Garden of the Month: Athelhampton House & Gardens

PUBLISHED: 20:23 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 20:35 11 September 2020

Athlehamton House & Gardens with its 12 yew tree pyramids

Athlehamton House & Gardens with its 12 yew tree pyramids


Explore these stunning Grade 1 listed gardens featuring architectural ‘rooms’ seven ponds and fountains

Athelhampton, the magnificent Tudor manor house near Dorchester, is a rare Dorset treasure as both house and gardens are Grade 1 listed. The gardens were designed by Francis Inigo Thomas, for Mr Alfred Cart de Lafontaine who purchased Athelhampton in 1891. Using over 40,000 tons of Ham Stone, Thomas built walled compartments to create the architectural ‘rooms’ of the gardens. There are seven ponds and fountains, with the River Piddle forming a natural boundary.

The River Piddle at AthelhamptonThe River Piddle at Athelhampton

In 1901, the newly planted gardens included 12 small yews marking the corners of formal flower beds. These grew into Athelhampton’s distinctive 30-foot-high yew pyramids, the flower beds are long gone. The gardens encircle the house, with a lawn in front of the East Wing, leading to a less formal area with rose covered medieval dovecote. In 2014 the restoration of the long-abandoned kitchen garden began. Now near completion, its structural path, pond and sundial restored, this produces a wonderful range of fruit and vegetables for Athelhampton’s tea room, and restaurant.

In 1997 Athelhampton won the HHA/Christie’s Garden of the Year Award, a testament to the hard work of the gardening team, that continues today under the experienced eye of head gardener Nicky Brett.

Open: Sunday to Friday 10am - 5pm. 011305 848363

The Kitchen Garden is nearly back to its full gloryThe Kitchen Garden is nearly back to its full glory

NGS Garden Openings in September

Holme for Gardens, near Wareham: Extensive formal and informal gardens influenced by Hidcote Manor and The Laskett. Made up of distinct rooms, separated by hedges and taller planting, with an extensive collection of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals sourced from across the UK. Grass amphitheatre, ‘Holme Henge’ heather garden, lavender avenue, cutting garden, pear tunnel, flower field, hot borders, white borders, ornamental grasses.

The hot border at Holme for GardensThe hot border at Holme for Gardens

The natural swimming pool at the Old Rectory in Litton CheneyThe natural swimming pool at the Old Rectory in Litton Cheney

The Old Rectory, Litton Cheney: Steep paths lead to 4 acres of natural woodland with springs, streams and a natural swimming pool planted with native plants. Front garden features pleached crab tree border, topiary and soft planting. Walled garden with informal planting, kitchen garden, orchard and 350 rose bushes for a cut flower business.

Stable CourtStable Court

Stable Court, Chalmington: Extending about 1½ acres, this exuberant garden is naturalistic in style with a shrubbery, gravel garden, wild garden and pond. Roses scramble over trees, hedges and walls. More formal garden closer to house, with lawns and herbaceous borders. Lovely views over Dorset countryside.

Knowle Cottage in Beaminster: 11/2-acre garden with a 35m long south-facing herbaceous border with year-round colour. Formal rose garden within circular floral planting bound by lavender. Small orchard and vegetable plot with raised beds in adjacent walled area, small stream and bridge leading to pasture.

Keyneston Mill in Tarrant Keyneston: The creative home of Parterre Fragrances, this 50-acre estate is dedicated to fragrant and aromatic plants. Enjoy the Collection Gardens, each compartment featuring plants from a different perfume family (floral, fern, spice etc). Walk through fields where they grow the ingredients for their perfumes, visit the exhibition and distillery. Book here

Visitors must pre-book tickets on for a timed slot at their garden of choice.

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