Tour 8. Dorset – Wednesday 26 June

The Old Rectory, Litton Cheney
Mr & Mrs Richard Cave

The village of Litton Cheney lies on the north side of the Bride Valley, tantalisingly close to the sea. The late 18th century Old Rectory stands by the church at the top of a south-facing slope, which is covered by part natural and part ornamental woodland. Since 2009 Richard and Emily Cave have, with the assistance of Arne Maynard, breathed exciting new life into an already lovely garden. The drive curls around a semi-circle of pleached crab apples that screen the circular lawn and borders in front of the house. A thatched summer house stands sentinel to one side. The bank drops away, through the woodland garden, to the gin-clear springs which cascade out of the bank and feed the lake and the new natural swimming pool. Behind the house, a rather secret enclosed garden is dominated by an old quince tree, beyond this lies an elegantly compact vegetable garden and borders containing the mass of roses that are the heart of Emily’s cut rose business.

Melbury House, Melbury Sampford
Mr James and the Hon. Mrs Townshend

Melbury has been owned and lived in by descendants of Henry Strangways since 1500. The tower was built by Giles Strangways in 1540 and succeeding generations have added mightily to his work. The position of the house is superb, surrounded by an ancient deer park, with long views towards Alfred’s Tower to the north. On one side of the house, the land falls into a steep valley, once flooded with a lake. It has, since the 19th century, been planted as an arboretum, whose trees are under-planted with great stands of Gunnera. The lake was moved to a more visible position in front of the house in 1726 and is now overhung by a magnificent and venerable plane tree. Nearer the house, double shrub and perennial borders, punctuated by yew arches, run parallel to the walled garden, within which lies an enclosed garden planted with advice from Georgia Langton.

Upper Sydling House, Up Sydling
Mr and Mrs Alastair Cooper

Upper Sydling House sits in the heart of the wonderful rolling chalk downland that runs across the centre of Dorset. In 2002 Alastair and Susanne Cooper acquired the house and set about creating the garden, subsequently with the help of Julian and Isabel Bannerman. A stone terrace on the west side of the house gives on to a lawn flanked by two gardens enclosed with rose-covered obelisks and ingenious box and oak benches. One contains a rill and gravel planting of Euphorbia wulfenii, Iris, Eryngium and substantial yew domes. The garden opens onto a wide lawn with perimeter borders generously filled with roses and a profusion of summer-flowering perennials. One oak gate opens onto the rising ground behind the house, balanced by a second which leads down into an ornamental walled garden, part flower garden with roses under-planted with Astrantia, Phlox, Geraniums and Salvias and part vegetable garden with chive-edged paths.