The first NGT garden visit of the year was eagerly anticipated and applications for tickets were oversubscribed. Under the government regulations we could only offer 30 places on the morning and afternoon tours, and tickets sold out in a couple of hours. The owners of Elmham Park have kindly invited us back later in the summer when we hope the rules will allow a greater number of guests.
Those who were fortunate (and quick enough) to obtain tickets were ably led by Professor Tom Williamson on a route around the parkland to see the site of the former house, overlooking the lake beneath, before visiting the 1840 dovecot (still occupied) and the 1840 game larder. The latter has been repurposed as a small chapel alongside the new Norwich to Walsingham Pilgrimage Route. Our tour continued through the pleasure grounds to the west of the house, where many of the trees first mentioned in James Grigor’s 1741 book, The Eastern Arboretum, can be seen today. Nearby, we were able to look inside the newly restored icehouse, which is also a hibernaculum to two rare bat species.
It is always a treat to walk inside an old walled garden and North Elmham’s did not disappoint. An old vinery could be seen along with the remains of another larger glasshouse for exotic species and a collection of sizeable cold frames, one of which used to house a large Victorian fern collection. The central dipping pool is a flint edged with steps down to the water level, and the beautifully trained apple trees were full of blossom.
Despite the cold and wet weather it was a tonic to be out visiting a garden again, and meet up with other members we had not seen for some time. Our many thanks go to our convivial hosts, Tom and Jo, to Tom Williamson for leading both tours and imparting his knowledge, and to Karen for all the arrangements, carefully wrapped cakes and hot sausage rolls!
Tom and Jo Fitzalan Howard have kindly agreed to a garden opening later in the year when Covid-19 restrictions allow. This will not be a guided tour and we won’t have the expertise of Professor Tom Williamson, but it will give everyone another opportunity to visit the garden. Once the date is finalised details will be put on the website and members will be notified by post or email.
Sat 26th Jun, 2021. 2-5pm
Venue: Swafield Hall, North Walsham NR28 0RP