Garden Portrait : Dunster Secret Garden

Dunster is a Medieval village in north Somerset on the edge of Exmoor closest to the Bristol Channel. There is a castle on a wooded hill which has existed here since at least Norman times, with an impressive medieval gatehouse and ruined tower giving a reminder of its turbulent history. There is also a working Water Mill that is used daily and produces wholemeal flour that can be purchased in the shop and a lovely octagonal Yarn Market on the High Street where you will also find tea-rooms and independent shops and several nice pubs where you can dine. There are several walks through the parkland and along the river and over a particularly pretty 15th-century stone Gallox bridge. This ancient stone bridge – originally ‘gallows bridge’ – once carried packhorses bringing fleeces to Dunster market.

Several years ago I took the OH here to celebrate a BIG birthday and we stayed in a delightful B&B where the owner was a chef and offered tasting menus. Of course I reserved one for the day in question. What was so lovely about this brief getaway was exploring the lovely village itself which is home to a fascinating collection of medieval buildings. The Parish and Priory Church of St. George is worth a visit, but I want to show you the delightful memorial gardens behind the church which are so well hidden they are practically a secret.

Entering the garden through an arched door you are immediately taken by the richness of the planting. In late spring the borders were a riot of jewel-like colours. Bright orange oriental poppies mingling with tall spires of deep magenta Sword Lilies (Gladiolus communis subsp. Byzantium, better known in the south-west as ‘Whistling Jack‘.) Blue and plum coloured irises line the pathways.

Peonies and roses stand side by side with rock roses ( Cistus ladanifer) with its distinctive brown eye.

Colours contrast and clash at will.

Leaving the garden, back onto Priory Green, you will see a restored dovecote opposite.

Dunster Dovecote

The Village Gardens are next to the church on the site of a former Benedictine priory which was dissolved in 1536. In 1543 Lady Luttrell bought the land to be used as a kitchen garden for the castle, but they fell into disuse until being bought by the villagers and turned into a garden for all to enjoy.

Although not as many flowers here, it is a pretty space with lots of stone decorative pieces in the nooks and crannies. The planting is lush and green with climbers and creepers.


Maybe it is time to go back and see how these gardens look now.

If you like a walk, long or short, then please visit Jo for her regular strolls in the UK and the Algarve and maybe you would like to join in too. She’s very welcoming.

34 Comments Add yours

  1. BeckyB says:

    These are gorgeous. I wonder if my Mum knows about them. She’d love them. Maybe I’ll take her here one day in the summer.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Dunster is a lovely village. A shame there aren’t more ‘local’ shops, but we enjoyed staying there and exploring Exmoor and the coast.

      1. BeckyB says:

        Not sure if we will stay as it is only 50miles from her home, however might be fun to

        1. Heyjude says:

          Could be a decent day out then in the summer.

  2. It is a gorgeous garden Jude! Love the beautiful flowers!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Such a surprise when going through the gate. So much colour.

  3. Su Leslie says:

    How utterly lovely Jude. This is a virtual walk I really would like to make in real life.

    1. Heyjude says:

      It’s a lovely spot. Easy walks around the village, the castle, a couple of decent pubs and then the whole of Exmoor to explore. We had a wonderful time there.

      1. Su Leslie says:

        Easy walks and pubs; sounds like my kind of place!

        1. Heyjude says:

          We enjoyed popping into a pub and having a G&T in the afternoon. Not something we usually do of course 😉

        2. Su Leslie says:

          🙂 Lovely idea. Definitely a holiday treat.

  4. restlessjo says:

    Your Garden Portraits are a labour of love, Jude. The galleries are sumptuous and that is such a lovely shot of the bridge. You’ve reminded me what I have to look forward to in an English Spring. It’s definitely all just ahead of us. Tantalisingly so. 🙂 🙂 Thank you so much for another superb link up. And Happy Easter!

    1. Heyjude says:

      We had a wonderful few days there Jo. Looking at the photos made me want to return. Very spring-like here at the moment – showers early on but sunny now. Still not very warm though!

  5. Sue says:

    Sadly, I didn’t see this post because WP crashed on me…that happened with another of your posts some days ago…wonder why

    1. Heyjude says:

      They have been doing some system maintenance. Today when I was creating a post it ‘crashed’ several times.

  6. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I went to the castle last year, but it’s been many years since I went to this garden. Dunster is such a pretty place.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Who knows if the garden is even still there! The castle and grounds are quite lovely too. Must see if I can dredge up a post on that.

  7. Anabel Marsh says:

    What a gorgeous village and garden. Bitterly cold wind here today, so this makes me feel the promise of better weather ahead.

  8. Joanne Sisco says:

    So much gorgeous colour and lushness everywhere! … but that pink poppy!! Oh my! ❤️ I’ve never seen a poppy that colour before!

    1. Heyjude says:

      ‘Patty’s Plum’ or maybe ‘Prinzessin Victoria Louise’ or Perry’s White – the oriental poppies are mad. And I have a post on them, wouldn’t you know! here is a link:
      Oriental Poppies

      1. Joanne Sisco says:

        OH MY!! The Patty’s Plum is oh-so-gorgeous!!

        The only one in this lot I’ve ever seen is the John III. In fact when we bought this house 25 years ago, we had some of those orange poppies in our backyard.
        Contrary to your comment about not being able to get rid of them, I managed to kill them in 2 seasons. I’m starting to think that killing plants might be my super-power 😕

        1. Heyjude says:

          I think it is too windy to grow them in my garden, those petals wouldn’t stand a chance!

  9. pommepal says:

    What a riotous ramble Jude I love “Colours contrast and clash at will” I love wandering through all these glorious gardens you take us too. A good choice for a special day.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I get a lot of enjoyment looking back through the photos myself PP.

  10. Lucky you discovered this pretty garden, Jude. It’s a beauty. I dream of my garden being a riot of jewel like colours one day. 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Me too, though it has been so wet this winter I think I need to change my thinking from a Mediterranean style garden to a bog garden!

      1. A good excuse to buy new wellies!

        1. Heyjude says:

          I do need some!

  11. Beautiful and we will be around that area in July. Hopefully, the flowers will still be blooming. Enjoying reading and photography!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you for the comment. I’m sure there will be flowers in July. The castle has nice grounds too.

      1. Yes, the castle gardens look lovely and I am sure we will find lots of places to wander and admire.

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