Instead of the usual June indoor meeting, some members of Clays Horticultural Society enjoyed four days touring the gardens of the picturesque county of Dorset.
Their first stop was Compton Acres near Poole, one of the finest privately owned gardens in the South of England.
It was founded in 1920 by Thomas William Simpson, an entrepreneur who had become wealthy through the manufacture of margarine. At a cost of £220,000, he designed the gardens as various rooms and collected plants from around the world to fill the 10-acre site.
Compton Acres consists of five themed sub-gardens: an Italian garden, a rock-and-water garden, a heather garden, a Japanese garden and a less formal woodland garden.
The next day they visited the pretty seaside town of Lyme Regis and then Bennetts Water Gardens, situated on the Jurassic Coast, on the edge of Chickerell Village. This third-generation family run business is on an eight-acre site of tranquil lakes and a famous water lily collection – 300 different varieties producing thousands of flowers spread across acres of water.
In 1959 the founder, Norman Bennett, planted the first water lilies here in the disused clay pits that was once the site of a brick works. This provided an ideal growing area for water lilies, which have been propagated over the years.
The Wednesday excursion was to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. This is no ordinary garden, with its own microclimate in a sheltered woodland valley on the Jurassic Coast. The special plant collection has been built up over the last quarter of a century.
Rare and choice plants from all over the world have been growing in harmony in the tranquil setting since the late 18th century. The Garden is a mixture of formal and informal flowers, famous for its camellia groves and magnolias.
There are stunning views of the Dorset Jurassic Coast from the viewpoint at the top of the Magnolia Walk. In the afternoon the group travelled the short distance to Abbotsbury Swannery where they enjoyed seeing the swans being given their tea!
Abbotsbury Swannery is the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world on a site protected from the weather of Lyme Regis by Chesil Beach. The colony can number over 600 swans with around 150 pairs. Written records of the swannery’s existence go back to 1393, though it probably existed well before that and is believed to have been set up by Benedictine monks in the 11th century.
Thursday meant the journey home, but there was still time to visit the small but interesting stately home of Kingston Lacey. This was the home of the Banks family but, since 1988, has been in the care of the National Trust.
After an excellent lunch and welcome drinks on this very hot day, the group climbed aboard their coach happy with their few days on the coast.