Woodbridge Hidden Gardens

252 Reviews

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Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2017

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Hidden Gardens was organised by Friends of St Elizabeth Hospice, as many more are in the area surrounding Ipswich. Our first response after agreeing our support was to ask why end-of-life care should be dependent on charity and not government-funded. One answer – possibly – is that voluntary contributions produce greater revenue, as is the case with RNLI for example. Nonetheless, it is disturbing that we have to refuse requests for support elsewhere because we give what we can locally.

Grumbles over, we anticipated what in fact we found. Behind almost all the houses in central Woodbridge are scenes of magic that their street-front facades disguise. The range was from cottage to stately. In addition, the delightful Elmhurst Park has space for the Woodbridge Growers, formed in 2009, to show their splendid kitchen garden to the accompaniment of a local wind ensemble. Most of them we were able to take in numerical order, following the helpful street map.

Chapel Street, just around the corner from Market Hill where donations were received and tombola prizes and plants were available, lived up to expectation. It seemed to be a small house, though not as tiny as in New Street where we went next. Both revealed amazingly crafted spaces that used the slopes of Woodbridge – steep for Suffolk – to borrow a landscape of tall background trees. We were impressed by how the gardeners had found shade on exposed sites and protected their plants from east winds from the river in winter.

Two gardens at the eastern end of Thoroughfare (the high street) could not have been more contrasted: Norfolk House has all that might be expected in the manor house style while almost opposite was, to quote the map, ‘A small area in which Woodbridge meets Chelsea.’

We had slightly deviated from numerical order but made adjustments for the kitchen garden (4) and Lime Kiln Quay Road (3), where a walled garden that could be part of the park is a delightful wide-ranging experience for visitors that reflects great credit on its owners.

Tea (included in admission) was calling but we had time – and needed it – to find Doric Place, tucked into an alley off Thoroughfare but again revealing an amazing walled garden of raised beds, brick paths and a terrace with many shrubs. The owners say it is ‘easy-maintenance’ but we’ve had experience of the hard work that entails.

Climbing Church Street was harder the second time, even with tea and cake in view. There was also the incentive of our Tombola prizes and a plant purchase. At least we knew it would be downhill all the way. The Old Meeting House in Turn Lane, where we’d never been before, presented three garden rooms on different levels. We also took the chance to look through the gate of the Quaker burial ground next door.

At the foot of Turn Lane we found Cumberland Street, a continuation of Thoroughfare that offers one of the finest street scenes in any small town. Two grand gardens there lived up to expectations, despite one being limited as regards disabled access. For the final garden we took advice and returned to the car for the short drive out of the main town to Ipswich Road. We found less a garden than a total landscape needing a ride-on mower for its grass and offering croquet and clock golf to its residents. There were even sheep and cow sculptures and a view towards the vicinity of Sutton Hoo.

I should add, in terms of amenities, that many of the gardens had provision of water for visitors flagging in the heat. A generous touch, it made the visit even extra-worthwhile.


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