Kerrie Lloyd-DawsonGarden review: Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

The water garden forms part of the 4000 acre Leckford estate in Hampshire, bought in 1929 by John Spedan Lewis. He founded the John Lewis department store chain and was responsible for introducing the revolutionary staff profit-sharing scheme that continues today. In the 1940s he developed the water garden as a private place to reflect and relax.

Panoramic view of the islands and bridges viewed from the summerhouse. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire. Photo Pete Stevens at creativeempathy.com

Panoramic view of the islands and bridges viewed from the summerhouse. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire. Photo Pete Stevens at creativeempathy.com

 

The public can now enjoy his vision on the first and third Sunday of the month, between April and September, to raise money for charity. Parking is in a field opposite a long, deep hedge, which hides any suggestion of the sights to come. After following a path through the hedge you emerge into the daylight with the water garden laid out in front of you. It is impossible not to emit a small gasp.

A breathtaking entrance as you enter the garden from the gloom of the path through the hedge. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

A breathtaking entrance as you enter the garden from the gloom of the path through the hedge. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

 

Simple, wooden bridges connect a series of islands and ponds. Each island is planted with a different tree designed to provide autumn colour.

Immaculate edges of grass and stones make the borders look dramatic even before the plants emerge. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Immaculate edges of grass and stones make the borders look dramatic even before the plants emerge. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Taxodium distichum (Swamp cypress) roots rising up like a miniature Guilin landscape. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Taxodium distichum (Swamp cypress) roots rising up like a miniature Guilin landscape. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

 

Early in the season many of the marginal beds are bare, but immaculately tended soil and emerging shoots of hostas are a dramatic sight. Weeding and edging takes the team of three full-time gardeners three and a half days to complete.

Large drifts of emerging hosta shoots back-lit by the sun. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Large drifts of emerging hosta shoots back-lit by the sun. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

 

The water garden is fed by the River Test, but the water surface is flat and still and there is no sound of trickling water. It is quite different to other water gardens, which use rocks and waterfalls, but it creates a wonderful atmosphere of peace and serenity, even with many visitors walking around.

Space and calm despite numerous other visitors. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Space and calm despite numerous other visitors. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Reflections of the tree canopy in the still water, with the emerging shoots of astilbe at the water’s edge. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

Reflections of the tree canopy in the still water, with the emerging shoots of astilbe at the water’s edge. Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

 

Adding to the slightly otherworldly feel is a thatched summerhouse, a favourite spot for Spedan Lewis. He installed a phone line so that he could manage the department stores surrounded by the tranquility of the water garden, an enviable home office.

Simple plank bridges allow you to walk onto islands, each planted with a different type of tree

Simple plank bridges allow you to walk onto islands, each planted with a different type of tree

Fern crowns covered in moss

Fern crowns covered in moss

 

The bold outlines of the beds and bridges provide such an arresting sight that I almost wonder if there will be less drama when the marginal plants have grown. I will certainly be returning to find out.

To complete your visit there is also a farm shop and café, and a well-stocked plant nursery that is home to National Collections of Buddleja and Clematis viticella, and the Gilchrist Collection of Penstemon.

[Longstock Park Water Garden, Longstock Park, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 6EH, is open 2-5pm on the first and third Sunday of the month, April to September, in support of various charities.]

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Kerrie Lloyd-Dawson

About Kerrie Lloyd-Dawson

Passionate gardener, plantaholic and garden blogger. Kerrie gardens in England and, with the assistance of her partner, cats and chickens, has turned an ordinary medium-sized garden into a something much less ordinary; described by one visitor as a beautiful botanic garden in miniature. Kerrie is always looking for plants that are rare or unusual, trying out new planting combinations and visiting other gardens for inspiration. Kerrie writes about plants and projects on A Garden Less Ordinary

One thought on “Garden review: Longstock Park Water Garden, Hampshire

  1. David stevens on said:

    Fantastic article , superb photographs which both comprise genuine approbation of the garden’s tranquility and beauty. <

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