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The garden at Ightham Mote

A view of Ightham Mote and the North Lake in the snow
A view of Ightham Mote and the North Lake in the snow | © Marcus Cribb

With a series of smaller gardens leading up to the historic pleasure grounds, Ightham Mote's garden has something ethereal about it. Each area of the garden, surrounding the four sides of the house, are connected by pathways and water. Whether it's the sunlight glistening on the moat, pools or lakes, early morning mists, dew sparkling on spider webs, or the sound of running water from the springs, fountains or cascades, the garden has a wonderful, mysterious atmosphere.

Winter in Ightham Mote's garden

It's the most wonderful time of the year at Ightham Mote. With frosted branches glistening in the sunshine, widespread views opening up through leafless trees... it's time to wrap up warm and enjoy the crisp, fresh air. Hard paths in a circuit around the garden mean you can access most areas this winter.

Winter is one of the most peaceful times of the year in the garden. As you wander down the slope, the silver birch, underplanted with cyclamen, snowdrops and hellebores, will begin to provide a colourful display.

After the leaves have fallen and many shrubs lay dormant waiting for spring, it's time for the structure of the garden to stand up proud.

With a series of smaller 'gardens' leading up towards the historic pleasure grounds, Ightham Mote's 14-acre garden has something ethereal about it in winter.

Whether it's the sunlight glistening on the water, early morning mists and frosts shrouding the garden, dew sparkling on spider webs or the sound of running water from the springs and water features the garden has a wonderful, mysterious atmosphere in winter.

Colour, scent and structure

Look out for the different branch structures of the ‘skeletons’ of the trees and shrubs that have lost their leaves, the variety of shapes of the leaves that lie on the ground and the different patterns of bark on their stems.

Discover things that are normally hidden by the green leaves: mosses and lichens on twigs and stone walls, views and features you hadn’t noticed before. Marvel at the different shades of the evergreen trees, shrubs and other plants that now stand out in their role of providing structure and interest in the garden.

On the slope, beneath the silvery bark of the birches, a charming display of cyclamen and snowdrops appear alongside the vibrant stems of dogwood and the spotted flowers of hellebores.

A plentiful supply of water

Nestled within a hidden valley, a narrow stream runs through the grounds, supplying two lakes and the moat. It tumbles down two feature cascades on its journey through the garden. Other natural springs have been tapped to supply the four small, fountain pools and several open channels, which add to the atmosphere, charm, tranquillity and variety of the garden.

As you walk down the slope from the entrance and turn right towards the house, you 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, on display in the house.

Within our moat itself we see a variety of fish. Ightham Mote is not available to fish, except for limited, once a year event, usually on Father’s Day, check our Upcoming Events section.

The Enclosed Garden

Wander around the outside of the house, 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, while the soft colours and foliage of the planting scheme reflect the idea of the house’s American donor of what a traditional English garden should look like.

The stable courtyard

Coming out of the Enclosed Garden, the original garden and house entrance was from the driveway to your right. Imagine riding through the gates and dismounting your horse onto the mounting block to start your visit.

Today, as you walk into the 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 carriage circle.

When the ‘new’ farmyard was built nearby in the 18th century, the remaining buildings were converted to workers' cottages and the courtyard became more ornamental with the layout of lawns and borders we see today.

Robin in the snow at Ightham Mote
A robin enjoying the snow at Ightham Mote | © Marcus Cribb

The Formal Garden

The Formal Garden, with its saucer pond in the centre, and four symmetrical beds, has been an Italianate Garden and a rose garden in the past. Most recently it has formal bedding displays, changed twice each year, designed by a different member of the gardening team.

The Cutting Garden

Stepping through the high hedge, the cutting garden provides a fine display of flower and foliage shapes and colours throughout summer, used as 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.

The long herbaceous border

On the other side of the orchard wall, the west terrace walk boasts fine herbaceous borders, with rustic wood archways featuring climbing roses across the grass pathway. 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.

A view over the misty garden at Ightham Mote manor house, complete with small bridge, pond and shrubbery
A misty morning | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

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. It's 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.

The East Terrace

From the North Pleasure Grounds a sloping path and steps under a canopy of trees lead to the upper pathway running along a planted, sunny bank towards visitor reception. A 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 wild flowers in summer.

The South Lake

This area provides a wonderful view back to the house across the lake with its reflection in the water. The South Lake pleasure grounds may be of 18th-century origin and further developed in the 19th century, however it declined in the early 20th century.

The area has recently been opened regularly when conditions allow, and each year we do a little bit more conservation work toward restoring it as an attractive pleasure ground and haven for wildlife.

The orchard

There are more than 15 types of apples grown at Ightham Mote, most of which are heritage varieties, with a mixture of cider, culinary and dessert apples including the sweet Sunset, first discovered in nearby Ightham Village, and the Flower of Kent, the variety beneath which Isaac Newton came up with his theory of gravity.

There has traditionally been an orchard at Ightham Mote, but this one is relatively new, planted in 1989. Each year the apples are harvested and used in the menu in the café, and some are available for visitors to buy.

Visitors at Ightham Mote, Kent

Discover more at Ightham Mote

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