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Gardens of Easton Lodge: Goodbye to daffodils and hello to bluebells, tulips, roses and fruit blossom for first open day

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The historic Gardens of Easton Lodge will be open on April 24 – the last Sunday of the month – for the first full-season open day of the year.

Since 1993, the 23-acre gardens at Little Easton, near Great Dunmow – which date back 400 years and were the home of one-time royal mistress Daisy, the Countess of Warwick – have been undergoing restoration having fallen into disrepair after the Second World War.

Today they have a magical quality as the splendour of a century ago is gently revealed, allowing visitors to imagine their past glories and enjoy their tranquil present.

Acer palmatum at the Gardens of Easton Lodge (55949199)
Acer palmatum at the Gardens of Easton Lodge (55949199)

At the April open day, visitors will see the last of the daffodils and enjoy the tulips and first roses in the Italian garden as well as the fruit blossom in the walled kitchen garden. There are also cowslips and bluebells in the grass while violets colonise the nooks and crannies.

It is a lovely time of year to appreciate trees and the gardens have a wide range of interesting specimens. The fresh leaves of the acers are always spectacular in spring and the old trees have their stories to tell.

Visitors will see the trees planted over winter, many of which were raised by renowned local arboriculturist Henry Girling, who died in 2021. He worked with the Countess of Warwick’s son in the 1950s, surveying trees all over the UK and planting at Easton Lodge. Henry's trees include unique specimens and other unusual varieties that will bring new colours to the gardens.

Tree-planting in the glad at the Gardens of Easton Lodge (55949201)
Tree-planting in the glad at the Gardens of Easton Lodge (55949201)

Children can enjoy the treehouse and find out about the Countess’ baby elephant, Kim. There will be a fun trail and craft activities too.

The open day will feature plant and craft stalls. Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust volunteers will display information on the history of the gardens and trees, and there will be guided tours.

There will be beekeepers, coppicers, the Woodland Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust so that visitors can learn about local wildlife too.

The usual fare of local bacon, cheese or hummus rolls, delicious home-made cakes and hot and cold drinks will be for sale.

The gardens will be open from 11am to 5pm with last entry at 4pm. Advance tickets can be bought via www.eastonlodge.co.uk or booking agent Trybooking.com. Tickets will be available on the gate after 12pm. They are £5.50 for adults and free for children. Dogs on lead are welcome.

The gardens, which are Historic England grade II registered, were redesigned in 1902 by Edwardian designer Harold Peto for Daisy, the Countess of Warwick. She regularly and lavishly entertained guests there, including the aristocratic Marlborough House set and the Prince of Wales, who took her as his “Darling Daisy” mistress before he acceded to the throne as Edward VII. After she became a socialist, she hosted meetings of the Labour Party and trade union movement in her house and gardens.

The gardens fell into disrepair after their use by the US Army Air Force and RAF in the Second World War. Abandoned in 1950, after demolition of the Easton Lodge mansion, they were all but forgotten for over 40 years. They are being restored and made open to the public by the preservation trust and its dedicated volunteers.

The gardens comprise Peto’s Italian garden centred around a large lily pond; a reconstruction of Peto’s treehouse in an old oak tree in the lime wood; formal and informal gardens, including the old croquet lawn; a historic walled kitchen garden; a small but expanding Japanese-style garden; and a wide variety of specimen trees including nine regional champions and those donated by Henry and Janet Girling.

The gardens of Warwick House, which is the remains of the mansion that was Easton Lodge, will also be open to visitors.

Further information is available on www.eastonlodge.co.uk. To enquire about volunteering, hosting a talk about the gardens or arranging a private group tour, email enquiries@eastonlodge.co.uk or call 01371 876979 and leave a message.

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