Garden of the month: Autumn at Hole Park

Hole Park is home to the Barham family

Hole Park is home to the Barham family - Credit: Archant

Laid out in a series of gardens over 15 acres with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside, Hole Park is one of the jewels of the county

The gardens at Hole Park in Rolvenden, set in the rolling hills of the High Weald, were first planted by Colonel Barham in the early 1920s. Laid out in a series of gardens over 15 acres with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside, Hole Park is one of the jewels of the county.

Although open regularly to the public for many years the gardens remain very much a family garden, with the present owners Edward and Clare Barham enthusiastically continuing the evolution of the estate.

“We have very busy lives, Clare with the family and running the tea room within the garden, I with the wider estate to run, and so our own gardening time is limited, not least because any suggestion that we might just nip out and weed a border, might find us there a day later,” says Edward.

“My strength is being the greatest exponent of Hole Park and what it represents to us; a family home for 102 years and the desire to keep it going, promote and share the enjoyment of it.”

Throughout the season the colours flow and ebb through the gardens, from carpets of bluebells in spring through textural vibrancy in the herbaceous borders to the final crescendo of autumn’s glorious hues.

“Hole Park gives the visitor an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful garden of great beauty far away from the crowds and very different from its popular neighbours. Autumn colours are a speciality, making the garden truly a sight for all seasons,” says Edward.

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With a mix of formal rooms bounded by yew hedges and woodland areas of mature deciduous trees, please do allow plenty of time to wander the landscape and soak up the atmosphere

Follow the woodland trail, over wooden bridges, past glades of shimmering acers sheltering fading pink-fringed hydrangeas, euonymus heavy with crimson fruit and tranquil pools of water, until you reach the newly restored 18th-century ice house.

“The highlight in October has to be the vibrant colours in the woodland, principally of the maples; reds, golds, yellow and pale green. However, the tropical border should be spectacular still and our famed agapanthus Hole Park Blue should also be at their best from mid September,” adds Edward.

A favourite garden, with many return visitors, Hole Park continues to evolve and new developments are added. Head gardener Quentin Stark is responsible for the everyday running of the gardens and his skill is supplemented by designers if needed for certain projects, the latest being a redesign of the sundial garden.

“We pulled out the old box parterre, which had blight and we wanted to stop it spreading, and stone paths which were in need of refurbishment,” explains Edward.

A new design in conjunction with Marian Boswall has been laid out with a central compass point, in which the old sundial has been remounted. Within the path is a mosaic of a bear by Maggie Howarth of Lancaster, who has done work at Great Dixter recently. This bear and a magnificent curved bench by Gaze Burvill are both 50th birthday presents from Edward’s wife.

As with many of the country estates in the UK, it is wonderful to be able to enjoy the beauty of their gardens. “While we are the fortunate owners of Hole Park, places such as this are a national resource that I feel bound to share with others. Our visitors seem to agree,” says Edward.

“One approached me and said ‘thank you for looking after this for me.’ I was at first taken aback; I thought it was mine!

“But he meant that we were looking after a small part of our national heritage, which is as much his as mine. An interesting position, but I tend to agree.” n

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