Looking down on Blagdon Reservoir, overlooked by the Mendips, no wonder the cows of the Yeo Valley farm are well fed and contented.
Unlike the cows, we were allowed into the gardens: it has to be plural because there are so many different ones. Where on a domestic scale a gardener might divide the space into garden rooms, each one at Yeo Valley is as big as the average plot, and each has its own character and planting.
First impressions, though, were not inviting, although if necessary the accessible path in was good: two very formal and sparse arrangements, with one looking almost set for boules. “This isn’t for me,” said someone, and it was easy to agree. A few steps onward, however, and all changed. There was still a lawn and border arrangement, but the planting was colourful with tulips and the view up to the house was almost everyone’s dream.
From then on, informality and imagination were in the ascendant: a dry garden leading to a sea of grasses, with again the distant view of water below hills. That was the kind of borrowed landscape nobody has to pay back. On the contrary, it pays interest.
Meadows with fritillaries, woods with bluebells, streams, and then a brilliant dell of Himalayan silver birch with underplanting in contrasting colours. Someone asked how the bark remained so white and found it hard to believe it really is washed, just as at Anglesey Abbey on the other side of the country.
Back to the house and formality, but what formality: spherically clipped shrubs to offset a glorious magnolia with, for contrast, euphorbia, and all beneath an almost clear blue sky.
It was such a warm day for April many would have wished they could join the family in the pool. Instead it was the tea room and making do – if that can be the phrase for Yeo Valley – with the family dairy products. Well worth the visit, and highly recommended.