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It was chilly but bright last Saturday, so I took myself to Hestercombe Gardens, near Taunton. I hadn’t been for several years, and believed the actual house to be the property of Somerset County Council, but see from this history that, having been the headquarters of the Somerset Fire Brigade for over 60 years, it was sold in 2013 to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, (itself created in 1986), for £1. Here is a 54-second aerial video of the entire estate, courtesy of the Trust.

I started with lunch in the café. I had to ask what an allegedly vegan dish, a seitan steak was, and was told it was made of pulses. I have to say, I nearly called the waitress after the first mouthful, to check I had been given the right meal, so like meat it was in taste, colour and texture. Too much indeed for comfort! Anyway, once home I looked up and found there are several different recipes, so seitan is not a trade name. Here is a whole article on the subject.

The formal gardens were designed by those celebrated collaborators Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. On past visits I have started with these, but this time I left them to last, bypassing the Victorian Shrubbery, and wandering through the landscaped areas first.

Top of the Daisy Steps, which lead down to the Formal Gardens
The edge of the Victorian Shrubbery
Looking back on the Shrubbery
Near the beginning of the Georgian Landscape Gardens, designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde in the 1760s
Looking back
‘Rustic Seat’
The Great Cascade
Sibyl’s Temple

Beyond this point access was forbidden temporarily, because of damage done by Storm Eunice.

Looking down from Sibyl’s Temple to the Box Pond

From here I had a choice of turning left and returning the other side of the ponds, parallel to the path I had taken, or turning right and climbing up and a bit away from the water features. I chose the latter, not least because it was the sunny side.

Highest point, view from the Gothic Alcove
Taunton in the distance

At this point I failed to turn sufficiently rightwards and to take a diagonal path towards the lakes again. I blame a couple with a dog coming up a path worn in the grass, parallel to the fence. I assumed that was the correct way – I had not been up here before.

As the terrain I was on diverged increasingly from what the plan told me, I at last concluded that I was far too far over, so climbed a gate on the right to correct my route, and went past this pile of logs – which may or may not have been a feature of the recent storms. I had seen many sawn-off trunks in my wanderings, both where I should have been and where I shouldn’t.

I had also seen masses of daffodils, and took many, many more photos of them than this one.

Back where I should have been

Moving towards the orchard and the Garden of Remembrance.

Anyone at home?
Up to Lutyens’ and Jekyll’s Formal Gardens
The Pergola, early in March not at its best

I wondered why someone had left this flowerpot around. Looking more closely, I saw written on it, ‘WOBBLY STONE’.

Also not at its best at this time of year, ‘The Great Plat’ nevertheless was a mass of pink, the parterres filled with Bergenia Cordifolia, more commonly known as Elephant Ears, beginning to go over.

Columns topped by cheeky cherubs

Finally, I walked around the Victorian Terrace.

And I was ambushed in the plant sale on the way out, where I fell in love with this purple Euphorbia, and just had to have it. I’ve no idea where to plant it, but I shall find it a good home.

I left the car park at 4 o’clock, just as ‘Weekend Woman’s Hour’ came on the radio. It started with the very same story, broadcast the day before, of the little boy who wanted Mr Putin to become a good man…