Explore the private garden at Knole
Lord Sackville’s private garden is a magical space featuring sprawling lawns, a walled garden, an untamed wilderness area and a medieval orchard.
Every Tuesday from April to September, visitors can enjoy Knole’s enchanting 500-year-old private garden. Access is through the beautiful Orangery where doors open to reveal the secluded lawns and majestic walkways of the Sackville family’s private space.
The garden at Knole has existed since the early fifteenth century and has been extended over the years. The Kentish ragstone walls that surround the garden were added during the tenancy of the Lennard family, who leased the property from 1574. The walls run for almost one mile enclosing the entire 26-acre garden, interrupted only by a series of wrought iron gates providing far-reaching views over the surrounding parkland.
There is much to explore in the garden, from formal spaces with lawns and borders to the less structured wilderness area of meandering mossy paths and hidden clearings. The peaceful walled garden and orchards provide the perfect place for a contemplative stroll.
The walled garden
The walled garden is one of the oldest features of the garden at Knole and probably marked its original boundary at the time of Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury. From here there are stunning and rarely-seen views back to the beautiful south front of the house.
Medieval gardens often had a series of enclosures but few have survived, making Knole’s walled garden (within a walled garden) particularly special. In the past the space was used as both an ornamental garden and an orchard and is currently a beautifully-ordered vegetable garden. Visitors can stroll along the garden’s central pathway and out through the stone arch at the bottom of the enclosure where a towering cypress oak stands, thought to be the tallest in Britain.
Explore the wilderness
The area beyond the walled garden is known as 'the wilderness' and is much less formal than other parts of the garden, with its mossy paths meandering through the trees to grassy clearings. This area is the largest part of the garden and there are charming views back towards the east face of the house from here.
Highlights of the wilderness include the patte d’oie (or goose foot), a clearing where several pathways radiate from a central space and a common feature in late seventeenth century gardens. The wilderness is also home to one of the garden’s four natural springs and the atmospheric bog garden, a large sunken clearing inhabited by enormous skunk cabbages.
Closer to the east side of the house is a low hedged area which is a Victorian re-creation of a Tudor knot garden, characterised by its highly formal design and subtle plantings contained in a square frame.
Other highlights in the garden
Visitors can walk along the longest green alley in the country – a grassy unbroken path which runs around the perimeter of the garden hugging the ragstone walls. Often shaded by foliage, the gentle path is perfect for a summer stroll. Such paths were common in large walled gardens, but not many remain. At just under one mile long, Knole’s is probably the longest in the country.
The peaceful 600-year-old orchard has existed since the garden was first laid out. It was replanted in 2011 but a handful of the older pear trees remain alongside newer plantings of apple, damson, quince, greengage and plum trees, which will bear fruit throughout late summer.
In spring, visitors are treated to a glorious display of purple wisteria along the garden’s western wall. The 200-year-old plant is the longest wisteria in the UK and features in Vita Sackville-West’s Knole and the Sackville’s where she wrote of it “dripping its fountains over the wall”.
Purple and white foxgloves are currently providing colour in the garden and as autumn approaches visitors will be treated to a riot of golden sunflowers.
Learn more on a guided walk
Self-guided tours are available (pick up a leaflet at the entrance to the garden) or visitors can join one of the guided walks led by our knowledgeable volunteers every Tuesday. Each themed walk highlights different treasures in the garden:
- Vita's First Garden – 11.30am
- The Best of the Garden Today – 12.30pm
- Maps and Mysteries – 1.15pm
- The Wilderness – 2.15pm
- Treasures of the Garden – 3.15pm
Guided walks last between 40 and 60 minutes and good footwear is recommended.
For families, a special trail is available (pick up a copy at the entrance to the garden), which will help children spot the treasures of the garden as they walk. A range of imaginative story sacks can also be collected from the Orangery (free of charge) to enjoy in the garden.
The garden is open with kind permission from Lord Sackville on Tuesdays from 4 April to 26 September, 11am until 4pm. Last entry is at 3.30pm. Entry to the garden is included in normal admission price.