Five of Britain's best walled gardens to visit – by Jules Hudson

Countryfile Diaries and Escape to the Country presenter Jules Hudson has a passion for walled gardens – here he selects five of the most fascinating from around the country

Photos by Jules Hudson

6th February 2018
Walled garden attingham

It was difficult to chose my top five gardens, but if you saw only these you would hopefully come away with a good all-round view of what makes a walled kitchen garden so captivating.

Crossing the threshold from the world outside to that within really does take you into a very enchanted space, both industrious and productive, yet also calm, ordered and beautiful.

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan epitomise the ambition of those who have sought to reinvigorate many of our greatest kitchen gardens. Since they were re-discovered and opened to the public in 1992 they have become a blueprint for many subsequent walled garden restorations, and remain a fitting legacy to Heligan’s gardeners who lost their lives in the First World War, an event which hastened the decline of kitchen gardens across the country.

Heligan gardens
Seen from above, the walled garden at Heligan still seems to want to retreat back into the Cornish countryside

The kitchen garden at Attingham Park in Shropshire is a fantastic example of how a classic late 18th century kitchen garden evolved to embrace the best of Victorian developments. The anatomy of Attingham is an invaluable guide to understanding many of the principles that underpin all other kitchen gardens, notably it’s ground plan, location within the park, vast array of ancillary buildings and beautifully restored horticultural features. 

Attingham Gardens
Lavender edges the beds within Attingham walled garden

Tatton Park’s development as a sprawling garden complex has preserved the story of its kitchen gardens since the late 18th century, in contrast to many other examples that simply built over previous designs. Its crowning glory, the fernery designed by Joseph, is testament to the Egerton family’s obsession with the pursuit of horticultural excellence, a trait shared by many other kitchen garden owners over the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tatton park
Tatton Park's walled garden is a reminder of how productive these enclosed kitchen gardens can be.

Knightshayes Court in Devon is without doubt the most architecturally striking walled garden in the country. Designed by gardener Edward Kemp it was fashioned by the limitless medieval imagination of William Burges, who adorned it with fairytale turrets beneath a series of broad terraces.

Between them these two great minds created the perfect late Victorian garden in a stunning aspect that borrowed much from the past whilst boldly looking to the future.

Knighthayes court
Knighthayes walled garden protects a huge area of productive land.

When the reconstruction of Gordon Castle’s kitchen garden is finally finished this year, it will justly claim to be the biggest productive example in Britain, covering eight beautifully designed acres of Moray.

Re-imagined with the help of designer Arne Maynard it is today a captivating mix of contemporary and traditional design, set within its towering early 19th-century boundary walls.

Gordon castle
The immense garden at Gordon Castle.

Read more about walled gardens in Jules Hudson's new book, out this spring: Walled Gardens

Walled gardens book

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