Some of Somerset’s most dazzling and inspiring wildlife gardens are opening to the public this summer to fundraise for Somerset Wildlife Trust, and inspire us to use our own gardens to help wildlife on our own doorstep

Somerset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Wildlife Gardens’ is an initiative that will see a selection of Somerset’s finest examples of gardens specifically designed to support our wildlife opening their gates to the public.

The gardens, spread across the county, as well as being stunning in their own right, each showcase unique features that provide special homes for our best-loved species – from small mammals and pollinators, to birds and pond-dwellers. The Trust hopes to inspire visitors to take away ideas for things they can do in their own gardens, school playgrounds, or office gardens to provide a secure home for wildlife.

Whilst all of the participating gardens are very different, they each have one thing in common – owners who are passionate about their gardens and happy to open them in order to inspire others and to support the Trust’s work.  They will be on site, alongside Somerset Wildlife Trust staff, to offer advice and tips as well as delicious tea and cakes for visitors.  The entry fee is £4 per adult, (free for children aged 16 and under), and all hosts will donate the proceeds to Somerset Wildlife Trust to support its work across the county.

Emma Jones, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Community Fundraiser, explains, “56% of the UK’s species are in decline.  Our wildlife need pathways upon which to travel to and through the county in order to feed, breed and find new homes.  Our own gardens, whether large or small, in the town or in the country literally act as safe, green stepping stones for this to happen.  It’s the little things we do on our own doorsteps that can have a collective impact for wildlife and, whilst the Somerset Wildlife Gardens initiative showcase the very finest examples of wildlife friendly gardening, in each of them there are things that we can replicate in our own  space.

“Even if you are not a gardener at all, getting outside and connecting with nature is good for our health and well-being and the gardens are absolutely fabulous places to spend an enjoyable afternoon and a great way to get to know your local area, so please do come along to one near you.”

Here are the participating gardens (not in date order):

1. Sherborne Garden, Litton, Radstock, BA3 4PP
Host Pamela Southwell
May 21st 2017 at 10:30-17:00
Sherborne Garden is a romantic and enchanting garden, with a peaceful and timeless feel.  Created from agricultural land, and spreading over four acres, it’s a true labour of love. Come along to wander across the striking bridge and explore the winding paths – perfect for children to scamper along and to find secret hideaways in unusual trees.

2. Ball Copse Hall, Brent Knoll, Highbridge, TA9 4DF
Host Sue Boss
July 2nd 2017 at 12:00-17:00
Ball Copse Hall boasts one of the most breath-taking views of the Quantock and Polden Hills in the County. It is easy to understand why it was chosen as a military hospital in the war, as the hope was that the views would heal all. Thanks to the rare ‘crinkle-crankle’ walled garden which provides a warmer temperature, there are some unusual plants to be found, such as a huge kiwi tree from New Zealand. You’ll also find a wildlife pond, home to great-crested newts, and beehives nestled under the beech trees.

3. Broomclose, Porlock, Minehead, TA24 8NU
Hosts David and Nicky Ramsay
17th and 18th June at 13:00-17:00
Broomclose is a stunning Arts and Craft house with a garden classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is divided into idyllic pockets, from the Camelia Walk to the vegetable garden, and has a stunning view over the Vale of Porlock. As there is a milder eco-climate here you will also find unusual sub-tropical trees and plants.  It has been described as “bee heaven” by local beekeepers due to the huge array of bee-friendly plants, and you will be able to see the bees and their hives in the garden.  David, garden host and passionate beekeeper, will be around to answer your questions on this incredibly important aspect of conservation.

4. Model Farm, Perry Green, Wembdon, Bridgwater TA5 2BA
Hosts Dave and Roz Young
9th July at 13:00-17:00
Model Farm is a beautiful four-acre garden that has been lovingly created in the last seven years.  You can explore the wonderful wild flower meadow, stunning flower beds and the incredible 700 trees, which  have all been planted  by the owners on what was once agricultural land.  Don’t forget to find the fabulous wildlife pond too. On the day there won’t only be the chance to wander through this amazing garden, but you can explore the plant sale, display of vintage engines and  local cider makers, as well as  get involved in croquet on the lawn.

5. The Miller’s House, Nunney, Nr Frome, BA11 4NP
Host Caroline Toll
May 27th at 11:00 to 16:00
If you would like to see a beautiful wildlife pond then don’t miss the chance to come to the tranquil garden at Miller’s House, where you will find an atmospheric mill pond which is often visited by  dragonflies. The Miller’s House is set in a small valley near the fabulous Nunney Castle.  You can take a wander along the wild paddock at the bottom of the garden next to the river, from the leat to Nunney Brook, where you can find a perfect paddling spot and a ‘Butterfly bank’ – an amazing bank on the river covered in wildflowers and grasses.

6. Vellacott Cottage Garden, Lawford, Crowcombe, TA4 4AL
Hosts Kevin and Pat Chittenden
June 4th at 13:00-16:00

see photo at top

As featured in the summer 2017 issue of Exmoor Magazine, out mid-May

Vellacott is the archetypal Cottage Garden. The surrounding Quantocks and Brendon Hills make Vellacott feel like a floral oasis, a paradise for all wildlife.  Paths lead you through abundant plants, up to the top where you can find peep holes in the hedges to enjoy the spectacular views – and along the way find the very contented chickens too. Around the garden you will discover many salvaged, historic gardening relics including a Shepherd’s hut that Kevin and Pat are renovating.  Vellacott is a peaceful, joyous space.

7. Hillcrest Garden, Curload, Stoke St Gregory, Taunton TA3 6LA
Hosts Charlotte and Charles Sundquist
June 24th and 25th at 14:00 to 17:00
Hillcrest is a five-acre garden with so many special places within it that everyone can find a perfect spot to sit and contemplate, although the lawn is said to be perfect for cartwheels! It has incredible far reaching views overlooking the Somerset Levels, where you will spot Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump – although Hillcrest has its own standing stone that you can get up close to. Don’t miss the chance to visit the very large wild flower meadow leading down to an enormous wildlife pond, full of dragonflies and beehives – with a bee expert on hand to answer any questions you may have about the essential garden visitors.

8. Bracondale Garden, Staplehay, Trull, TA3 7HB
Host – Richard & Jackie Denton-Cox
May 14th at 12:00-17:00
Bracondale is a wildlife haven in Staplehay with a wonderful pond full of frogs, and a meadow that will be in full bloom in time for your visit. You will also find an array of stunning trees including, Persian Ironwood, Redwood, Chinese Tulip tree and Blackgum.

9. Badbury Flowers, Badbury Dairy House, Isle Abbots, TA3 6RS
Host Helen Toon
11th June at 11:00 to 15:00
Badbury Dairy House is a Flower Farm, and Helen the host, is a flower farmer. Helen supplies brides to country markets with stunning floral displays created from her own flowers grown from seed. Come along and be inspired by beautiful home grown flowers – and there’s also the chance to take away your own posy!