Many of Enmore Green’s private gardens will be open to visitors this weekend. The self-guided tour offers the perfect Sunday afternoon pursuit for anyone seeking gardening inspiration or who is simply nosy!
There will be a chance to meet ‘village’ artists too. Alfred was treated to a preview.
Enmore Green’s church was built in the 1840s. It looks older because its style references Norman design. Like most churches, it requires costly maintenance. Replacing the tower roof will cost £12,000 – £15,000.
“It’s a lot for a very small church,” says Jo Churchill, Secretary of the Friends of St John’s, which formed 15 years ago. She has arranged this flower-filled fundraiser. “We’ve done open gardens before but it’s the first time that we have involved the Donkey Field orchard. That’s why we called it ‘Out and About’ because it isn’t just gardens.”
Jo drove me down to her cottage at 6 Long Cross so we could start the tour. Her car turned off the A30 and continued down a narrow lane which was clearly used less frequently. Grass was growing down the middle. “If they’re coming down by car, they have just got to creep out, see the post box in the wall and come down the cart track,” advised Jo. Luckily, maps pinpointing all the open gardens will be on the sale.
Jo is excited. It’s the first time she’s opened her garden to the general public in the 22 years since she moved in. “It’s just hidden away. People say, ‘gosh, I didn’t know that a house was down here’. There’s a holiday cottage next door and that was a cowshed when I came.”
We headed into the back garden. “Wild geraniums for the birds and the bees,” said Jo, pointing out plants as we headed up the path, which gently slopes up away from her cottage. Jo says she is most proud of the tranquil, calming feeling her long narrow garden offers. “It’s just a little oasis of green and birds, and you don’t hear a lot of noise. Just nature,” said Jo. “There’s a calmness and with the trees and the bushes the different shades of green are very, very restful.”
Water gently splashing as it passes through the garden adds to the sense of relaxation. “The stream runs down the side of the church and cuts across the road underneath. It was a culvert. I’ve built up a few of the old green stones to make it so that it makes a lovely trickling noise.” She says she likes to think that some of the chunks of greensand will have come from the former Abbey.
This water emerges from one of the springs that lie beneath the promontory of Castle Hill, above Enmore Green. “That’s why my grass is always green,” said Jo. “Because I’ve got lots of water here.”
Tucked away behind hedges and trees at the far end of the garden, beyond the lawn, is an untouched pile of foliage that looks like a large, traditional compost heap. “I suppose it is compost, but I didn’t use it. It just grows like Topsy. I just added to it.” Jo hasn’t tended this wild space in the time that she has lived here. “I reckon I’ve got a whole ecosystem in there because nobody ever touches it. I know I’ve got grass snakes because I’ve seen them.”
You’ll be able to buy admission to all of the gardens and pick up a map for £5 from a stall at The Knapp in the centre of Enmore Green. The chart guides visitors to Jo’s, the most distant of the featured gardens, and includes the two-tiered churchyard, the Community Field and also encourages viewing of the Donkey Field orchard.
As we arrived in this space, filled with apple trees, I asked Jo about the field’s name. “Evidently there were donkeys in it,” said Jo. “It’s as simple as that. At one stage, people thought this could be a burial ground, but it’s too marshy.”
Volunteers oversee this space. “They’ve got a band of Trustees. They’ve got a covenant with the Council. They look after all this and they manage it. But again, with the emphasis on wildlife,” said Jo, who added that people can come in and help themselves to the orchard’s fruit. “They do,” said Jo. “They have an apple day in October.”
I think they are going to put plaques on the trees,” said Jo, as we wandered around looking at the different fruit trees that fill the site. “They have a medlar tree here,” said Jo. We had both heard of medlars but were unaware of how the fruit is used. Apparently, it makes a nice jelly. And some of the apple trees have odd names. “It’s a ‘sheep’s nose’,” she laughed.
If you’re more interested in art than apples, ‘Out and About’ has two displays you might enjoy. Local artist Sandy Roberts will be showing at the Church Hall. And a new resident artist will be hosting an open studio and open garden.
Carolyne Moran and her husband Paul Barry have recently moved to The Farmhouse. “The house, we think, goes back certainly to Victorian times, possibly late Georgian. It was the farmhouse for Enmore Green and a succession of families have lived here over the years. In earlier days it was a working farm with sheep and possibly cows. It was seven acres in all,” said Paul.
The farmhouse gardens are impressive for their flowers and setting. “There’s a superb view from the rear of the building looking down at the Blackmore Vale. In the front garden, it’s very typically a cottage garden. Another draw would be the many established trees and shrubs here,” he said.
Many visitors will head straight indoors to see Carolyne’s gallery and to view the experienced artist in action. “I did six years at art college and then I was Head of Art in a couple of schools. After a while I gave that up and painted full time,” she said.
Although the couple has only moved in recently, art-lovers might be familiar with Carolyne’s name. She is a Dorset Art Weeks regular and opened her studio at her previous address. “I used to exhibit from my studio in Corfe Mullen but having moved here, I found a nice big house with a big studio, so that’s great.”
Carolyne’s paintings often depict scenes viewed from indoors looking outside. “I love looking through whatever it is. It may be between two trees. I didn’t realise I enjoyed looking through so much until I looked at an exhibition and I thought, ‘it’s nearly all through windows and doorways’. I’ve got a lot of artist friends and one on Portland has a wonderful sea view. I’ve painted that numerous times and of course, I love looking through my own windows,” said Carolyne.
Enmore Green features prominently in Carolyne’s more recent work, rather than Gold Hill views. “I like more intimate scenes really. I’m painting light against dark, rhythms and repetition, more than just a known building. I like to find my own subject really.”
Carolyne is comfortable being watched while she works. A publisher used to employ her to help produce step-by-step ‘how-to’ painting guides. “It means you’ve got to sit with a photographer over you while you’re painting, which is most nerve-wracking. They put it in a book or a magazine showing the different stages as it reaches completion,” she said.
As well as selling her art to visitors, Carolyne will meet potential new neighbours during ‘Out and About’. “We’ve met two or three and they’re really lovely people and we hope to meet a lot more when we have the opening weekend.”
As I reached the end of my advance tour, Jo stopped to show me a tiny cottage garden that Di Whitfield has created in a relatively small space on Sally King’s Lane. “The one thing she has done here is to make it an English country garden with roses and peonies. It is a lovely little spot.”
Jo had a shocking fact about this property, Browns Cottage, uncovered from the 1854 census. “There were eleven people living in it at one stage and there are only two bedrooms.”
There has been much research undertaken into the woman who gave her name to this lane. “She lived in the middle of the 19th century. She also ran the Fountain Inn at one stage, and she had a shop. Mr Goddard who wrote ‘The Search for Sally King’, lived here and was intrigued by her. He researched her whole life,” said Jo.
She reckons Sally would have been a force to reckon with. “I think she was a very formidable lady. She had two husbands, both of them much younger than her, but she had outlived them all. She was buried in Enmore Green Church. We will have a book about her on sale on the 30th. ‘The Search for Sally King’ is £8 and not only gives the story of Enmore Green but Shaftesbury as well,” said Jo.
So take some cash with you! Ice creams, cakes, plants and books will also be on sale in the ‘village’ and afternoon teas will be served up at Tout Hill House.