Here’s the first in my Wealie Nice Places To Visit series of
articles. The aim of these articles is to give you a feel for
the places I visit in words and images, a bit of the history and the pros and cons of visiting as I see them. I hope you will be inspired to visit one or two of those places after reading my articles. Anyway, let’s get on with talking about Heale Gardens.
With the two long weekends of 4 days a piece in April I had lots of opportunities to get out and about during the Easter and May Day weekend. One of the places I chose to go was Heale Gardens. Heale is a lovely late 16th century private house and gardens situated in the Woodford Valley near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
What people visit Heale for most is its gardens; many generations of the still resident Rasch family have created and developed the gardens we see today. The house is also famous for having been one of the places where Charles the II took refuge on his flight from the country. Charles II spent 6 nights at Heale on his way to Shoreham and then onto France in October 1651.
On entering the garden you walk through a beautiful meadow full of gorgeous wild flowers and grasses. The managed orchards are full with beautiful fruit-bearing trees, grown to form lush archways where shade loving blooms can thrive.
To your right the river Avon flows through the bottom of the garden splitting into a number of tributaries to make an amazing riverbank landscape through the woodland garden, with it’s abundance of ferns and Spanish bells. Beautiful wisterias climb the walls and archways and intricate ironwork decorates the gates that break up the different elements of the gardens.
It takes approximately an hour to walk round the gardens at a leisurely pace, but there’s no time limit to how long you may spend in the gardens. Many people come with a picnic blanket and a good book to absorb the wonderful sense of peace, tranquillity and relaxation that the gardens are bound to inspire in you.
The crumbling stonework and ornate rusting iron gates exude a sense of dignified decay, lending an indefinable air of ‘times gone by’ to the gardens. It’s not hard to imagine the quintessentially English corseted ladies and proper English gentlemen living a lifestyle most of us would never have been able to experience except through great BBC period dramas!
In terms of amenities there’s a lovely coffee shop with indoor and outdoor seating to accommodate the moody British weather. In the coffee shop you will receive a very warm welcome and reasonably priced and exceptionally well presented home made food that is in my opinion is to die for! Whether it’s a full lunch, a lite bite or just a cup of tea and a slice of cake (I heartily recommend the warm scones!) there will be something to whet your appetite.
As well as food, the coffee shop also has an array of home produce, gifts, gardening items, knick knacks and greeting cards for sale that are fun to browse through and again reasonably priced. On top of the coffee shop there’s also a small nursery where you can buy some of the beautiful blooms and shrubs you see in the gardens at prices that are great for the size and quality of the plants you buy – some of which are now gracing my own garden.
The house itself is not open to the public and as the family is in residence there are areas of the garden where the public are not allowed to enter to protect the privacy of the Rasch family home. Unfortunately the gardens are not particularly suitable for wheelchair access or individuals with severe mobility impairment, however you can experience much of the garden’s beauty by just sitting out in the coffee shop garden area, as long as you watch out for the crafty Robin with designs on your cake crumbs!
From February and October the gardens are open to the public between 10 am and 5 pm, Wednesday to Sunday (not Monday or Tuesday, except Bank Holidays). Entrance is reasonably priced at £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for kids. All in all Heale Gardens is a lovely place to spend some relaxation time, whether you are walking round the gardens or just popping to the coffee shop for a cream tea and a mosey round the nursery. It’s well worth a visit if you are in the area and a great place to while away a morning or afternoon.
Below are some of my favourite pictures from my afternoon at Heale and you can see the rest in my flickr photo set Heale Gardens.