The gardens at Oxburgh Hall
The original gardens at Oxburgh Hall have long since disappeared, however what you see today mirrors their footprint. Created by the 6th Baronet during the Victorian period - wander around the visually striking Parterre, discover what’s in season in the Walled Garden and explore the less formal areas, including the Wilderness and My Lady’s Wood.
A garden of two halves, the Walled Garden is where you’ll find the orchard and kitchen garden. The wall that separates the two was once part of a peach house, used for growing soft fruits and vines.
This kitchen garden would have originally supplied the family. Today we grow courgettes, pumpkins, rhubarb, tomatoes and salad crops for you to enjoy in the tea-room. Many of the vegetables we grow from seed are heritage varieties, including the fat lazy blond lettuce that dates back to 1859 and skirret, a forgotten Tudor vegetable that was often added to salads like spring onions.
In the corner of the garden you’ll find the glasshouse where we grow all of our bedding plants. Re-built in 2010 by a group of volunteers to reflect an earlier Victorian glasshouse, rainwater from the roof now provides water for the beds and an energy saving air source heat pump, heats the building.
The kitchen garden also has a potting shed and an acetylene gas plant that provided lighting for the house and stables before Oxburgh was connected to the National Grid in 1946. Look out for the bell in the tower, but be warned as the old poem next to it reads, “if you ring this bell, the gardeners will come; should you ring in jest, then we hope you can run.”
Within the orchard you’ll find fruit trees from around East Anglia, including heritage varieties from Norfolk. With the exception of a couple of older medlar and quince trees, the apple and pear trees are a recent addition, as we work to re-establish the orchard that once grew here. The grass here is managed as a wildflower meadow and cut using the traditional method of scything – it’s at its best in June and July.
The most striking feature within the garden at Oxburgh Hall is the Parterre, which the family refers to as the French Garden. Planted with potatoes during the Second World War to help with the war effort, today thousands of bedding plants create a colourful floral display each summer.
This long bed is planted in repeating patterns. The most noticeable plant in this border is Lavatera, with its pink flowers, however it’s the cat mint border that attracts the bees. A high hedge originally ran alongside the grass path and there were doors at either end. If the family story is true, it was used as a secret garden by Lady Augusta Bedingfeld; who could enjoy the colourful border unseen, whilst she was pregnant (which happened 11 times).
Wilderness gardens were created in deliberate contrast to the more formal gardens that immediately surrounded country houses. Just like other areas of the garden, this was also the vision of the 6th Baronet. Here he used scented shrubs, evergreen planting and mature lime trees to help create a romantic illusion of an untamed landscape. Purposefully designed not to be overlooked from the house, instead managed views create natural windows out across the parkland.
Similar to the Wilderness in its design, the 6th Baronet diverted part of the River Gadder through this area of woodland, which he named after his wife, Margaret. The Victorians enjoyed hearing the sound of flowing water and so he built a summer-house next to a flowing cascade, as a place to pause and listen. From here you can enjoy great views back towards the hall.
Recently we’ve been thinning out mature trees to let more light into the water and with the help of the Environment Agency, we’ve narrowed the watercourse to speed-up water flow, removed silt and planted the riverbanks to improve habitats for wildlife. Today, the River Gadder is home to water voles and otters, so keep your eyes peeled as you follow the path.