Mansard House, Bardwell, Suffolk
Nestled in the picturesque village of Bardwell, Suffolk, Mansard House is a testament to the enduring beauty of English country living. Tom and his family moved to this charming property nearly 20 years ago, and it has since become a haven for their extensive household, which includes four children, two dogs, seven Shetland sheep, two horses and a numerous bantams. The house itself, a delightful blend of C16th and C18th architecture, had weathered over the years and fallen victim to an unfortunate ‘modernisation’ attempt in the 1970s. Over the past 20 years Tom and his wife have lovingly embarked on a journey of restoration, bringing the house back to its former glory. As of now, the historic Mansard House stands proudly as a sanctuary, where the echoes of its rich past resonate throughout. Beyond the charming facade and the warm embrace of its centuries-old walls, Mansard House boasts a garden that is nothing short of enchanting. Set across two and a half acres, the garden is a semi-wild paradise, a carefully cultivated wilderness that blends seamlessly with the Suffolk countryside. It is a place where nature reigns, and every season tells a unique story.
At the heart of the garden lies a walled jewel, a traditional kitchen garden that has been meticulously restored to its former glory. Crinkle-crankle walls, weathered by time, provide a protective embrace to this oasis of productivity. Here, Tom can be found most mornings, tending to his collection of fruit trees—cordons, espaliers, and fan-trained specimens—each bearing the promise of a bountiful harvest. Six main vegetable beds, neatly aligned, showcase an array of organic delights, ensuring that the family’s table is always graced with the freshest produce.
But Mansard House’s garden is not confined to the structured confines of the walled garden. It is a sprawling canvas of beauty and biodiversity, a testament to the family’s deep-rooted love for the land they call home. Beyond the formal plantings surrounding the house, the garden morphs into a wilder expanse that seamlessly merges with its natural surroundings. Wetland meadows stretch as far as the eye can see, adorned with an abundance of native flora and fauna. Ponds glisten in the sunlight, their surfaces mirroring the ever-changing sky, while meandering streams add a soothing, melodic soundtrack to this tranquil landscape.
A laboratory to test planting designs
Throughout this wild garden, you’ll discover ornamental plantings that seem to have sprung organically from the earth, inspired by the works of legendary Irish gardener William Robinson. This part of the garden is, in many ways, a horticultural laboratory—a place where Tom experiments with new plant varieties and horticultural concepts, ensuring that each addition to his beloved landscape has been tried and tested before finding its place in future projects.
While Tom and his family may be the stewards of Mansard House, they understand that the true master of this landscape is Mother Nature herself. The garden thrives under her gentle guidance, its success often dependent on her whims. It is a dynamic and ever-evolving masterpiece, a testament to the enduring beauty of a well-tended English garden in the heart of Suffolk’s enchanting countryside. Mansard House and its gardens stand as a living testament to the power of restoration, love for the land, and the timeless allure of rural life.