Houghton Lodge, a Cottage Orné, is surrounded by gardens, mature trees and lawns that sweep down to the River Test. It is one of the most beautiful privately owned estates in Hampshire.
A Grand Opening at Houghton Lodge & Gardens
I was thrilled to be invited to the official opening of the new Oriental Garden at Houghton Lodge & Gardens, in the Test Valley, Hampshire. The opening of this new garden coincided with the 230th birthday of the house and gardens. Sophie Busk, the owner, found inspiration for the new garden during a visit to the Japanese garden at the Chateau de Courances in France in 2008. But it was not until the gardens were closed due to lockdown that the new project began to take shape and was finally completed in 2023. The gardening expert and television presenter Charlie Dimmock cut the red ribbon and declared the garden officially open in May 2023.
The Oriental Garden was created in a field beyond the old walled garden. A traditional red Torii Arch stands by the entrance at the top of the garden. Strolling through a cherry orchard and a rose garden visitors arrive at the central feature of the Oriental Garden, a pond spanned by a Nikko Bridge. Water loving plants fringe the pond and the island and a stream of water bounces over pale rocks under a magnificent horse chestnut tree on its way down to the pond.
Visitors are invited to partake in a Japanese custom and make a wish by tying a ribbon to a twisted willow planted just outside the garden. On the other side of the pond a red, circular Moon Gate is the doorway into the old eighteenth century garden and along the acer walk into a sea of cow parsley, the wilded area of the park. Paths through the park lead back into the old walled garden.
The Gardens at Houghton Lodge & Gardens
The entrance to the gardens is through the Bloom Bloom Tea Room. No doubt, like me, you will be tempted to have a coffee and cake before heading for the gardens outside. The walled garden is still contained within the original wall. Flower beds cover the ground and espaliered fruit trees cloth the walls. These included the longest espaliered pear tree in the world and a Guinness World Record Holder. An ornamental well graces the centre of this garden.
Once through the gate in the wall a spectacular herbaceous border stretches the length of the wall to either side. Ahead is the parkland and a rippling sea of cow parsley.
Across the small stream the path leads to the field where alpacas and a small flock of Hebridean sheep graze contentedly.
Moving on to the Peacock Garden the back of the house comes into view, above the immaculately mown lawns that sweep down to the banks of the River Test.
The Lodge at Houghton Lodge & Gardens
Houghton Lodge is an excellent example of the architectural and landscape design known as cottage Orné that was popular for a short period at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is home to generations of the Busk family since it was built in 1793. Currently Daniel and Sophie Busk live there and regularly open their house to visitors. And who better than them to relate the history and tell stories about a house that has become a must see historic house.
For more information about the gardens, special events celebtating 230 years and the self-catering accommodation available there visit the Houghton Lodge & Gardens website.
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing four books she turned to online travel writing.