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The Gardens at Beaulieu

At the end of May I visited Beaulieu to attend the BBC Gardeners World Spring Fair.

To be honest I found the Fair itself disappointing, but Beaulieu itself is always worth a visit. It's home to the National Motor Museum, Palace House (home of the Montagu family), World of Top Gear, Beaulieu Abbey, the Secret Army Exhibiltion and an art gallery among other attractions, but you can find out more for yourself here: This is a gardening blog so I'm going to concentrate on its gardens.

The Beaulieu estate covers around 800 acres, but the main area open to visitors is that which surrounds the motor museum and Palace House with most of the gardens sitting behind the museum.

Victorian Flower Garden

This area, walled on one side and with the monorail passing close to it on the other, is perhaps the most "formal" of the gardens in Beaulieu. Created in 1995, its borders are full of herbaceous perennials with old roses being a particular feature in the summer, while the lawns in the centre have been filled with some interesting topiary including a full-scale representation of the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice in Wonderland (the real Alice - who inspired the books - lived in the New Forest and made several visits to Beaulieu including to at least one real tea party). They also feature an attractive fountain and the "love-lock tree", a metal sculpture on which couples attach engraved padlocks to represent ‘locking in’ their love for eternity.

Above left to right and top to bottom: Victorian Flower garden as seen from the monorail, topiary animals, topiary Mad Hatter's Tea Party, sundial commissioned to mark Lord Monagu's 50th birthday in 2011, sculpture near the entrance to the garden, the love-lock tree, fountains, wisteria walk (a little too late in the season for this to be at its best).

Kitchen Garden

Originally laid out in the 1870s, this was supposed to be a walled garden but as with the flower garden above only the North Wall was ever completed. Instead it's protected from the elements by high yew hedges.

Above left to right: vine house (dating from the 1870s), overview, fruit cage

The Wilderness, Moat and Front lawn

Between the gardens mentioned above and Palace House sits an area known as "the Wilderness". Consisting of parkland planted with shrubs and trees, this is a pleasant spot in which to find some shade on a sunny day. Many of the shrubs are rhododendrons, perhaps inspired by those at Exbury Garden on the other side of the Beaulieu River. When we visited some of the parkland had been allowed to grow into wildflower meadows.

Surrounding Palace House is a dry moat, now filled with grass and wildflowers, and in front of the House is a formal lawn leading to the Mill Pond.

Above: various views of "the Wilderness" and the main path running through it (note: the "path" photograph was taken on a previous visit during winter hence the bare trees). Final photograph shows Palace House and moat.

The Millpond Walk

From the front lawn there is a path which leads through woodland alongside the Millpond. It's a pleasant walk which takes you back to close to the site entrance.

There are some interesting sculptures along this route including a "green man" carved into an old oak tree, a pair of sculptures representing Jack Frost and the May Queen and a metal fairy sitting above visitors' heads. Many of the trees along the route also feature fairy doors, although they look a little small for her to fit through; perhaps she is their queen, and her subjects are smaller!

Also along the walk are several sections of the wall which at one time enclosed the 55 acres of Beaulieu Abbey.

The Millpond itself has existed since the 13th Century, when monks from the Abbey built a dam across he Beaulieu River to power their conrmill, and the water level in the pond is managed by sluice gates.

Above left to right and top to bottom: part of the millpond, view along the Millpond walk, the May Queen, Jack Frost, fairy door, bridge, part of the old abbey precinct wall, fairy, green man.


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