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Contrasting gardens on the Jurassic coast, Dorset


Eastington Farm and Encombe House

Both gardens are set in open countryside beside the coast, in the Isle of Purbeck and their styles provide an enticing contrast to each other – one intimate and the other expansive. In the morning we visit Eastington Farm, a mellow Grade-II listed manor house, where we are the guests of Rachel and Allan James. After morning coffee, Rachel and her gardener Anita will introduce us to the gardens, where they battle strong, salt-laden winds and thin soil. From the stone terrace and main lawn there are sweeping sea views, framed by lollipop-clipped holm oaks. Leading away from a large circular pond in front of the house, beautifully restored stone walls protect and enclose the main flower gardens and provide a foil for the extensive planting. Through a series of gateways, the gardens reveal formal planting nearest the house, leading to relaxed informal borders of roses, peonies and other perennials. An orchard and wild flowers complete the picture in this exquisitely restored enclave.

Next we will drive to Encombe, a substantial and historic 18th century house nestled in a sheltered setting at the top of a broad valley in the Purbeck Hills and encircled by a landscape of open pasture. Here we are the guests of Arabella and James Gaggero, who have undertaken an extensive redevelopment of the grounds over the past 10 years, with designer Tom Stuart-Smith. The gardens are composed of multiple elements, including sweeping borders filled with perennials and grasses, a Tuscan-style temple, a new stone terrace and a substantial walled garden with a young orchard and flower meadows. There is also a kitchen garden and glasshouse. Magically, the views embrace what Tom Stuart-Smith describes as “the only infinity lake I know”. After a delicious lunch, served in one of the garden buildings, Arabella and her two long-standing gardeners Simon and Seb will lead a tour of the garden, explaining its history and design, followed by afternoon tea.

Tickets £135, Friends £120  

10.30am start. Meeting point: Wareham train station from where transport to the gardens is provided. (Check www.parkopedia.com if you wish to park at Wareham) The day includes morning coffee, a seasonal two-course lunch with wine and afternoon tea.

Finish time: 5.00pm*

*Finish times are approximate – please allow for flexibility at the end of the day.