Mapperton House is a Jacobean Manor House near Beaminster in Dorset. The 13 acre garden is fascinating and surprisingly varied, including a formal, Italianate garden with small orangery below the house and areas of natural woodland beyond. It’s registered as a Grade II* garden, and even on a chilly day in April it had real charm and a sense of being well loved.
Visiting the week before Easter, a certain amount of imagination was needed to get an idea of what the garden would look like at its best. The huge wisteria on the wall around the lawn and on the pergola, for instance, were only just in bud, but the plants generally seemed a little more advanced in this part of the south west than they had been in north London, and included a few more tender plants than would be possible to grow in many parts of the country, so there was already a lot of colour.
The Italianate garden, created in a valley behind the house, is small but perfectly formed. Not perfectly manicured, perhaps; this isn’t a tightly controlled garden where nature is used to show off the skill of the gardener. There is some formal topiary, but on the whole this is a garden where plants are chosen and put together with skill, but are then allowed room to be themselves. Set within the structure of beautifully weathered stonework and terraces that make such good use of the valley setting, the combined effect is an air of intimacy and romance.
As you walk through the layers of this top part of the garden, you discover paths leading off into wilder areas, where shrubs and trees nestle on the sides of the valley. Many of these were only just coming into leaf so there was a bit of guessing going on about their identity, using the bark and the buds as a guide. It’s not a fool proof method, and certainly not when I’m doing it, but was good enough to get the impression that there’s be some interesting things to see here later in the year. Further paths then led on to woodland, filled with bluebells in April, and another valley which might well lead to the sea …….
It was a delightful garden, perfectly suited to the gloriously natural Dorset countryside surrounding it. I’d love to visit again.