CHARLESTON MANOR

Former home of Sir Oswald Birley and Lady Rhoda Birley

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A Tour Of The Grounds

Part Two

Return to Part One

Old Roses IVThe Dovecote is the home to a number of Doves and a pair of Owls and is consequently off-limits to visitors. The Dovecote is thought to date back to the early days of the Manor and inside contains a rotating wooden spiral staircase which affords access to all the nesting boxes, of which there are hundreds.

Making your way carefully down the grassy slope (It can be slippery in wet weather) you may observe many isolated plantings of shrub roses and the largest of which is Rosa ‘Cerise Bouquet’, some of the others being ‘Raubritter’, ‘Felicis’, ‘Buff Beauty’. Many more are planted on the south side of the wall running along the base of the South Bank.

There are two walled gardens in this area, the first not open to the public in front of the Garden House is mostly herbaceous, with four central beds and a lily pond. The large tree to the right being a Mulberry and one on the left a Medlar. The conspicuous tree on the left wall of the Garden House with the very large yellow flowers is a Fremontodendron Californicum surrounded by many other climbing roses including the huge Rosa ‘General McArthur’.

Moving down the path away from the Manor House the visitor comes to the second walled garden. Passing through the gate into what must be heaven for the rose fancier, The Old Orchard Rose Garden, visitors are requested to keep to the path as this entire area is planted and the season begins very early with the Snowdrops and Aconites and continues throughout the year with Anemones, daffodils and Tulips followed by numerous wild grassland flowers, the high point being when the assembly of roses are in bloom.

Passing down the Rose Garden in season the visitor will be treated to ‘Bobbie James’, ‘Climbing Iceberg’, ‘Felicite et Perpetue’, ‘New Dawn’, ’Francis E Lester’, and many others. This area contains a number of unique specimens which are either very rare, such as ‘Dr Benschop’ the only other known specimen is in the gardens of the Royal National Rose Society and others which are totally unique three of which were cuttings of roses brought back from China after a plant hunting expedition in the early 20th Century by the Head Gardener at Nymans, we still are not sure if they have even been named. (For security reasons we will not identify the sites of these roses).

Old Roses VLeaving the Rose Garden at the far end there is a large Hornbeam Hedge surrounding the Tennis Court, and turning right out of the gate brings the visitor to the lake.

The Lake has been the center of attention for much work over the first few years of the 1990’s having been severely damaged by the uprooting of trees around the lake and on the island as a result of the Great Storm. The lake has undergone extensive works and replanting has only just begun. The lake has become home to two injured swans called Simon and Yasmin, they are both tame but please be aware that they are both invalids and Simon especially can only walk with difficulty – neither can fly – they are amply fed by us, but will take the odd sandwich from visitors.

The Walled Kitchen Garden, this area is not normally open to visitors at present although you may be one of the lucky ones when it is !!!. The Kitchen Garden is currently being refurbished and the main set of greenhouses has just been rebuilt. Almost the entire surface of the interior walls is covered with old fruit trees, all either fan, espalier or cordon trained and along the main path through the garden are some very old espalier apple trees. The large vinery, originally known as the Peach House, has a productive vine at it’s center and by great luck have just been able to plant two fan trained peaches of the same, now rare, variety, ‘Royal George’, that were planted in the house after it was built.

Returning to the ‘Lake’ area there are three gateways back onto the main drive, one at the far end of the lake farthest from the Manor House will lead the visitor across the drive to some stone steps (not suitable for those with walking difficulties) in the bank which will allow the visitor to return to the Clock House along the North Bank from which there is a good view of the lake. The others take a more relaxed journey back along the drive.

Old Roses VIIf you still have a lot of energy you may return to the East Orchard and going towards the Secret Rockery continue up the hill, the path is quite well defined although VERY STEEP in places at the top turn right and follow the path along the top of the South Bank all the way down to the top of the Walled Kitchen Garden.

The trained eye will notice amongst what is wild wood a large number of the species (wild) roses which have been specifically planted and a number of other planted ‘wild’ specimens such as cob nuts.

Although there still remains a lot of fallen timber to clear away to make the route more manageable, it is intended to leave this area as a refuge for the abundant wildlife which habits the garden during the night and at other times. There are resident many rabbits and squirrels, two or three mating pairs of herons and a larger number of native birds including about three pairs of woodpeckers and at least on owl in addition to the resident pair in the Dovecote.

Follow the path down the slope and you will soon be able to look down over the entire gardens, this was one of the favourite walks of the Birley’s when they planted the gardens. You will be able to return down the hill at the far end, and take the opportunity of a last stroll through the Rose Garden.

Text Copyright John Vincent © 1994,1999

 

The colour plates on this page are from paintings by  Margaret Stones and Paul Jones,are of the same era as the gardens at Charleston. They were included in the "Guide to Roses" by Betram Park, OBE. published in 1956 by Collins of St. James's Place. London.

 

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