Magnificent Private Gardens open for Charity Show….by Veronica MacKinnon

There are few more attractive locations for a major charity event than West Woodhay House in West Berkshire, the home of Harry & Sarah Henderson. Just a few miles West of Newbury, and easily accessible from major arterial routes including the M4 and the A34, it is a surprise to find the Inigo Jones house (an architectural gem) is completely surrounded by stunning countryside which rises up to the chalk hills of the North Hampshire Downs. The gardens rarely open to the public but in 2011 at a similar event, 6,000 visitors came over the two days and over £60,000 was raised for local charities. In 2013 the Garden Show will be bigger and better, and takes place on 15th & 16th June.
West Woodhay House gardens are exceptional despite a bed-rock of chalk, there are areas of acid clay which allow a very unusual range of plants to grow in different parts of the gardens. From the front door, you get a fine view across the mirror-calm lake surrounded by drifts of blue Japanese water iris. Beyond, a double avenue of Prunus sargentii partners a lime whose bright cinnamon-orange twigs shine out best when the leaves have fallen. (Tilia cordata ‘Winter Orange’). The avenue leads up towards the church and marks the start of an arboretum that extends all the way up to the farthest point of the garden flanking a series of lakes and ponds. There is a collection of trees that either have interesting bark and stem colour, or striking berries. There are snake- and paper-bark maples, many types of hollies that love the land at West Woodhay (after all, many Ilex x altaclerensis cultivars were bred at the nearby Highclere Castle), dogwoods, willows, rowans, hawthorns, cherries, birches, eucalyptus and many more. Harry Henderson continues to add to this unique collection of trees and shrubs and is currently battling against the deer, hare and rabbits to grow more new and unusual species in the Belvedere, the small wood at the far end of the gardens.

The mature beeches and oaks to the west of the house have allowed many woodland shrubs to be planted under the protective canopy. A walk in the dappled shade amongst scented azaleas, daphne, hydrangea, stewartia and so many more varieties is a pleasure on a hot summer’s day. A path flanked by irish yew mark the boundary between the wilder woodland and the formal gardens around the house. The rose garden has recently been replanted with a simple but fantastically striking combination of white Rosa ‘Iceberg’ and blue catmint around a Neil Wilkin glass sculpture in the same colours. There is also a very fine and mature shrub border that runs along the side of the rose garden planted with a mixture of colour-ful shrubs including Cistus, roses, viburnums and more.
The jewel in the garden’s crown must surely be the walled garden. This is in part a traditional kitchen garden and provides the ‘big house’ with fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, eggs (see Sarah’s delightful ‘chooks’ in their ornamental houses) and colourful pot plants from the extensive glass houses. The shrub borders are also planted up with cut-flowers in mind. There are interesting foliage plants, scented flow-ers, architectural shapes and a carefully blended mixture of colours: Any florist would adore to be set loose in these gardens with a pair of secateurs! Along the central axis of the walled garden run double herbaceous borders planted with hues of pink, mauve, silver and plum, all backed by lolly-pop white-beams and Hydrangea quercifolia. A central glass sculpture by Neil Wilkin adds a twinkling dimension.
West Woodhay House, home of Harry & Sarah Henderson has been opening its Gardens on just one weekend every 2 years for local Charities since 2006 which has raised £225,000 so far. The Gardens will again open for its fifth show on 15th & 16th June 2013.
This beautiful Inigo Jones House has the most magnificent private gardens including 5 lakes, a walled garden, rose garden and arboretum which are not normally open to the Public. When the gardens last opened in 2011 over 6,000 visitors took the opportunity to visit and £62,000 was raised for local Charities.
As well as the Gardens to visit there will be Show Gardens, a schools ‘Wheelbarrow Plant Display, Specialist Plant Stalls and Gifts.
This years Show is in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund, Newbury Spring Festival , Newbury Agricultural Society, local churches and many smaller local charities.
The event starts with a Gala Preview Evening on 14th June from 6.30- 9pm, when the Rifle Brigade Band will march. Wine and canapés will be served.
Main Show days are Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th June 2013 from 10am till 6pm
Entry is £7 Adults with children U15 free .
For more details visit
To book tickets – Search West Woodhay House
or Tel 01206 251790

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