Goodnestone Park Gardens is situated in south-east Kent, roughly midway between the towns of Canterbury, Dover and Sandwich. It is a mile or so down narrow, winding country lanes near Windham where we stayed on a couple of visits to Canterbury. The gardens have been in the FitzWalter family for centuries and originally the house, built in 1704, was surrounded by wonderful formal gardens. This was replaced in the late 18th century by landscaped parkland as was the fashion of the time. After WWII when the house was used by the military, the gardens had been left in a derelict condition and then the house was partially destroyed in a fire so it has only been over the past forty years that restoration of the gardens has been carried out, mainly by Margaret FitzWalter. She has created a glorious country garden, now managed by her eldest son, though when I visited in September 2009 she was still selling tickets herself and more than happy to chat about her beautiful place in the country.
The gardens are in several distinct areas through which you can stroll. In front of the main house is a formal parterre, similar to what would have surrounded the house in 1704. This overlooks the village cricket pitch and parkland. Behind the house a yew-lined path leads to the lime avenue. Between the limes and the woodland garden is an arboretum, which is filled with spring bulbs such as snakes-head fritillary. Close by is a gravel garden which is lovely in autumn with a large variety of grasses, verbena and Oenothera lindheimeri seemingly floating in the breeze. Paths meander through the woodland garden leading to a pool and more woodland. The most popular area though is the Walled Gardens – three separate ‘rooms’ which are a plantsman’s delight. There is an old-fashioned rose garden leading to a rill garden and finally a kitchen garden. And amongst these you will find a delightful greenhouse and an alpine garden with raised beds and stone sinks filled with small delights.
(click on a photo to take a walk with me through the garden.)