Mists of time
Kent Life|September 2020
Mists of time
Immerse yourself in the atmospheric gardens at Nettlestead Place, where the past and present meet in a plantsman’s garden
Leigh Clapp

There has been a home on the site of Nettlestead Place for more than 1,000 years. Bordering a prehistoric trackway, the atmospheric manor house you see today of weathered stone with mullioned windows has witnessed many changes.

In the 17th century part of the 13thcentury medieval house with its adjacent Saxon church was demolished for building material. It was even used as cattle byre, before a process of restorations in the 1920s brought it back to life as a home.

To frame the house, gardens were also laid out, including an avenue of Irish yews along the drive and a formal rose garden. Of particular note were the large medieval fishponds on the south face of the house, with Kentish ragstone edging and a low hedge. The ponds were also restored as a fascinating feature that allows shimmering reflections of the mellow stone and surrounding planting.

This short-lived phase came to an abrupt end however, when during and after the Second World War the gardens again fell into a state of decline.

The process of restoration was then undertaken enthusiastically by Roy and Annabel Tucker, who had a particular interest in land and nature. They bought the property in 1977 and moved down from London to begin work.

Embracing the wonderful open country views was important to them both while also introducing a wider plant range. Turning the loss of more than 40 trees from the 1987 hurricane into an opportunity for careful assessment of the garden was a further impetus for change.

Their first steps were to plant a native woodland with oaks, alders, ash and hawthorns at the farthest end, create more hedges and take the opportunity to develop new island beds. With neutral, fertile, welldraining soil and a relatively mild climate, a large range of plants could be used to reawaken and enhance this sleeping beauty of a garden.

The aim was to create different areas with a wide palette of long seasonal interest while also embracing the far-reaching views, with the result that redeveloping and extending the existing garden more than doubed its size.

Over the years the garden has evolved with a co-operative effort between the owners and their gardener. Roy is very much in the driving seat for the main gardens while Annabel concentrates on the vegetables and fruit areas.


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September 2020