See also Godinton House
Godinton park and gardens is the product of many centuries of planting and changes dating from medieval times. The site first incorporated the house and farm buildings, ponds, orchards, a walled garden, woods, and fields. Fishponds provided food in the form of pike, carp, bream, and tench. The orchard supplied crab apples, cherries, pears, and apples. There was a pigeon house and also various garden features.
In the late 1700s John Toke made a large number of alterations which were the beginning of the current gardens and landscape. He removed the gardens and ponds to the east of the house and also the farm buildings and north approach. South and west the park was made larger and new carriage drives were added to show off the house. He added an orchard and walled gardens to the west. Garden shrubs were also added, and the fishponds and ditches were converted into an l-shaped pool below the gardens. The north and east drives were enhanced with the addition of lodges. Trees were planted in the ‘Capability’ style.
The 19th century saw few changes until Sir Reginald Blomfield, the new owner, took over in 1896. He was an architect and garden writer. He designed the yew-hedged entrance forecourt, terraced lawns, Pan garden, rose garden, tennis lawn, and lily pond. There is a balcony belvedere in the lily pond hedge created to provide views across to Great Chart’s church (Church of St Mary the Virgin) where members of the Toke family have their tombs and memorial.
A 1920s Italian garden was created within part of the walled garden. In the 1950s the grass terraces around the house were replaced with brick walls, and borders were added to 12 acres of gardens. Today’s gardens incorporate Sir Reginald’s designs with the early 20th century formal designs and the 18th/19th century woodland shrubbery, walled gardens, and courtyards.
A wild garden shows off its blooms in the spring with daffodils, bluebells, snowdrops, violets, primroses, cyclamen, and others. Historic trees still exist in the park. Among them are ancient oak and sweet chestnut pollards and 18th century ash, beech, hornbeam, sweet chestnut, sycamore, and turkey oak. Added to the mix in the 19th century were wellingtonias and red thorn. The 20th century saw the addition of Norway maple, pin oak, London plane, and others. Alder and willow line the Stour river banks.
Godinton House and Gardens
Near the village of Pluckley on Godinton Lane, Ashford, Kent
Tel. 0 1233 620 773
Open: gardens, March-end Oct, daily, 2-5.30pm; house, April-first week Oct, Fri-Sun And BH, 2-5.30pm, last house tour at 4.30pm; tea-room same as house
Tea-room; picnic area; parking
Website: Godinton House and Gardens
Insider Tip: Godinton is one of the most interesting houses in southern England. Be sure to visit when it and the gardens are both open. Allow time for a visit to Great Chart church in the village. It dates from the 15th century and has stained glass from the same date.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Godinton House
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