On a warm June Wednesday I drove across the Hampshire border with some friends, for a visit to Cranborne Manor Gardens, in Dorset`s Cranborne Chase.
The Gardens are approached through a colourful and well stocked Garden Centre.We met for coffee and then made our way through rose-covered walled gardens, where beds of vegetables grow alongside drifts of wild flowers and sown cottage garden blooms.
Colours and scents tempt bees, butterflies and gardeners.
Climbing roses, underplanted with cranesbill geraniums.
Daisies, corncockles and splashes of scarlet poppies.
Vegetable beds in the kitchen garden, and a rustic "hut" of wood for sweet peas to climb.
Through a door in the garden wall, we walked along mown grass pathways, through meadows of wild flowers, towards the Manor House.
Yellow rattle, daisies, orchids and salad burnet, buttercups and clover grew among the grasses.
Down towards the Manor gates, where red brick walls and roses glowed in the sultry heat.
Cranborne Manor has been a family home for centuries and is not open to the public. Its current owner is Viscount Cranborne, eldest son of the seventh Marquis of Salisbury.
The original house was built in the twelfth century, as a hunting lodge for King John. The countryside of Cranborne Chase had been a Royal hunting ground since the Norman Conquest.
In 1604, the estate was given to Robert Cecil, Chief Minister to both Elizabeth I and James I, in thanks for overseeing a smooth transition between the Tudor and Stewart reigns.
Changes and additions to both house and gardens have taken place over the centuries. I was fascinated to discover that the early 17th century gardens were designed by Mounten Jenning and planted by the great plant hunter John Tradescant.
This and more information about the house, garden and the modern Estate can be found on www.cranborne.co.uk
Through a wooden gate in the garden wall, we walked around to the back of the house, where the rear doorway gives a feeling of great antiquity and a sense of countless passing feet, over so many centuries.
From the back of the house, the view stretches down across the ha-ha and over a gate, into an avenue of green limes and lush pasture.
Walking on, we found an ornamental pond.......
......and free range chickens, contentedly foraging in the shelter of garden walls.
There are richly planted herbaceous borders in the walled area between the Manor House and Cranborne village. Early delphiniums promised a fine display, beside Church Walk that leads to the churchyard gate.
Masses of pinks and old roses filled the warm air with summer scent.
An apple archway spans drifts of nepeta (catmint) and allium.
An ancient holm oak.........
...beside an avenue of limes.
We walked through their shade and back into wildflower meadows.
Such an old and lovely place to walk, surrounded by birdsong and the sights and smells of summer. This is a garden to return to and enjoy again.