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Longstock Park Water Garden

Open to the public only a few times a year, Longstock Park Water Garden is made up of several linked islands. This charming watery garden has a first-rate nursery, is filled with aquatic plants and is home to a collection of beautiful golden carp.

 

The main lake came into being by accident. In 1870, Alfred and Arthur East, the owners of Longstock House, dredged gravel from the banks of the River Test in order to build a private road to the property, creating the lake in the process.


When the Easts sold the Longstock Estate in 1914, Reginald Beddington, the son of the new owner, decided to make an aesthetic feature of the water. In the 1920's, it was channelled into a central canal flanked by two small lakes and the margins were planted with perennial beds.

The water garden you see now, however, was only created after John Spedan Lewis acquired the estate in 1946. With the help of botanist Terry Jones, whose keen eye for colour was invaluable when it came to selecting inspired combinations of plants, Spedan Lewis began an ambitious plan of redevelopment. He trebled the garden in size, adding a wealth of detail to the main lake with promontories, islands and bridges. The water-logged soil meant all the work had to be done by hand, and it was ten long years before the project was completed.

 

Visitors are sometimes warned that the paths and bridges are narrow and slippery, while the small islands can be damp underfoot – but this is the price that is paid for the amazing experience of virtually walking over the surface of the lake, among the masses of waterlilies, iris, astilbes and other water plants.

It is one of the few gardens where you can walk within touching distance of all these colourful aquatics and marginal flowering plants.

Immaculate lawns and flower beds complete the near-perfection of the scene. In fact, this lovely water garden was originally one man’s vision of paradise.

 

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