Prepare yourselves, folks! I’m staying in Somerset for a week with my favourite (and only!) sister-in-law so we will be cramming in a number of visits and there should be regular updates for the next seven days. The plan is to take in at least one or two a day but plans can change… after all, we were all set to go to Montacute House today and then decided we’d better get Tintinhull gardens done while the weather was fine (24 degrees in September!)
I generally like to start my visits early so there’s time to cram it all in but I had been told in advance that Tintinhull was quite a small garden so felt it was safe to leave it for later in the day. It’s actually a very good thing that the garden is not extensive (less than 2 acres) as we started the day with a walk up the Golden Cap (National Trust-owned land on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and the highest point on the south coast). We then followed that with a lot of walking up and down hills in Lyme Regis so by the time we arrived in Tintinhull in the mid-afternoon we were about ready to drop. And it was a perfect place in which to do it!
The house itself is a holiday rental so only a couple of rooms downstairs are open to visitors. One of these rooms has the perfect sofa for tired Golden Cap walkers as it is so deep that you almost have to lie back on it rather than simply sit! There is an old recording playing so that reclining visitors can listen to information about the garden and its creation. I think the voice you hear is probably Phyllis Reiss, the lady responsible for the garden, as she once recorded something for the BBC, but I didn’t corroborate my facts (sorry!) so I may be wrong.
For anyone interested in the house, there is a little booklet available to visitors, with more information about its history, past owners and contents. The Nappers were the most longstanding residents between 1546 and 1791 (this was several generations of Nappers not a single Napper family with extreme longevity!) The house then passed through Pennys, Cobbetts and Prices before being bought by Phyllis Reiss and her husband in 1933. It was Reiss that created the format of the current garden and who later gave the house and garden to the Trust in 1954. She carried on living at Tintinhull until her death in 1961.
The garden itself comprises six key ‘rooms’ and reminded me of Hidcote so it was no surprise to read in the guidebook that Phyllis Reiss earned her gardening stripes at Dowdeswell Manor near Cheltenham, which is not a million miles from Hidcote, and Lawrence Johnston’s garden is cited as a significant inspiration to her. The various ‘rooms’ at Tintinhull include the Eagle Court, overlooked by the stone eagles on the manor wall, the Middle Garden, the Fountain Garden, the Kitchen Garden, the Pool Garden and the Cedar Court. The names give a pretty good idea of what to expect but there is clearly much more to each than simply the central focus. As you may already have realised from this blog, I don’t have the greenest fingers imaginable, but there was still plenty that I managed to recognise… and a lot else that I didn’t but simply admired ignorantly! Although the garden is probably at its best in spring and summer, there was still plenty to look at in September, with some nice floral displays and a busy kitchen garden.
Something else that sold Tintinhull for me was the view from the Middle Garden towards the manor house (see top photo) as this same vista is recreated in part of a National Trust jigsaw puzzle that I bought many years ago. It was lovely to come face to face with such a familiar view, including the house, the stone eagles on the wall, the round clipped ‘ball’ hedges and the diamond-shaped pattern of the paved pathway. I imagine this might happen a lot more during my travels as I have a couple of jigsaws depicting various NT scenes.
For my highlights below, I have simply chosen the restfulness of the place, which offers many seats in strategic spots so you can enjoy the various views from ‘room’ to ‘room’. I was talking to my sister-in-law and saying that there wasn’t a single thing that really leapt out at me… at which point she offered to do so! Instead, I just suggested we had a cup of tea and cake in the courtyard.
Highlights: Restful wander after a busy day; my jigsaw view!
Refreshments: Tea and millionaire’s shortbread
NT Connections: Hidcote Manor Garden, an inspiration for Phyllis Reiss
As I mentioned above, we also took in the Golden Cap on the Dorset Coast today so here is an extra picture from our morning walk.