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Old Rectory, Netherbury

The sight of an overgrown conifer plantation covering almost half the ground of a five acre garden would be enough to put most people off a property, however historic the house and charming the village, but not Amanda and Simon Mehigan.


GAP Photos/Carole Drake - Owner: Amanda and Simon Mehigan

Feature No:   4627 

Qty of Images:    65 


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'We weren't daunted by the prospect at all though I think that was due to our ignorance as much as anything', admits Amanda with disarming honesty as she recalls their first meeting with the garden of the Old Rectory, Netherbury in west Dorset, twenty years on. 'We had moved down from London to a small cottage near Bridport and were looking for a bigger project.' When it was time to start planting in earnest the couple had years of enthusiastic garden visiting to draw upon, with favourites including Sissinghurst Castle in Kent and Beth Chatto's garden near Colchester in Essex. Simon, keen on formality and strong architectural shapes in a garden, planted the entire 180m central axis with a formal avenue, including yew pyramids, a line of fastigiate hornbeams and a pair of solid hornbeam hedges leading to a beech 'house' at the garden's far end. Twenty years on and now mature the avenue is the garden's dominant feature in winter, parallel lines of bold geometric shapes that frame views across the garden from the well drained slopes to its north planted with sweet chestnuts, walnuts and fruit trees, to the low lying watery world to the avenue's south side shaped by pond, stream, bog garden and pollarded willows. The house is closely framed by evergreen structure too: the front drive surrounded by clipped holm oaks and hollies that stand in panelled pews of clipped box; the formal courtyard at the back of the house a mix of clipped Portugese laurel umbrellas set amidst box parterres underplanted in the summer with herbaceous planting. On the slope above the north side of the house a crenellated yew walk leads towards the church tower of St Mary the Virgin and frames the formal vegetable garden, simply fenced with chicken wire stretched between finial topped posts, a delicate pencil sketch in winter of sharply edged beds, glass cloches, rhubarb forcers and metal obelisks.



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