Enjoy the gardens
Nestled within a hidden valley, the gardens at Ightham Mote occupy fourteen acres, with a narrow stream running through it supplying two lakes, the moat and tumbling down two cascades on its journey through the garden. Other natural springs have been tapped to supply the four small fountain pools and open channels which add to the atmosphere, charm, tranquillity and variety of the gardens, developed like the house, over 700 years with the ideas of each successive owner.
As you walk down the slope and turn the corner, you'll arrive at the North Lawn with its 18th century cascade and terraced walks on either side. Originally the site of a lake, it was drained in the 18th century to create the lawn, which features in the painting 'A Game of Bowls' by John Singer Sargent that we now have in the house.
As the sun sinks lower in the sky, the harsh light of high summer is replaced by a warming glow, softening the colours and making them easier on the eye.
With the vibrant coloured stems of the dogwood, through to the snowdrops peeping out, don't be shy about exploring the garden this winter.
Celebrate the arrival of spring in the garden. From snowdrops, crocus and the heady scent of Daphne, to the gradual awakening of daffodils, there are splashes of colour throughout.
The garden is at its most colourful during the summer months. With vibrant colours, the buzz of wildlife and space to relax in the historic pleasure grounds, it’s time to make the most of nature.
Wander around the house, and past the tower to discover the Enclosed Garden hidden behind ragstone walls. This secluded, paved garden with its 'secret garden' behind the hedge provides a charming place to spend some time. Sunlight dances off the cherub fountain in the centre, whilst the soft colours and foliage of the planting scheme reflect an American's idea of a traditional English garden.
Coming out of the enclosed garden, the original garden and house entrance was from the driveway to your right (the gates were originally to your left). Imagine riding through the gates and dismounting your horse onto the mounting block to start your visit.
Today, as you walk into stable courtyard, there are formal lawns and bright herbaceous borders. In the 17th Century it was a working farm as well as a forecourt to the house with stables and farm buildings on three sides and a large oval cart/carriage ‘circle’. When the ‘new’ farmyard was built in the 18th Century the remaining buildings were converted to workers cottages and the courtyard made more ornamental with the lawns and borders.
The formal garden, with its saucer pond in the centre and four ‘symmetrical’ beds has been an Italianate garden, and a rose garden. Most recently it has formal bedding displays, changed twice each year, designed by a different member of the gardening team. It is interesting for us and for our visitors to have an area to try out and see different planting ideas.
Stepping through the high hedge, the cutting garden provides a fine display of flower and foliage shapes and colours throughout summer and beautiful cut flowers for the house. The scent from the cutting garden is especially good at the end of June and into July when the sweet peas and lavender are at their best.
Long herbaceous border
On the other side of the orchard wall, the west terrace walk boasts fine herbaceous borders, with rustic wood archways across the grass pathway featuring climbing roses. Its long season of interest is provided by a variety of bulbs in spring, and the display of flowers and foliage from July to September and often into October.
North Pleasure grounds
With a meandering stream, ornamental lake, informal lawns and specimen trees, the pleasure grounds at the north end of the garden probably have their origins in the 18th century and were extended again in the 19th century.
This was a period when many newly discovered ‘exotic’ trees and other plants were being collected and planted in wealthy gardens. Significant planting was carried out during the ownership of Victorian naturalist Prideaux John Selby who had a great interest in trees and sadly, a number of them were uprooted in the 1987 hurricane. However, a number of fine specimens have survived and other trees planted since. It is a lovely place to enjoy a gentle stroll, sit in the shade and have a picnic, take in the views or simply relax in a deckchair and listen to the sounds of birdsong and leaves rustling in the breeze.
From the north pleasure grounds a sloping path and steps under a canopy of trees leads to the upper pathway running along a planted sunny bank towards visitor reception. lower path leads to the east grass terrace overlooking the north lawn running along a bank with cherry trees underplanted with snowdrops, primroses and daffodils, creating a cheery display in spring followed by wildflowers in summer.
The South Lake - A lost garden
This area provides a wonderful view to the manor across the lake with the house reflected in the water. The south lake pleasure grounds may also be of 18th century origin and further developed in 19th. Following its decline in the early 20th century, the area became overgrown by self-sown trees, laurel and invasive weeds. As with the conservation work done in parts of the north pleasure grounds, each year we are doing what work we can with the time and resources we have to bring this once lost area back under control so that when funding and resources are available, we can restore it as both an attractive pleasure grounds and a haven for wildlife.
For opening times, please click here. Some areas may have to close at short notice due to weather / ground conditions. Parts of the gardens are closed during the winter months.