Chilling Out in the Gravetye Manor Gardens

My first visit to Gravetye Manor and their spectacular garden in June 2013 “Lupins and Alliums at Gravetye” created a lasting impression.  I love the naturalistic planting and the recreation of William Robinson’s style.  This is thanks to Tom Coward, head gardener, and his team.   Since that visit I have followed the garden on Facebook and Tom’s blog about the garden.

Last week there were some breathtaking photos on FB which gave me an overwhelming desire to visit again.  The garden is open to hotel guests, so we booked in for afternoon tea on Wednesday 24 September.   The late September weather was on our side, it was warm and despite a few ominous black clouds, which passed by quickly, the sky was a glorious blue – an ideal day.

Gravetye Manor has a way of making you feel very special.  The staff are friendly, helpful and like magic appear when you need them.  We were met in the car park, shown where to park, welcomed to Gravetye, taken into the hotel, and offered a map and shown the way into the garden.

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The first thing that struck me was the colour.   The formal garden was bursting with late flowering plants in autumnal colours and surprisingly some summer plants still looking healthy.  The dahlias were breathtaking.

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As we wandered around,  I could feel a sense of tranquillity descend upon me.  Tables and chairs were strategically placed  and it was clear that guests had taken advantage of chilling out in the garden.

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When we walked through to the patio area at the side of the house, we remarked on the tables set for tea and agreed what a lovely way to spend an afternoon, looking down to the lake and beyond.

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Below the formal garden is a path with a long border bursting with cosmos, verbena bonariensis and asters.

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At the top of the hill is a large, incredibly well stocked and cared for kitchen garden set out with circular paths.  We stood here for a while just to listen to the birds singing to each other.  It was truly magical, no other sounds or noise to invade the stillness and peace to spoil the moment.

The vegetables were stunning and so healthy.   The purple kale was feet high, the brussel sprouts impressive and as for the pumpkin patch – well!  The kitchen garden is built on the side of a hill so there is quite a slope.

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We were about to leave the kitchen garden when we stopped to talk to a charming and helpful gardener to have a discussion about asparagus.  I now know a little more about how to grow asparagus.

Then we walked back down the hill to the hotel for tea.

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Imagine our delight when we were shown to one of the tables we had seen earlier outside.  Tea arrived with hot sausage rolls, a delicious selection of sandwiches, warm scones and cakes, some of which we took home in a box.

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There is something wonderful about the late afternoon light which we absorbed as we sat there drinking Earl Grey and eating salmon sandwiches.  The sun was still warm and I was feeling calm and at peace with myself looking over the lake and trees bathed in the evening sun.

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Thank you Gravetye Manor for such a delightful afternoon.  I will certainly visit again.

Gravetye Manor is in East Grinstead, West Sussex. The garden is open to hotel and restaurant guests. Pre-booked tours of the garden are available for small groups. Contact the reception team on 01342 810567 for further information.  Check out their website http://www.gravetyemanor.co.uk

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