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Garden of the Month... Wincombe Park

PUBLISHED: 11:50 26 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:18 20 February 2013

Garden of the Month... Wincombe Park

Garden of the Month... Wincombe Park

Wincombe Park has been in the Fortescue family since 1963 when they bought the house and surrounding 325 acres of parkland, farmland, woodland, lakes and garden from the well-known historian, Sir Arthur Bryant.

Garden of the MonthWincombe Park

Wincombe Park has been in the Fortescue family since 1963 when they bought the house and surrounding 325 acres of parkland, farmland, woodland, lakes and garden from the well-known historian, Sir Arthur Bryant. The house was built in about 1810, but the land that surrounds it has a history going back centuries. In the Middle Ages one of
the lakes was used by the Abbess of Shaftesbury to provide fish for the inhabitants of the Abbey.

When the Hon. Mrs Martin Fortescue arrived in 1963 she found the gardens sadly neglected. Fortunately she was a very knowledgeable gardener and plantswoman. With the help of her husband, Martin, a keen dendrologist, they spent the next 30 years reclaiming, replanting and laying out the gardens. Affectionately known to her friends and family as Toodie, she travelled far and wide to source greensand-loving plants and rare varieties of common species. A stone bench in her memory has been placed in the garden, but what better memorial for her enthusiasm could there be than the garden which she worked so hard to create? The garden is at its best in May, when the shrubs are in bloom.

The current owners, John and Phoebe Fortescue, have continued with the regeneration, planting some fine specimen trees and shrubs, and opening up part of the garden to take advantage of the views towards Win Green. In particular, they have developed the walled kitchen garden, which is now productive all year round and helps feed the family. They also continue the tradition of the whole family being involved in its upkeep. Back in 1963 the current lake below the house was full of trees, so it was dredged by well-known local personality, Herbie Langford, whose digger died in action, and is still rusting in the laurels! The operation to move the fish from the top lake required the help of all the family scooping them from the sluice into a crate in the back of Martins Renault 4, and driving them at top speed to the fast-filling lower lake. The system worked well, until a large eel reared its ugly head, and the children ran off shrieking!

The National Gardens Scheme is enormously grateful that the Fortescues open their beautiful garden at the height of its seasonal splendour in May so that everyone can enjoy this special place. Wincombe Park is open on 20 May when there will also be stalls and fun for the family and on 23 May. You are assured of a warm welcome, a homemade tea, and a memorable day in a beautiful Dorset garden.

Wincombe Park, Donhead St. Mary, Shaftesbury, SP7 9AB

Entrance 3.50; children free.

Open 2-5pm.


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