This year’s garden visit is on Wednesday 13th June 2018 and as usual the coach will leave from outside The Eight Bells in Colchester Road at 10.00 which is later than usual.
We will go first to West Stow Hall, which is near Bury St Edmunds, aiming to arrive at about 11.00. West Stow Hall was built in the 16th Century by the last Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, or by the wealthy merchant, John Croft. It is unknown which of these two people was responsible! The ground floor is heavily timbered, perhaps from an earlier manor, and has one of the largest inglenooks in Suffolk, and a great reception hall with heavily carved beams and interesting detail said to date from the early 16th Century. Beyond was the parlour and solar end of an earlier hall, which was demolished before the 19th Century. The house was partially faced in brick in the 1840s by the Rev. Benyon, the wealthiest clergyman in England. There was probably a moated house on the site, as there is documentary reference to it dating from the middle of the 13th Century. The gatehouse is circa 1520, and has terracotta figures and a very rare c16 wall painting of the four ages of man. The coat of arms of Queen Mary of France, Henry VIII’s younger sister, and later Duchess of Suffolk, is displayed above the entrance. The colonnade linking the gatehouse and main house was built in 1580.
We will split into two groups to go round the house and this takes about an hour and a half. We are then free to roam the garden, after which we will have a Ploughman’s lunch. There will be French bread, ham and cheese, and members will need to make their own filling from the selection. We will aim to leave at about 13.30 so that we arrive at Columbine Hall, near Stowmarket, at about 14.00.
Columbine Hall dates from 1390 and is Grade II *. The timber framed house is surrounded by a defensive moat, which laps its walls.
Columbine Hall has not had a garden for centuries – it was a tenanted farm. When Hew and Leslie Stevenson bought the moated medieval house and 29 acres in 1993, they set about creating a garden. Chelsea Gold Medallist George Carter was commissioned to plan the acre inside the moat using the existing mature yews, oaks and ashes. He devised a series of courtyards surrounded by yew and hornbeam hedges which lead to the main courtyard beside the front door. The only formal planting on the platform are eight parterre beds planned with blocks of colour to look like a 1960s gent’s tie.
Beyond the moat, Hew created vistas into the countryside including to an eye-catcher of a clock tower. Outside the moat is a new orchard of local heritage fruit trees, a bog garden with small stream and a series of ponds leading from the moat outlet. This is planted as a Mediterranean garden. Elsewhere, there is a walled vegetable garden, inspired by the Chateau de Bosmelet in Normandy with colour-themed beds and a second, older orchard. The rest of the 29 acres has become parkland with suitable trees. Kate Elliott is the head gardener. She joined Columbine straight from school and has been in charge for 20 years.
The gardens give vistas of the Suffolk landscape beyond. The house is owned by Leslie (Stevenson) Geddes who is a writer, and contributes the final page in each week’s Country Life. Here again we will be shown around the house which takes about an hour and a half, after which you will be given a guided tour of the garden and we will aim to leave at about 16.30, so we should be back in Bures at 17.30.
The cost will be £50 per person which includes entry to both houses, and lunch, and the CSCA taking out Liability Insurance. There can be no refunds unless your place is filled by someone else. If you want to find out more about these places then Google West Stow Hall and Columbine Hall. If you wish to join us please download and complete the booking form. In the event of us being oversubscribed I will start a waiting list.
This is definitely my last year of running these visits, so I need someone to take over from me for 2020. Please get in touch if you would like to take over this very rewarding role. firstname.lastname@example.org
As my swan song, I am going to take a smaller coach (34 people) to a very special house in Kings Lynn, visiting a house and garden on the way (see below). In fact it is the most important house in the town, being Grade I listed and contains the largest medieval tiled pavement in England. It is called Clifton House and is owned by Dr Simon Thurley, an architectural historian, and his wife, Dr Anna Keay, also an architectural historian, who worked for English Heritage from 2002 to 2012 and is now a Director of Landmark Trust. Simon was in charge of English Heritage from 2002 to 2015. They have both written numerous books about the architecture of England. I have visited this house and cannot speak highly enough about it and the restoration work that is an ongoing process. This house is only open a very few times a year, and we are therefore grateful to the owners for a private visit.
I am taking this smaller number of members than usual, so that we can all go round the house together, in two groups of 17, otherwise we would be there all afternoon. The tour of the house takes about two hours. It will be followed by tea in the kitchen. I am afraid that, due to the smaller number, the cost will inevitably be higher because the cost of the coach will be split between fewer people, and the final details will be advised, in early 2019, to those who have been supporters in the past, before the general membership. The coach cost will not be less than £25 and entry to the house will be about £20 which includes cakes and tea.
Before going to Kings Lynn we will go to Peckover House and Garden, Wisbeach which was built in 1722 and bought by the Peckovers, a Quaker banking family, at the end of that century. It has a spectacular two acre garden full of some sixty different varieties of roses. The house is on the River Nene. There is a restaurant on the premises where we can have lunch, which you will have to buy.
If you are a National Trust Member then you will need to bring your membership card. If you are not a member then you will have to pay entry which is currently £7.70. If you want to find out more about these places Google, Peckover House, Wisbech, and Clifton House, Kings Lynn.
Costings and details of this visit will be sent out in early 2019. I will give priority to past supporters. This visit is NOT suitable for people with any form of walking disability as Clifton House contains a lot of stairs.
2019 - Read about Tudor living on a grand scale at Alston Court, how Samuel Courtauld & Co. shaped our towns and villages, hear inspiring stories of local vineyards Tuffon Hall and West Street, get an update on the Dedham Vale AONB extension, and take a tour round Polstead Mill, one of East Anglia's beautiful secret gardens.
2018 - Read about Hedingham Castle, a new National Centre for Gainsborough in Sudbury, award-winning new Gins from Adnams, aspects of our Industrial Heritage, the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project, and take a look at the proposed new Constitution for CSCA..
2016 - Interesting articles on medieval graffiti, farming in the Stour Valley, exploring our AONB, early settlers from the Stour Valley to America, the archaeology of a local farm, a wonderful catalogue of British birds, celebrating a Suffolk joinery business, the weather from a South African winery.