The Gardens of Easton Lodge are buzzing again
Jill Goldsmith, a trustee of the public gardens near Great Dunmow, who lives in Bishop's Stortford, writes about what visitors can expect to see at Sunday's open day...
Visitors are back in the Gardens of Easton Lodge – one of The Guardian's top 10 gardens to explore in England – which are looking as good as ever. And huge numbers of butterflies, bumblebees and dragonflies are buzzing around enjoying the summer flowers.
The trust that manages the idyllic grade II listed haven at Little Easton, which has been partially restored to its former glory by a team of dedicated volunteers and the owners of Warwick House, has been itching to open the gates to the gardens and welcome visitors again.
During lockdown, a few local volunteers managed to keep some order in the gardens. All that very hot weather also held the weeds at bay. But since we have been allowed to travel to exercise and work, our volunteers have taken up the challenge of returning the gardens to their glory – with lots of weeding, cutting back of spring flowers and planting of vegetables.
July’s rains allowed the Italian Garden’s flower borders to burst back into yellows, oranges and blues, the fruit and vegetables have filled out in the walled kitchen garden and the dahlia border is getting more and more spectacular.
Our volunteers have shared pictures of the gardens through our social media accounts, but it has been lovely to once again see visitors wander around the gardens in their bubbles.
Friends of the gardens, season ticket holders and those lucky enough to pre-order tickets thoroughly enjoyed our July 19 open day. For this first open day the trust kept the numbers of visitors down, to ensure that the social distancing arrangements would work well.
There were lots of signs about queuing and social distancing, but once visitors fanned out they could appreciate the gardens unencumbered. Some visitors brought picnics, but many chose to head for the bacon butties and home-made cakes from Daisy’s, our catering kiosk. They left, bearing courgettes, onions, chard and potatoes from the produce stall, our honey and plants too.
The next open day is on Sunday (August 16) and we will be celebrating our trees – specimen trees and native trees tower over visitors from the moment they enter the gardens.
For obvious reasons we have not made the progress we hoped this year in cataloguing our trees, but we have confirmed that some of them are still county champions because of their height or girth.
And the cedars of Lebanon planted by King Edward VII speak to the gardens’ place in history, as a playground for the prince’s elite Marlborough House set in the late Victorian era.
Pre-booked tickets and parking spaces are recommended if you want to visit the gardens before 2pm. For visitors arriving on spec, there are likely to be more parking spaces available after 2pm.
For those with time on their hands on a Thursday, the gardens are also now open between 11am and 3pm. Thursdays are for gardening, so visitors see the volunteers hard at work! There is no parking or catering on a Thursday, but the gardens make a lovely destination for a picnic lunch as part of a walk or cycle ride in the area.
* The Gardens of Easton Lodge are at Little Easton, Dunmow CM6 2BD. For more information go to the website www.eastonlodge.co.uk or Facebook. Entrance fee for adults is £4.50, children under 16 get in for free and dogs on leads are welcome.