulph Grange Gardens, Staffordshire

Dappled sunlight bounces off your shoulders through mature trees as you wander through the Glen at Biddulph Grange, and the lake gives you a glimpse into the world of the wildlife of the garden in and out of the water. Find yourself amazed by the topiary, and see plants and structures from different areas of the world in each new section separated by walls and shrubbery.

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10) Mottisfont, Hampshire

Mottisfont Roses © Jonathan Buckley

With Mottisfont’s walled rose garden collection of old-fashioned roses blooming just once a year, you might feel like June is the only time to go, but beyond the fantastically fragrant roses, there’s so much more to discover. The spring that encouraged settlement at Mottisfont hundreds of years ago is now the heart of a fresh green walk, and the National Collection of plane trees provide shade on sunny days.

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11) Pure Land Japanese Garden, Nottinghamshire

Pure Land Japanese Gardens, Nottinghamshire

Designed to be a retreat for meditation and a clearing of the mind, the Pure Land Gardens are a collection of Japanese-inspired areas set up for relaxation. Cross the bridge over the still waters to spot the carp, and kneel by the pagoda and bamboo. There’s even the world’s first crystal garden to explore too!

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12) Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

Once the home to the School of Horticulture for Ladies, Waterperry Gardens is now eight acres of landscaped ornamental gardens waiting to be explored. Wander alongside classical borders and the Long Colour Border, then fnd a sculpture of The Tempest’s Miranda at the Waterlily Canal. When you’re done exploring, you can step into the Art in Action gallery to admire locally crafted goods and original works.

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13) Leighton Hall, Lancaster

Leighton Hall, Lancaster

Sprawling over 1150 acres, the Leighton Hall Gardens are walled and overflowing with blooms. Designed after a cottage style, but on a much larger scale, the gardens include an herbaceous border, plenty of roses, and 18th century woods. Children can hunt for the hidden tree faces, or take on the caterpillar maze. For adults, there’s the stunning Millennium Angel to admire, and a network of footpaths to stroll.

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14) Burton Agnes Hall, East Yorkshire

Burton Agnes Hall Gardens, East Yorkshire

Burton Agnes Hall not only has a beautiful woodland walk, on which you can find giant caterpillars and other creepy crawly sculptures, but also a walled garden containing over 3000 different plants. Based on the original Elizabethan garden that was there so many years before, it combines old and new styles to create a gorgeous place of rest.  

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15) Crook Hall, Durham

Crook Hall Gardens, Durham

Crook Hall has ten areas to relax in, so you can pick your favourite. Have low conversations in the orchard, or stop to smell the flowers in the walled garden. The cathedral garden has its leylandi hedges trimmed to look like the arched windows of its namesake, and the maze is in a flowering meadow, surrounded by roses and clematis.

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16) High Grove, Gloucestershire

Highgrove Gardens, Gloucestershire

The gardens at High Grove offer a personalised two hour tour, or you can wander as a group with your guide through Royal Gardens to see the Kitchen Garden, The Sundial Garden, and The Stumpery. At the end of the tour you can retire to the Orchard Restaurant for delicious fine dining. There’s the option to buy a few blooms to take home too!

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17) Levens Hall, Cumbria

Levens Hall Gardens, Cumbria

There really are few experiences that can match seeing the world renowned topiary at Levens Hall, home of the oldest topiary in the world. Beyond the intricately carved hedges, you’ll find foxgloves and roses, and a fragrant herb garden where the bed plantings change regularly. There are even double herbaceous borders to enjoy alongside a beautiful lawn.

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18) Mapperton, Dorset

Mapperton Gardens, Dorset

There is an award winning garden on the estate of a house recently used in the film Far From the Maddening Crowd. Look out across the croquet lawn, groomed to perfection, and see the remains of a 17th century parterre. The Italianate Garden has grottos and fountains, whilst the 1960s orangery beautifully frames a topiary laced lawn and a selection of borders. Mapperton is an oasis of structured calm.

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19) Belsay Hall, Northumberland

Belsay Hall, Northumberland

Explore the lovingly crafted gardens of Belsay Hall. The stone for the house was carved from a nearby quarry on the estate, and owner Sir Charles, inspired by the Picturesque movement, was inspired to turn this into a romantic quarry garden. The microclimate at Belsay allows tender plants to grow far beyond their normal northern limit. There’s also a rose garden, Crag Wood Walk, and a winter garden on the 40 acre estate.

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20) Holker Hall, Cumbria

Holker Hall Gardens, Cumbria

Holker Hall has 25 acres of immaculate gardens, and 200 acres of ‘natural’ parkland. Make your way through the rhododendrons in the spring, or stand at the base of the Holker Great Lime; one of The Tree Council’s 50 Great British Trees that stands at 72 feet tall. Children will love making their way through the Holker Labyrinth. And for the discerning expert, there are some incredibly rare plants that call Holker home, including a collection of Styracacae.

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>>Find more ideas on English gardens to visit, including short break itineraries

Katie Rowe

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