Mapperton House, Dorset
It’s not often a garden appears to reveal all it’s secrets to the visitor in one breathtaking vista, however, that seems to be the case with the gardens at Mapperton House. Situated on the outskirts of Beaminster in the heart of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, the ornately carved Jacobean Manor House of Mapperton is perched along the Combes edge with the garden stretching along the valleys basin.
As you enter the north walled garden, passing beneath the outstretched branches of the paper bark maple, it’s peeling bark is a rich red, illuminated by the late afternoon sun. You come to the edge of an old croquet lawn, where the land gently tumbles away down grass banks to reveal the garden below.
Before descending into the garden you can’t help but pause and take in the formal symmetry of the clipped topiary yew trees, their manicured form in direct contrast with the rural Dorset landscape, kept at bay beyond the boundary walls. Stone steps worn by history and softened by a haze of daisies lead into the Fountain Court Garden, continuing up to the classical style Orangery that sits along the far wall looking out over the octagonal fountain at the centre of the garden. There’s a gentle chaos to a garden at the end of a full seasons growth, we saw Mapperton at the end of the summer as autumn drew near. The pergola was heavily laden with vines and the borders could no longer contain their blooms. As we grazed against the stems overhanging the route through the courtyard, a heady scent of lavender and rosemary fill the air. Nature had claimed every available space during the haste of it’s summer growth with foliage flourishing even on the most unexpected surfaces, adding texture to the stone structures of the Pavilion Garden and summerhouse and binding the stone fountain amongst a cluster of greenery.
Possibly the most unexpected discovery was the Pavillon Garden, hidden from view when you first look out across the valley. This tranquil space is sheltered from the wind and contains two inky pools of water, their surface still, and bordered by speckled white stone slabs, a lifeboat and diving board breaking the symmetry of the space. Mapperton is a garden to loiter in and observe the smaller details of it’s accumulated history that’s layered over time, enriching and embellishing this historic space. This is a garden with an old soul and a distinguished wild edge acquired with it’s shared history with nature.