The garden at Peckover House is two acres in size and is situated in the centre of Wisbech town. As a garden surviving from the Victorian period, it's highly ornamental and subdivided by high brick walls and hedges into a series of distinct areas full of interest and colour throughout the year. Dogs aren't permitted in the garden, unless they're assistance dogs, and haven’t been since Alexandrina bequeathed the property to the Trust in 1948.
There are several reasons why this policy has been adopted. Our colourful beds and borders, ponds and specimen trees are set off by sweeping lawns which would become discoloured (or develop dead patches) from canine urine; the hedges would suffer in the same way. Although most dog owners are very responsible, we don’t want our gardeners and cherished garden volunteers to come across dog poo while weeding, mowing or deadheading the roses! We try to maintain a tranquil atmosphere in the garden as a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the town on the other side of the walls – in fact the garden is often called a hidden oasis. The serenity could be disturbed by noisy dogs.
But most importantly, perhaps, the main reason is because the garden is home to Damson and Algie, our two cats. The Peckover family were great cat lovers so we continue the tradition and would hate them to become stressed on encountering a dog in their territory (although Elizabeth Josephine, Alexandrina’s sister, did paint a dog sitting on one of the lawns!).
We're certainly not anti dogs: all the garden team owns a dog, or two, and we find all our visitors understand and respect our no dog policy. If we're told that a visitor has left a dog in the car, we invite them to bring their dog to the front of the house where the owner can sit with it while the rest of their party can explore the property. We can provide water and a comfortable, shady place for the dog to lie.
We're very fortunate that Alexandrina left a large estate to the Trust, composed of playing fields and pathways, all within a stone's throw of the house and garden. It's a treasured place in the centre of town where dog owners can, and regularly do, exercise their dogs.