Inspiration from Holkham Hall

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Spring is starting to make an appearance here in the East of England. The jet stream has been south of the UK for most of May, keeping the warm air over Europe and bringing cold air down from the North. The result has been a colder than average May so far. Most of April and May has seen very dry weather, but the few weeks have seen almost continuous rain and lower than average temperatures. Today, I can expect more showers throughout the day. Despite the less than ideal spring, the trees have blossomed, and the leaves are appearing over once bare branches.

Holkham Hall's herd of deer wandering the estate grounds
Holkham Hall’s herd of deer wandering the estate

There have been some lovely days when the jet stream has migrated northwards, bringing warm spring air, which has encouraged us to get out of the house and travel into North Norfolk to visit one of the stunning stately homes.

One weekend, when the forecast was good, we set off to visit Holkham Hall. The Hall, owned by the Earl of Leicester, sits slightly back from the North Norfolk Sea in a stunning, well-kept estate. We planned to spend some time on their treetop walkway and wander around the estate on this visit. There is a lake which, in the pre-pandemic world, you could hire boats to row around, and there is a walled garden which I visited for an event around five years ago.

Holkham Hall's tree top walkway
Holkham Hall’s tree top walkway

I find visiting these large homes, now open to the public, to be a great source of inspiration. The mix of planned, crafted, and manicured gardens seamlessly merge with managed wild woodland and productive arable farmland. The estate feels balanced as though each part relies upon the other and provides a sense of ease and belonging rarely found in other places. As a visitor, I expect I see the estate with rose-tinted glasses and miss the hours of work put in by a small army of workers to maintain the delicate balance between each part of the estate. However, it inspires me to create a similar sense of balance at home in my garden.

Our visit to Holkham Hall was on the last day of good weather. Since then, it has rained every day. Despite the rain, I return home and pushed on in the garden. We finally received our shingle delivery to lay outside the new extension. We have put wood chippings along the back of our garden to help keep it looking tidy, and I have been able to keep on top of caring for the young vegetable seedlings. The garden is starting to look neat and intentional, and I’m rather pleased with how things are going so far this year. I have plans to recreate the balance of the estates on a smaller scale in my garden. The social space at the rear of our house will lead onto a well cared for lawn which will sweep round the edge of a kitchen garden and lead to, and merge with, a woodland garden where insects and wildlife will be encouraged. The garden will be productive and provide food to our kitchen in the form of eggs, vegetables and fruit from a traditional kitchen garden.

It will take me some time to make my vision a reality but I have started and already seeing progress.

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