This June we took our two year old grandson to the gardens at Hoveton Hall, an estate tucked away just north of Wroxham in Norfolk. He loved it and we loved it!
The beautiful Hoveton Hall Estate covers 620 acres of parkland, woodland and gardens. The main attraction for gardens are the two adjoining walled gardens.
You first enter the walled garden has been known as the “Spider Garden” ever since the ornamental wrought iron Spider’s Web gate was made in 1936 by Eric Stevenson of nearby Wroxham. As you enter the garden you will see formal herbaceous borders bursting with colour during the summer months. At the centre of the garden is a circular flint spider web edged with box. Our grandson just loved the spider theme!
Leaving the Spider Garden and going through the west wall gate you will see the Knot Garden planted with box, santolina and rosemary. Then, passing through the Laburnum Arch, you enter a one-acre walled garden. Originally a Victorian Kitchen Garden, this walled garden has been redeveloped over the years to include lawns and herbaceous borders whilst still producing fruit and vegetables for the Hall.
Facinating too is one of only three or four glasshouses constructed with iron still surviving in England. It has been recently restored with the help of generous grants from English Heritage and the Country Houses Foundation. It was built in the first half of the 19th century and demonstrates the early use of iron in garden buildings. The plants in and around it are those which would have been selected at the time it was originally built.
Nearby Ashmanhaugh Wood offers an opportunity to explore amongst a fine collection of mature Rhododendrons and Azaleas which thrive beneath a canopy of Silver Birch, Sweet Chestnut, Oak and Scots Pine. The elusive White Admiral butterfly breeds here as well as Purple Hairstreak and Speckled Wood. Around 100 species of birds are seen on the estate each year. Leading from this walk are the more adventurous woodland paths across bridges and dykes to the Water Garden. There is a great trail for children with points where you can collect ink stamps with various wildlife motifs. Our grandson liked the spider stamp (of course!)
All within a short walk is the Kidney Lake. Excavated by hand in the 1920s as an additional feature in the extended Water Gardens. It depends for its water on natural drainage from the surrounding land and as a result the level fluctuates according to the weather. The island is often used by nesting waterfowl and the lake provides a safe nursery for ducklings in spring. It is also a popular spawning ground for frogs and toads. Kingfisher and Grey Heron sometimes visit the lake to feed, as do small waders.
Lots of places to sit rest and enjoy along with small cafe and excellent toilet facilities make for a great day out in this hidden gem.