The Gavin Jones Waterfall and Garden at Chartwell

What we call the Gavin Jones Waterfall and surrounding garden today, is in fact made up of several different areas, each with their own unique character and fascinating history. From the Golden Orfe ponds, an area of calm reflection, all the way down to the swimming pool which was once heated for a spot of outdoor bathing, you can follow the water up the hill as you head towards the house.

The Swimming Pool

As you enter Chartwell, heading up from the northern end of the estate along the paved pathways, the views soon open up to the wide lawns and lakes. The first feature you’ll see, sitting slightly down the lawn towards the lake is the swimming pool, once a favourite of the Churchills and now a favourite of our resident black swans and visiting geese.

The swimming pool built by Churchill at Chartwell
The swimming pool built by Churchill at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent
The swimming pool built by Churchill at Chartwell

Swimming was one of Churchill’s many pastimes and so he constructed the - then heated - pool within the grounds of Chartwell in the 1930s.

With his usual thoroughness, Churchill took advice from his scientist friend, Lindemann, on the amount of water needed to fill the new oval pool, and from a chemist on the correct chemicals to keep it clean.

In the summer months you can’t miss the dark green Gunnera Manicata (also known as dinosaur food!) standing tall between the pool and the pathway. Each winter, these massive plants get put to bed, lying dormant throughout the cold months before exploding back to life in the spring, growing very large, very quick.

Gavin Jones Waterfall

One of the most captivating areas here is the Gavin Jones water features that trickle steadily down into the swimming pool.

Originally, this feature was part of the 1948 Chelsea Flower Show where Clementine Churchill first saw it. She liked it so much that the designer, Gavin Jones, gave it to her as a gift and she was soon arranging to have it re-installed after the show back here at Chartwell, only paying for the transport.

The Gavin Jones water feature that Clementine fell in love with at the Chelsea Flower Show
The Gavin Jones water feature at Chartwell
The Gavin Jones water feature that Clementine fell in love with at the Chelsea Flower Show

The upper part of this water garden has since been lost to nature, allowed over the years to grow up and has been reclaimed by the bamboo and the foxgloves.

Follow the pathway over the stream falling across the rocks, offering a chance to wish on a penny before sending it into the waters below.

Golden Orfe Ponds

Just before you reach the Rose Garden and the house, you will reach the top of the water feature with the Golden Orfe ponds. There are in fact three ponds here at Chartwell, each filled with the exotic fish that Churchill himself purchased for Chartwell from Harrods after seeing them in the 1930s.

Sadly, many of the tall trees which once formed a backdrop to this secluded spot were brought down in the Great Storm, but careful management by our garden teams has reinvigorated the area.

Find rhododendrons in abundance at Chartwell
Rhododendron growing by Churchill's golden orfe ponds at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent
Find rhododendrons in abundance at Chartwell

If Churchill’s spirit still hovers anywhere in the garden, it is here. In old age, Churchill loved to sit beside the pool in the simple garden chair painting or feeding his fish, whose descendants still swim in the tranquil waters of the pools.