The Wilderness

Bluebells are among the flowers to look for this spring in the Wilderness Garden at Ham House and Garden, London.

Sometimes the crisp quiet of the morning before the world wakes up, or the gentle warmth of an early spring afternoon, is best enjoyed in the quiet of nature.

In the farthest corner of the grounds from the house, Ham House’s Wilderness Garden is surrounded by a mile of high hornbeam hedge which will soon be bursting into life. Here, you can take a meandering or circular walk, to find your own space to stop and enjoy.

Look for signs of spring

Follow the criss-cross of curvaceous mown paths and once inside, you’ll discover plantings of native wild flowers.

New plantings of wild daffodils and species tulips are beginning to show among the winter aconites, primroses, snowdrops and snake's head fritillaries. 

All are overlooked by rows of field maple trees that give the area its dappled shade and woodland feel. 
 

Robin sitting among the branches of Cornus sanguinea
Robin sitting among the branches of Cornus sanguinea
Robin sitting among the branches of Cornus sanguinea

Shelter to enjoy the season's changing views

There are borders, backed with evergreen trees and shrubs including yew, box, spindle and bay.

Native specimens like hawthorn, sorbus, dog rose and holly provide food for the birds and insects that live here. 

As you walk, look out for small wooden summer houses in the 17th century style, the perfect place to put your feet up or shelter from showers while you enjoy the season’s changing views. 

" Take a meandering walk to find your own space to stop and enjoy. "
- Ham House and Garden
Spring flowers in bloom in the Wilderness at Ham House and Garden, Richmond, London.
Spring flowers in bloom in the Wilderness at Ham House and Garden, Richmond, London.
Spring flowers in bloom in the Wilderness at Ham House and Garden, Richmond, London.

A place in history 

The Wilderness was a fashionable feature in 17th century grand gardens like Ham. It showed the owners' power to contain nature within its hedges and compartments. It was intended as a Wilderness in the biblical sense of the word – for quiet contemplation and reflection and not a ‘wild garden’.

Ham’s Wilderness was secluded, with private areas of the garden where family or guests could be hidden by the formal hedges which together create 16 closely planted compartments in total.

Perhaps the meaning is open to interpretation for garden lovers today, at Ham we try to garden with nature rather than to dominate, but we hope the gentle beauty of this historic part of the garden still remains.

Daffodils and fritillaries in Ham House's Wilderness garden
Daffodils and fritillaries in Ham House's Wilderness garden
Daffodils and fritillaries in Ham House's Wilderness garden