Book Review: Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Go West young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” – Josiah Bushell Grimmell

After being enthralled and inspired reading about 22 very different gardens in 4 counties, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, it really is a case of “Go East”, a part of our country I rarely visit but am going to rectify.

The foreword is written by Beth Chatto who tells us she “…rarely had enough time to get out and visit other gardens, it is a pity since we can all learn from one another. Learning what to do is important, but learning what not to do is equally important.” How true that is!

Barbara Segall, a horticulturalist and garden writer visited each of the 22 gardens and has written about them so beautifully and enticingly it was a hard task to pick out just a few in this review, buying this book really is a must. The photographs taken by the late Marcus Harpur are a delight, he was a brilliant photographer who sadly died on the 6th August but not before he and Barbara were able to celebrate the arrival the first copies of the book in June.

The 22 gardens range from acres and acres of land to a very small town house garden – something for everyone. These are just four I have picked out, mainly because each one is so different in its own right.

Parsonage House, Helions Bumpstead, Essex


Photograph taken by Marcus Harpur

Annie Turner and her husband The Hon. Nigel Turner have lived at Parsonage House since 1990. It is an English country garden with mixed borders and a small kitchen garden. There are 3 acres of garden and then another 3 acres of wild flowers and woodland. A quote from Annie Turner in the book is something we should all try and follow but, if you are like me, you rarely do: “..having the discipline not to do too much too soon has it rewards.”


Photographs by Marcus Harpur

Above is an illustration of one of the borders at Parsonage Farm and a selection of the flowers grown there.

Silverstone Farm, North Elmham, Norfolk

Photograph by Marcus Harpur

Silverstone Farm is a very different garden. George Carter was inspired by 17th and early 18th century Dutch and English gardens. His garden is designed with hedges forming rooms, topiary and a fine array of structures around the garden as can be seen in the photograph above.

38 Norfolk Terrace, Cambridge


Photographed by Marcus Harpur

38 Norfolk Terrace is a tiny town house garden and goes to show that you don’t need a lot of space to create an enchanting garden. This garden is full of ideas for the use of space with raised beds, low growing shrubs and pots giving shape and height.

Ulting Wick, Ulting, Essex


Photographed by Marcus Harpur

I have to declare a personal interest with Ulting Wick. Although it is a garden I am yet to visit, it has been on my ‘must-visit’ list for a while. The owner Philippa Burroughs and I follow each other on Twitter and over the last few years I have seen some inviting photographs of her charming garden. Now I have read more about the history it is a MUST visit garden.


Photographs by Marcus Harpur

The tulips at Ulting Wick are a sight to behold, and Philippa told Barbara Segall that no plan is made on paper!

This review really is just a taster of this captivating book and I really recommend it. Some of the other gardens featured are:

COLUMBINE HALL – A moated garden with a series of green rooms
HELMINGHAM HALL GARDENS – A gem of a garden hidden in its own moated island
KIRTLING TOWER – A field of daffodils for a Tudor gatehouse
RAVENINGHAM HALL – Exquisite planting in the RHS president’s private garden
ULTING WICK – Thousands of tulips against a backdrop of black wooden barns
WYKEN HALL – Vines and roses around an Elizabethan Manor House

Just to finish off, I include a further quote from Barbara Segall’s introduction – “It’s only walking in a garden…you can really appreciate the picture that has been created.”


Secret Gardens of East Anglia A Private Tour of 22 Gardens
By Barbara Segall Photography by Marcus Harpur
Published by Frances Lincoln on 7th September 2017