I have visited Polesden Lacey a few times, but always too late for the wonderful Mrs Greville’s Rose Garden. This National Trust owned property is in Great Bookham, Surrey and designed as the perfect setting for entertaining royalty, politicians and the top dogs of the Edwardian society. Just a little second home then. I’ve never been inside the house where Mrs Greville launched the party house with a royal gathering in 1909 with Edward VII as guest of honour. In the opulent dining room the table is set for this special occasion.
I’m just going to take you for a stroll around the grounds and the formal gardens so grab your parasol and floppy hat and we shall begin.
The present house, a yellow-washed and green-shuttered villa was built in the 1820s, but redesigned for the Grevilles in the French Neo-classical style in 1906. The house stands in a marvellous setting, just below the southernmost ridge of the North Downs and the trees on the lower lawns frame sweeping views over the valley and wooded crest of Ranmore Common.
Mrs Greville’s roses are a thing of wonder. She was keen to show the foreign dignitaries who visited her house a typical English rose garden. Set out in a simple cross pattern with long, box-edged, wooden pergolas, it was created on the site of the nineteenth century kitchen garden. During the summer months it is a mass of pink, white and crimson. Lavenders, clematis and even wisteria adorn the walls surrounding the garden.
It is enclosed by weathered bricks, statues and a border of lavender. Best in the summer months of June and July. My visit was in late August, but as you can see there was still plenty of colour in the gardens, even if most of the roses had ‘gone over’.
Classical Statues either side of a bench
The Well Head
Iris and Lavender Gardens
Within the walled garden are compartments with collections of irises and lavenders. A discus thrower can be found in the lavender garden as well as other statues. A playful sundial situated where several paths converge.
More musical cupids
The Thatched Bridge
To the west a path leads past herbaceous borders to a winter garden shaded by three large Persian ironwood trees and beyond is a thatched bridge leading to the former Edwardian kitchen garden, now grassed over.
Winter garden – cyclamen
These borders line the pathway back to the house and have recently been restored. The southern half was turned into beds to grow potatoes in WWII but now are back to their former beauty.
At 137m long they are divided into four sections. Pastel colours with spires of yellow achillea, kniphofia and day-lilies. Grey-green yuccas, agapanthus add structure and there are many small shrubs such as whitebeam, smoke-bush and viburnums. Berberis, lilacs and hydrangea provide a succession of flowers.
Yuccas add structure
Ginger lily adds height
Mostly used for playing a game of croquet on or lounging on the deckchairs with loads of room for children to run around in safety. With the most wonderful views over the Surrey Hills. You can picnic on the Theatre lawn and in the orchard. More urns and statues and even a Roman bath can be found among the trees and hedges of the lower lawns.
The Long Walk stretches for 0.4km eastward above the valley and was begun in 1761. This walk will transport you back to those Edwardian days as you stroll along the terrace towards the colonnades which originally formed part of the regency house at Polesden Lacey. The views over the valley are worth admiring from the many benches along the way.
Size: 30 acres (12 hectares)
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.
Town: Great Bookham
Postcode: RH5 6BD
Website: Polesden Lacey House and Gardens