An English country garden

Sussex Life|June 2020

An English country garden
Take inspiration from the beautiful gardens at Hoopers Farm, which Andrew and Sarah Ratcliffe have developed over many years in the lovely village of Mayfield
Leigh Clapp

A country idyll looks effortless but we all know gardening takes time and expertise.

For Andrew and Sarah Ratcliffe, developing the two-acre garden at their home, Hoopers Farm, is a joint effort taken on with enthusiasm. Attracted by the stunning setting, the couple moved to the property in 1993. “We were looking for somewhere with some land for our horses but the main attraction of Hoopers Farm was the view. We are on the southern edge of Mayfield, within walking distance of the village, and have superb uninterrupted views over the Rother Valley,” says Sarah. Set on a gentle south-facing slope which melds into fields, the borrowed view beyond was always a factor in coming to decisions on how the garden would look. Over time the scene has been beautifully conceived, slowly and with care, evolving from the existing palette of a few shrubs, a small herbaceous border, some mature trees including silver birch and lime, and swathes of daffodils.

“The first thing we did, after making changes to the house, was to raise a flat lawn in a semi-circular shape and construct steps down to the lower level. We also removed a small rockery that was in front of the house and constructed a sloping border along the full length of the house, which is now planted with blue and yellow flowering plants,” Sarah recalls. From the outset tasks were delineated, with Andrew in charge of the framework and Sarah the infill. “Andrew designed the overall structure, making full use of the views and sightlines including removing part of the boundary hedge and putting in a ha-ha to draw the eye into the fields beyond. I have a background in textile design and I love putting colours and textures together so the planting was another form of expressing this creativity. In the days when all we had was a window box, I started to read the works of garden writers such as Marjorie Fish, Christopher Lloyd and Anne Scott-James and imagined one day being able to put those ideas into practice,” she adds.

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June 2020