Suffolk has an array of breath-taking and relaxing gardens open for visitors to admire and explore. Packed with both ever popular and rare breeds of plants, flowers and trees, Suffolk Gardens promise something for everyone. The spring and summer months are the perfect time to take a stroll through the picturesque scenery, spot wildlife and perhaps picnic on the lawn or in the rolling Suffolk countryside. Outlined below is a guide to the gardens that Suffolk has to offer – the only problem is deciding which one you want to visit first!
Otley Hall is a Grade I listed, 15th/16th century moated hall, surrounded by 10 acres of stunning gardens. The hall has long been regarded as the oldest house in Suffolk to survive largely intact. The Gardens are open to the public every Wednesday from May – September and they welcome organised groups, small parties or individuals for guided tours of both the hall and gardens throughout the year by appointment. The fully licensed garden cafe is also open serving tea, coffee, light lunches, locally made cakes and bakes and even a glass of wine! The gardens and function rooms are also available for hire. They make an ideal setting for informal club and society outings, private dinners and parties. The rooms also make for an ideal ‘get away from it all’ conference and away day facility. For dates, prices and further information see Otley Hall
Drinkstone Park B&B and Gardens is situated a short drive to the A14 and just a ten minute drive from Bury St Edmunds or Stowmarket. The three acres of beautiful tranquil gardens, which once formed part of the Drinkstone Park estate, are now open as part of the National Gardens Scheme during the summer. And there is the added bonus of being able to stay amongst the wonderful gardens by booking a room at the B&B.
Langham Hall Walled Garden offers visitors to this hidden corner of West Suffolk a fascinating step back in time to the Georgian era when this stunning three-acre garden was created.
At Ickworth House, Park & Gardens in Bury St Edmunds you will find an extraordinary oval house (pictured above) with flanking wings, begun in 1795, surrounded by the beautiful Gold and Silver Gardens, a Victorian Stumpery and the Temple Rose Garden. These gardens are designed in the Italian style and were created in the first half of the 19th century. A raised terrace walk separates the Gardens from the Park, which features 1,800 acres of wooded parkland rich in plant, animal, and bird life, so there is much to explore. There is also an adventure playground onsite, along with a woodland trim trail and family cycle route. Please click on the link above for more information.
The National Trust in Suffolk features many protected and open-to-the-public historic houses and gardens, and you are sure to find something to suit your particular interests. Please click on the display link above for more information, and also see our article A Guide to The National Trust in Suffolk.
Wyken Hall Gardens (pictured directly above and below) in Stanton surround the romantic Elizabethan manor house, and are open to visitors throughout the summer (please note, the house is not open to the public) from Sunday to Friday at 2-6pm. Here you will find a garden lover’s paradise, providing rich variety on a sympathetic scale, including herb garden, knot garden, rose garden, kitchen garden, wildflower meadows, nuttery, maze and the Millenium Giant Stride. The delightful knot garden and formal herb garden were designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd. The rose garden features old roses and has a long pergola smothered with flowers. A border in vibrant colours runs along the outside wall of the kitchen garden, which features fruit trees and a greenhouse. A walk through ancient woodlands leads to the Wyken Vineyards. Tel: 01359 250262 or visit www.wykenvineyards.co.uk/gardens.php
Christchurch Park in Ipswich is a 70-acre area of rolling lawns, wooded areas, and delicately created arboreta featuring a stunning and varied collection of trees. Christchurch was the first public park in the town, opening in 1895, and surrounds Christchurch Mansion on the ruins of the old priory. The Mansion is now the site of an historical museum, art gallery and tea room.
Christchurch Park is home to in excess of 100 different bird varieties and many squirrels inhabit the arboreta. Facilities within the park include tennis courts, a croquet lawn, a bowling green, children’s play area, public toilets, kiosks and shelters. Christchurch Park is also the centre of many of Ipswich’s leisure and entertainment events, such as The Ipswich Carnival, The Ipswich Flower Show, The Remembrance Day Ceremony and The Ip-Art Festival. Opening is from Monday to Saturday, at 7.30am, and Sunday at 9am, until approximately 4pm during the winter and 8-9pm during the summer.
In Bury St Edmunds, you can discover the beautiful public Abbey Gardens surrounding the ruins of the Bury St Edmunds Abbey (pictured below). Stunning summer bedding displays set the tone for the annual Bury in Bloom campaign, and the gardens include a host of ducks, a children’s play area, aviaries, tennis courts, a bowling green, a teashop and a riverside walk leading towards a local nature reserve known as No Man’s Meadows.
The park is open from 7.30am until dusk Monday to Saturday and from 9am until dusk on Sundays. To make a booking or enquiry contact the Abbey Gardens Bowls Hut 01284 757490.
Helmingham Hall Gardens in Helmingham, Stowmarket promises a day out you are not likely to forget. The Grade 1 Listed gardens, set within a 400 year-old ancient red deer park, surround the spectacular moated Tudor Hall which has been owned an occupied by the Tollemache family for the past 500 years. The rich traditional gardens are complimented by a wonderful balance of nature and the modern accents.
Visitors will be spoilt for choice when deciding on where to begin their day wandering around these peaceful gardens. You will not want to miss The Knot Garden. This is a magnificent sight, whether viewed up close or from the windows of the Hall. It features two knot patterns planted in box, with each pattern being divided into four squares. Two of the squares depict the Tollemache fret, and contain plants introduced into Britain before 1750.
The Rose Garden is of breath-taking beauty, and features many rare as well as traditional breeds of roses, such as ‘Mundi’, ‘The Fairy’, catmints and forget-me-nots. This dense planting in a restricted colour range is very effective. Crossing over the moat you will find the Wild Flower Garden and Orchard, flourishing with primroses, cowslips, and ox-eye daisies to name but a few. Here also is the tennis court, which is designed to be as unobtrusive as possible. After the formality of the previous gardens it is refreshing to find an area of natural wildness on the edge of the Tudor deer park. Please click on the link above for more information.
Somerleyton Hall in Lowestoft is an archetypal Tudor-Jacobean mansion surrounded by the picturesque and unique Somerleyton Gardens. Included is a walled garden, a pergola with some old wisteria, roses, clematis and vines, and the arboreta features rhododendrons, azaleas and a fine collection of specimen trees. Surely the highlight of any visit to Somerleyton is the Maze, designed and planted in 1846. The journey to the centre and back is nearly 800 yards – however, be warned that should you make a mistake during the twists and turns of your expedition, it could take you considerably longer!
Most areas of the Hall and gardens are wheelchair accessible, and guide dogs are welcome. There are two disabled toilets at the top of gardens and also in the Winter Garden. Somerleyton is generally open from April to end October, with the gardens being open between 10am-5pm, and the Hall from 11:30am to 3:30pm last tour). Somerletyon Hall has many designated picnic areas with parking available. For more information about visits and private tours, please call 01502 734901
If you enjoy spending time in nature, you may also be interested to learn that there are a number of picturesque RSPB sites in Suffolk, where you can watch some of the most beautiful birds in their natural habitats.