Manor house boasting working moat in the running for top prize
- Credit: Archant
The gardens surrounding the manor house Hindringham Hall have been shortlisted for a national award. STUART ANDERSON reports on how a once-neglected site has grown into a blooming marvellous success.
The moated manor of Hindringham Hall looks like something out of a fairytale. And now the gardens surrounding the Tudor-era house between Sheringham and Fakenham have been shortlisted alongside some of the country’s best for a Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award.
The gardens, which include a bog garden and medieval fish ponds, have been lovingly restored and developed by Charles and Lynda Tucker, a couple in their 70s who have lived there since 1993.
Mrs Tucker said they were thrilled to be in the running for such a prestigious award.
She said: “It’s an amazing thing because we are up against some huge gardens.”
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Hindringham Hall has reopened after several months of lockdown, but Mrs Tucker said it was nothing like in ‘normal’ times, when 150 people could visit the garden in a day.
She said the lockdown had affected their livelihood, and they were looking forward to welcoming more visitors.
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Mrs Tucker said: “People coming to visit the garden is the majority of the business - we have people come from Russia, from China, and all over England. We had lots of international groups that were booked for this year but had to cancel.
“We are now open again but there is very low footfall at the moment because there are no tourists in Norfolk yet. We have a one-way system in place and we’re doing everything we can to protect the people going around and the staff.”
Their focus has been on developing the site in keeping with its heritage, in a natural style.
“Visitors won’t be able to see £5,000 worth of topiary here, but what they will see is an old yew tree that’s been turned into something,” Mrs Tucker said.
“There has been a lot of cutting and diving - we’ve planted with what was there. There was a corner of the moat which was an overflow that’s been turned into a bog garden, and one very shady area has been planted with shade-loving plants.”
Mrs Tucker said their latest large project was the restoration of the mediaeval fish ponds, which date from the 12th century, when the land was owned by the church. They, and the moat, are now classed as ancient monuments.
She said: “It is now the most amazing wildlife spot - there’s a resident heron and about 30 other species of birds have been spotted.”
Hindringham Hall is now one of the only manor houses in England with a working moat and fish ponds.
Mrs Tucker said they had not put fish into the ponds, but they had arrived there through overflow from the moat, or transported as eggs on the wings of ducks.
The site also includes a stream garden, walled kitchen garden, dell and wild garden.
The manor house was built around the year 1538 by a courtier who worked for Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.
The house later went into decline, and was restored around 1900. The Tuckers began opening the gardens as part of the National Garden Scheme 14 years ago.
Mrs Tucker said: “It was never an open garden before - it was only ever meant to be a private garden.
“People started asking if we could open it at another time of year and it grew from there.
“We normally open twice a week, from April to October, but this year we’re going until November.”
Mrs Tucker said their coffee shop, which normally seats 40, remained closed, but they were hoping to reopen it for takeaways on July 5.
She said: “It will be outside only. We’ve got to follow all sorts of guidelines and we’re trying to be as intelligent about it as we possibly can.
“One of the nicest things is being able to sit with a cup of tea overlooking the gardens, and we do say to visitors that they can bring their own picnic along and have it in the car park.”
Other gardens shortlisted for the award, which is sponsored by Christie’s, include Arley Hall in Cheshire, Painshill Park in Surrey and Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire.
To vote for your favourite garden visit www.historichouses.org/goya2020.html. Voting closes on September 30.