Exotic Woodlands in Devon
If you are ‘staycationing’ in Devon, it is well worth making a visit to Stone Lane Gardens and Arboretum. It is not far from Chagford and the better-known Castle Drogo gardens, but you will be surprised and enchanted by a stroll through these five acres of woodlands on the edge of Dartmoor.
It was created in the early 1970s by Kenneth and June Ashburner, owners of the grade 2 listed Stone Farm. Kenneth was an avid traveller and plant finder and he began by planting trees he had grown from seeds gathered on his travels. Gradually the garden expanded until it took the shape it is today.
There is a mix of unusual and interesting birch and alder trees, together with exotic plants and ponds. And at each twist and turn of the footpaths through the woodland there are surprises to be seen – with a varied range of striking sculptures. These originated in 1992 when Stone Lane was chosen as an ideal backdrop for an open air sculpture exhibition and as a result, “The Mythic Garden” annual sculpture exhibition was created.
In 2015, Plant Heritage awarded the gardens ‘Scientific Status’ in acknowledgement of the great work done by its founder to extend and promote knowledge of the species. This work continues today under the stewardship of the Garden Manager, Paul Bartlett, who continued the tradition of international research. A special display describes how he recently discovered the rare and endangered Mingelion Birch in the Caucasus and which is now part of a conservation programme at the gardens.
Much of the maintenance work at Stone Lane is carried out by volunteers. There is no “ticket office” for visitors, but an honesty box at the entrance suggests a £5 contribution to their costs. Ample parking is available and a leisurely visit can include a break at the attractive, newly opened tea shop.