Deep in the heart of the Surrey Hills near the beautiful village of Chiddingfold, down a narrow country lane, you will find Vann, a 16th timber farmhouse surrounded by a garden that is open on a few weekends in the year through the National Garden Scheme and every Wednesday from April to July.
The property was bought by W D Caroe in 1907 and over 100 years later the Caroe family are still resident; it is the present day Caroe family who tend to the garden.
We visited Vann on Sunday, yet another damp and cold day in a long stretch of wet weeks. The signs asked us not to park on the side of the road and please use the car park, this was a designated field next to Vann but due to the wet ground it was closed. We had to drive down the road to find a suitable lay by and walk back. The unmanned entrance was left to the honesty of garden visitors with a yellow NGS money box and a roll of tickets.
Due to the poor lighting and the drizzle I had trouble getting enough light for the photographs, so I apologise if they appear a bit dark – despite being tweaked a little through editing.
At the front of the house, the original part of the garden has Yew hedging and herbaceous borders, given over this time of the year to Spring plants and a mass of Forget-me-nots wherever you look.
In respect to the wet lawn we kept to the path that ran around the edge of the house. I did feel that I was intruding somewhat as we walked passed the dining room, where friends and/or family were being entertained with Sunday Lunch, this was exacerbated as we turned the corner, passing the kitchen when “Stop being nosy” was shouted at us through the window by two small boys, followed by heaps of giggles.
In front of us was the much photographed pergola which can be found on a majority of websites about Vann Garden. This is made of Bargate Stone with timber across the top and is underplanted with euphorbias, hellebores, ferns, pulmonaria, hemerocallis and Spring bulbs, which I suspect are replaced during the Summer months with other bulbs. The pergola runs from the house down to the pond.
We then made our way to the Water Garden. Gertrude Jekyll was a neighbour, living nearby in Munstead Wood, and in 1911 she was asked to design a water garden for Vann. Using a series of small pools from the larger pond, this particularly tranquil part of Vann has stepping stones, little bridges and is planted with shade loving plants. The bluebells were coming out and occasionally the whiff of Wild Garlic floated by.
At this point I was wishing I knew how to use the video on my camera, the birds were singing away and were wonderful to listen to. Please use your imagination when looking at the photos below and listen to the bird song.
The path took us to the other side of the pond, facing the back of the house and the lawn. I particularly liked the glass baubles, one of the few carefully placed garden ornaments set about the garden.
At the end of the pond is the Yew Walk, with a rill and small stream that feds into the pond. Either side of the rill are Spring flowers and yet more Forget-me-not froth. I wonder if you can have too many Forget-me-nots, they did seem to be everywhere.
Standing tall and proud above the sea of blue foam were very dark, almost black tulips, the contrast of the two colours was lovely.
At the far end of the Yew Walk, were two little trees, which on close inspection turned out to be cleverly pruned Wisteria. It was an interesting way to see this as usually it is trained to climb over pergolas or up houses.
A gap in the hedge took us through into the Orchard, vegetable garden full of artichokes and very healthy looking raspberry canes under a large net covering.
I smiled when I saw the side of the greenhouse, with its broken pots and the general garden detritus that we all accumulate. It looked somewhat out of place juxtaposed with a carefully mown lawn and an interesting wavy wall neatly planted at the base with iris and euphorbia. I later learned that the wall is known as a Serpentine or Crinkle Crankle Wall. Initially designed for planting of fruit trees and always built east-west it captures the suns rays.
The other side of the greenhouse is a lawn with a bench set on glass bottle bottoms and hedging set at each of the four corners of the lawn. It was unusual and I felt was a bit odd but life would be boring if we liked everything we saw.
I liked the variety at Vann, it is very much a garden that you can come away from with ideas and I will certainly return in the Summer because I suspect it will look very different.
Vann Garden is open again on Sunday 10 June to Sunday 17 June from 10:00 to 18:00 and, of course, every Wednesday until July 2012. There are no refreshments available and the old-fashioned outside toilet is worth a visit – even if it is just to read the poem on the door!
Copyright Hurtled to 60 and Now Beyond 2012 and AarTee Photography 2012