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Storyteller's animal tales to add to magic of Gardens of Easton Lodge at its May open day

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Storytelling and music will add to the magic of the Gardens of Easton Lodge for visitors at its monthly open day on Sunday (May 23).

The Countess of Warwick – who commissioned Harold Peto to redesign the grounds at the country house near Great Dunmow, where she died in 1938 – also lived at Warwick Castle, where she had a menagerie.

A storyteller will entertain children at the gardens with tales of the famous socialist socialite's exotic pets and how she insisted on a treehouse for her guests.

Gardens of Easton Lodge (47100523)
Gardens of Easton Lodge (47100523)

The countess, Daisy Greville, brought her colourful life to her gardens, entertaining guests there regularly and lavishly. They included the Prince of Wales – who took her as his mistress – before he acceded to the throne in 1910 as Edward VII and Labour Party and trade union leaders and members.

A spokeswoman for the charitable trust which is rebuilding the gardens said: "The countess loved animals. She had a mini-zoo at her other home, Warwick Castle, became a dog breeder and loved birds, appreciating the wild birds all around and with aviaries dotted around the gardens too.

"But it is her baby elephant, Kim, and her monkeys that are perhaps most memorable. We will have a storyteller at the gardens to weave the tales for our younger visitors, and animals from the countess's menagerie will feature in the children's trail."

Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, with her dogs
Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, with her dogs

The gardens reopened in line with Covid-19 restrictions for the first time last month. The spokeswoman said: "It was a glorious sunny day for the April open day. Visitors enjoyed meeting up with friends and family and seeing the last of the daffodils and the early tulips.

"They snapped up honey, plants and plant supports, and chatted to the trust's historians.

"On May 23, the trust will again make sure visitors can relax at the gardens, with the number of tickets on sale capped and social distancing arrangements in place.

"May is often the month the gardens look at their best – with the trees in their fresh leaves, cow parsley wafting in the breeze, the last of the apple blossom and the first of the water lily flowers. Butterflies, damselflies and, if you're lucky, hummingbird hawkmoths can be seen flitting around.

Gardens of Easton Lodge (47100532)
Gardens of Easton Lodge (47100532)

"This May, the Italian Garden will look especially spectacular, as the restoration of the balustrade around the lily pond should be completed a few days before the open day."

Peto's designs for the countess include the sunken Italian garden and its 100ft long pool with water lilies, a treehouse and a glade with Japanese rill and other features, which leads down to a fishing lake.

The gardens of Warwick House, which are also open on public open days with permission of the owners, include a cobbled courtyard designed by Peto and a pavilion in Peto's style, which was restored in 1995.

Sunday's programme includes performances by folk duo Karen and Tony. Essex Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and a local woodturner will also be on-site, and there will be stalls selling jams, honey and plants.

Bacon, cheese or hummus rolls will be for sale along with a wide selection of home-made cakes.

The gardens are open from 11am to 5pm on May 23, with the last entry at 4pm. Tickets must be bought in advance and cost £5.50 for adults. Entry is free for children under 16.

See www.eastonlodge.co.uk.

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