How to enjoy a feast of fine Norfolk gardens

The first opening of the year is on Sunday April 22 when you can see the beautiful gardens at Ditchi

The first opening of the year is on Sunday April 22 when you can see the beautiful gardens at Ditchingham Hall, near Bungay. - Credit: Archant

Some of Norfolk's most beautiful gardens will open up this year to raise funds for St John Ambulance. Trevor Heaton reports.

On Sunday June 10 you can enjoy the 1.5-acre garden at Cavick House in Wymondham.

On Sunday June 10 you can enjoy the 1.5-acre garden at Cavick House in Wymondham. - Credit: Archant

Go on, admit it: who doesn't love a wander round a beautiful garden on a spring or summer afternoon? Which is why the return of the St John Ambulance open gardens scheme later this month is bound to be as popular as ever.

Once again, a selection of lovely Norfolk gardens will be throwing open their garden gates to offer plenty of fine ideas for your own plot back home... or just a bit of delightful peace and quiet.

There's a rare chance to see the garden at Sheringham Hall in early June.

There's a rare chance to see the garden at Sheringham Hall in early June. - Credit: Archant

The season begins on Sunday April 22 (2-5pm) at Ditchingham Hall, near Bungay, when spring flowers and bulbs should be in their pomp in a garden surrounding a Queen Anne house - which, in common with the other events, will not itself be open. Explore parkland, a kitchen garden, blossom-packed (hopefully) arboretum, and more. The garden is two miles north of Bunday, through large gates off the north side of the B1332 (sat nav NR35 2JX). Admission will be £5 for adults, children free. No dogs permitted.

That's followed on Sunday April 29 (1-5pm) by the Bishop's Garden at Norwich Cathedral, a four-acre gem in the heart of the city. The nearest public car park is behind the Adam & Eve pub in Bishopgate, and you then enter on foot via the archway on Palace Plain. The garden includes a 400-year-old pear tree

in the middle of a grass labyrinth. Adults £4, children free, guide dogs only.

On Saturday May 12 there's a double-helping of gardens at North Elmham, with Elmham House (NR20 5JY) and Silverstone Farm (NR20 5EX). A couple of miles apart, these are two very different in character. Elmham House is set in parkland in the centre of the village (on the B1110) and has an 18th-century walled garden, while Silverstone Farm - north of the B1145 at Brisley on the Gateley road - is the creation of garden designer and author George Carter who specialises in formal structure and topiary. Admission - to cover both gardens - is adults £6, children free. Dogs on leads are welcome.

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On Sunday May 13 (open 1-5pm) it's the turn of Stody Lodge, near Melton Constable (NR24 2EW), much loved for its extensive collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias and four-acre

Water Gardens, which have (probably) the largest planting of azalea mollis in the country. Admission will be £6 for adults, with children free. Dogs on leads are welcome.

This year is the bicentenary of the death of that great East Anglian landscape designer Humphry Repton, so there will plenty of interest on Saturday June 2 (noon-5pm) when you have a rare chance to see the garden at Sheringham Hall (NR26 8TB), one of his favourite projects. The garden has been carefully restored since 2003. Turn off the A148 towards Upper Sheringham and follow signs in the village - parking on the left of

the drive only. Adults £5, children free, and - sorry - no dogs for this garden.

The following day (noon-5pm) it's the turn of Manor Farm at Kempstone, which is off the Litcham-Great Dunham road, south of the B1145. This is a traditional 18th-century farmhouse with formal elements (flower and shrub borders, clipped box, yew and lawns) and woodland walk among the attractions. If you are coming from the Litcham direction please take care driving through Litcham Common because of the grazing animals. Adults £4, children free. No dogs for this garden.

The final garden for the summer will be on Sunday June 10 (noon-5pm), when Cavick House, Cavick Road, Wymondham (NR18 9PJ) opens its garden gates. This 1.5-acre walled garden was restored in 1999 and includes a 60-yard wide haha. Reach the house by going past the abbey and then across the railway line - follow signs for parking. Adults £4, children free. No dogs.

But the garden-related fun doesn't end there as, for the third year running, there will be the opportunity for exclusive private tours - great for WIs or gardening clubs - for two selected venues between April and September.

The tours will be given by the owners and are suitable for groups of around ten people. They cost £10 per person (which includes refreshments).

The two gardens taking part in this scheme are: The Merchant's House, Blakeney (sat nav NR25 7NT), a fabulous secret walled garden stretching over two acres. Contact Mrs Marris on

or ring 01263 740260. The other garden is The Old Rectory at Kirby Bedon, south of Norwich (NR14 7DX), with lots of surprises, and a sunken rose garden, over its 2.3 acres. Contact Mr de Bunsen on or ring 01508 491648.

And on Sunday May 13 there will a Garden Opening and Concert to enjoy at Houghton Farm at South Pickenham, near Swaffham (PE37 8DP) at 3.30pm. Enjoy international-calibre musicians playing music from from Beethoven to Cole Porter in the 18th-century barn. The gardens will be open from 3pm to enjoy. Tickets £15 including tea and cake. Reserve your place by contacting The Houghton Centre, South Pickenham, PE37 8DP with cheques payable to The Houghton Centre. Tickets will not be issued but your seats will be reserved.

Enquiries 01760 441444 or And do find the time to visit the remarkable St Mary's Church - only five minutes' walk away - which has 11th-century wall paintings.

Money raised from this year's open gardens will be divided between the good work St John Ambulance does locally, include its first aid and ambulance services, and its Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group which helps those in need in the Holy Land, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or ability to pay.

For information on the garden openings contact 01328 700514 or