Dinmore, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 0PN
Telephone: 01568 797777
Review by John Lea - 15 June 2011
A mediaeval manor house that has been renovated several times through the centuries. Within the 1000 acre estate there are many paths but we had come to see the 12 acre formal garden, which was rescued from neglect in 1994. Over a 10-year period it has been remodelled and restored. It is hard to know what is original and what is new but the 150 year old wisteria tunnel is definitely genuine.
Arriving just before the10:30 a.m. opening time but a dark cloud and light rain persuaded us to open a flask of coffee and the newspaper and wait. Some time later the rain cleared and we unloaded my wheelchair and set off to the car park toilets. Arr… there were three steps and no hand rail. A quick dash to the ticket office, no concessions for electric wheelchairs but manual wheelchair carers go in free. "Where is the disabled toilets?" Was my urgent question. Through the gardens and across the park to the tea rooms was the answer. And off I dashed. May be it was under a quarter of a mile but it felt like a half mile. Therefore for those of you who cannot climb three steps without a hand rail and can't travel very quickly you need to plan your comfort stop well in advance.
That is the only downside to a superb accessible garden. Hardpacked, fine gravel paths, level and wide enough to take a wheelchair. In just one place plants hung too far over the path to let me pass. For those who like to take their time there are plenty of seats strategically placed.
I'm not mad on formal gardens but here there is an informality in the planting that is exhilarating. More sensory than many sensory gardens; one lady asked me where are the old-fashioned roses because she could smell them. Off she set like a hound dog on the Trail. The scent of catmint edgeing some paths tempted me to run my fingers through it until I saw how many bees I was disturbing. A bed of Lavender, although not fully open, sent its perfume across the garden.
There are two walled gardens with a third smaller one enclosed on one side with a thick hew hedge. Entering into the first there is a large vegetable growing area, and not just a token kitchen garden as in many country houses because this one group produce for the garden restaurant. The regular visitors that I spoke to praise the quality of the fresh food served straight from the garden. I was fascinated by the different crops and their management. At the other end of that first garden fruit trees under sown with wild flowers attracted more bees and moths. The second garden is quite formal in layout with an attractive water feature running right through the centre. Tall poppies mixed in the herbaceous borders provided the informality that I found so enjoyable.
There is a third smaller herbaceous garden before crossing the open parkland towards the tea rooms. A small sunken garden is not accessible to wheelchairs but it is possible to run along the lip and see most of it. There is also a large yew maze but when we reached the entrance a very dark cloud loomed overhead; not wanting to get lost in a maze in the rain we headed back for the car and a cup of tea.
Celia decided to wait in hope that the lights would improve. She wanted some photographs for her talk on famous gardens. "These are not famous gardens". Says I. "But they will be”. Was the reply has Celia set off with her cameras. Leisurely retrieving my wheelchair from under a big umbrella I realise that I had done it again. Too many cups of tea and comfort was about quarter of a mile away. Just opposite me behind the three steps loo was a large lime tree with leave laden branches trailing down to the floor. Ha……. comfort is where you find it.