Begin a journey of discovery....
Set off along the the gravel walk on the southern edge of Rook Wood. Take a short detour to visit the old derelict army barrack hut with interpretation describing Hestercombe's involvement in the second world war.
Return to the path and look at the view from the magnificent Daisy Steps which were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to create a link between his Formal garden and the earlier Landscape garden. Here also is the entrance to the Victorian Shrubbery - a small enclosed garden incorporating a nineteenth century yew tunnel with views to the Victorian water tower.
The path then rises to lead to the Landscape gardens passing the newly restored eighteenth century Octagon Summerhouse which offers framed views of the gardens both up and down the valley. The short film 'The Painted Landscape' helping to put the Landscape gardens in context.
The Landscape gardens were designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde between 1750 and 1786 as a circuit with surprises, variations and subtle changes of mood together with a number of carfully orchestrated views, each composed as if they were a landscape painting - hence the description - Landscape Garden.
The Terrace Walk leads to the Chinese Seat affording different views across the tranquil Pear Pond and beyond. The mood changes entering rough woodland of the Valley of Cascades glimpsing through the trees to see the Pope's Urn so named after the original design by William Kent for the poet Alexander Pope and erected in his garden at Twickenham.
The Great Cascade is the dramatic centre-piece of the Landscape garden - mystical and ringed by trees and decorated with large boulders of white quartz. The theatrical effect was inspired by Bampfylde's visit to William Shenstone's garden, The Leasowes, in 1762. Opposite is another viewing point - the Rustic Seat allowing the visitor to stop and contemplate this sublime scene.
Continuing up the valley on to the Leat constructed to carry water from the Box Pond to the head of the Great Cascade. Further on, hidden in the trees to the left of the Box Pond Cascade is the Charcoal Burner's camp. The production of charcoal continues to be a valuable by-product of Hestercombe's woodland management and creates considerable interest - look out for dates during the year and come along to witness this fascinating ancient craft and join us in the Courtyard for a BBQ using this charcoal!
Surrounded by trees and sheltered from the breeze, mirror-like reflections give the Box Pond an enchanted air.
At the top of the hill the path takes you along a narrow strip of woodland through a laurel tunnel. This dark enclosure is rewarded at the end by a surprise panorama of the Vale of Taunton, framed by the magnificent Gothic Alcove. First recorded in 1761, the original building was taken down after 1887 but reconstructed in 2000 with the roof being replaced in 2009. Pass through an intimate shrubbery planted in eighteenth century style with roses and flowering climbers and admire the view from the wicket gate before walking across the open field.
The Temple Arbour was built in the mid 1770s in Tuscan doric style and is commands breathtaking views over the Pear Pond and on to distant hills. The Temple is now also used as a romantic, intimate venue for small wedding ceremonies.
Move on to the magical Witch House which was first recorded in 1761. From here, follow the path to the Friendship Urn which was erected by Bampfylde in 1786 and was possibly his last addition to the garden. The urn is dedicated to the memory of Bampfylde's two great friends, Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte of neighbouring Halswell and Henry Hoare II of Stourhead in Wiltshire.
Follow through to the Capriccio View - a dramatic viewpoint situated on top of a rock cliff. Descending the zigzag path to the Mausoleoum which dates back from the mid 1750s and is thought to relate to its shape rather than any use as a burial chamber.
On reaching the Pear Pond the full landscape view is finally revealed in all its glory, crowned by the Temple Arbour whose reflection is caught in the lake completing this classical masterpiece.
Take some time to enjoy the restored 17th century Water Mill with its Dynamo House and Mill Room with historical machinery on display and a short film about the Mill's restoration. The film showing in the underground Dutch Tunnel gives a fascinating view of life on the Estate during the Edwardian Era.
Head now for the Formal Gardens, crossing the beautiful manicured Orangery Lawns visiting the Dutch Garden and the Orangery.
The Formal Gardens extend to the Rounda with views across the East Rill and then follow the path across the Victorian Terrace overlooking the world acclaimed Great Plat resplendent with bright colours specified by Gertrude Jekyll.
Descend the steps leading to the Grey Walk with soft borders of silver and grey leaved plants and on to the Great Plat itself - a great sunken parterre laid out with geometric borders edged with stone and ringed with luxuriant gergenia. The East and West Rills frame this garden with a Pergola enclosing the garden at the bottom yet allowing it to remain linked to and be part of the surrounding countryside.
The route back takes you through the fragrant Rose Garden was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to offer cool shade and another delightful view.
Visit the official website for Gertrude Jekyll for more information about this pioneering plantswomen: