U3A Gardens Group visit April 2022: Petersfield Physic Garden

On Tuesday our U3A Gardens Group had a slightly different garden visit. We went to a very small local garden and had a talk about herbs and the history of Petersfield Physic Garden.

The garden is tucked away down a little alley just off the High Street. If you didn’t know it was there you could easily miss it.

We were met by Jenny, the Head Gardener who clutching her trusty Culpeper herb guide and with her knowledge and great sense of humour, walked us around the garden.

Described as “An oasis of peace in the centre of the town”, this delightful tranquil garden certainly lived up to its name. You could feel the peace as you entered. What struck us also were how tame the birds were. As we stood there a delightful robin was so close to us it almost hopped around on our shoes.

Originally a medieval burbage plot, it was donated to the Hampshire Garden Trust in 1988 by the owner when he found the field, full of rare flowers, was to be developed. It was decided to turn it into a physic garden as it might have been in the 17th century. You will only find plants up to that time.

As we walked towards the herb garden we passed a meadow of spring flowers, mainly wild daffodils and swathes of fritillaria. The meadow also has Yellow Rattle grown to surpress dominant grasses and restore wildflower meadows. There is a selection of old fruit trees including a Medlar tree. Jenny told us the fruit used be called ‘dogs bottom’ and if you know what the fruit looks like, you will agree there is a likeness. Apparently a few of the volunteers collect the rotted fallen fruit to make jam which can be bought from the little sales area. There are also plants to buy.

Herbs have been used for many centuries as dyes, compounds, tinctures, medicinal purposes and cooking. Jenny told us fascinating stories of how herbs were used medicinally in medieval times, many would be frowned upon these days! We also heard how some of them got their names.

The garden is managed by the Friends of the Petersfield Physic Garden and is open every day except over Christmas. It is a charity and relies on donations.

If you want more information about the garden check out their website click HERE

U3A Garden Group Visit to The Old Vicarage, Washington, West Sussex.

The Old Vicarage is situated on the edge of the South Downs, in the village of Washington, West Sussex.  The garden is open under the National Garden Scheme by arrangement from March to October. We visited on 8th March 2022 and were blessed with a cold but glorious sunny day.

We were met by Lady Meryl Walters who lead us to the conservatory furnished with very comfortable chairs and sofas, where we had delicious cakes, tea and coffee.

Sir Peter and Lady Meryl Walters bought the Old Vicarage, an 18th Century Regency House in 1993. The 4.5 acre garden was almost in total neglect. The noisy A24 runs very close to the bottom of the garden and in an endeavour to reduce the traffic noise over 1,000 trees, mostly oak, ash, yew and blackthorn, were planted as well as poplar trees which now stand very tall and swayed beautifully in the wind yesterday against an amazing blue sky. 

To the rear of the house, is a steep sloping garden with amazing views of the North Downs.  There is a large expanse of lawn, a water garden, and a Japanese garden with a waterfall.  We were too early for the tulips but the time was right for the snow drops and crocus. The garden and woodland are full of the most interesting sculptures and metal work designs including two handsome deer and interesting large metal rocking chairs where you can sit looking out over, the vista. 

The poplars provide a wonderfully shady woodland garden to explore, a treasure for children, with a stream, a stumpery and an amazing tree house. The ‘tree’ inside the house had the prettiest twinkling green fairy lights, all sorts of art on the walls and tucked around a corner was a skeleton!

Throughout the garden there was always something new and unusual to find from a fern bridge with metal fronds crossing the stream to enormous walnut sculptures.

Comments from the group included “So much to see packed into a mixture of carefully tendered and naturalised beds, borders and wooded walkways”; “Such an interesting garden …achieved in quite a challenging setting on such a slope”; and “a lovely interesting place, it was very worthwhile”.

This will definitely be a garden to be revisited.