A magical private garden situated in a wooded valley and created almost from scratch by Dr Jimmy Smart MBE, VMH. Highlights include three inter-linked lakes, two National Collections (Astilbe and Tulbaghia), one provisional National Collection (Japanese Iris), and a Camellia house situated within a walled garden.
The site has a notable downwards incline from the southern boundary to the middle lake and bog garden area. Gentler slopes fall from the north-west corner towards the lower lake. and from the upper lake on the eastern boundary to the lower lake on the western edge.
Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting
Marwood Hill Gardens is situated 4 miles north of the town of Barnstaple in North Devon, sitting between the hamlets of Marwood and Guineaford.
Entrances and Approaches
The site is approached from a road to the north, the entrance being on the north-north-east of the grounds.
The principal building is a house built by Dr Jimmy Smart in the 1970s and which was his home until his death in 2002. The living room was subsequently converted to become the site's tea-room, opened in 2005.
Grounds and Pleasure Grounds
To the left of the entrance are sited herbaceous borders and a Wisteria arbour. Following the path to the east and past the tea-room, lie Mediterranean beds and, on the eastern-most border a small quarry gives way to the upper lake.
The upper lake has a small stream feed to the middle lake and the area between them is home to the National Collection of Astilbe. A stream from the middle lake then flows through the bog garden and into the lower lake, the lakes forming the central horizontal core of the grounds.
From this core, the ground slopes upwards to the southern border. This is a large area featuring many shrubs and trees. On the eastern side is a conifer collection; the lower end of the slope features a collection of birch and Eucalyptus; the upper-most edge houses a Camellia walk, and a Hydrangea walk cuts through the middle of the area.
Beyond the lower lake, towards the north-western corner, lies a scented arbour followed by a folly and waterfall. A wild garden stretches from this corner back towards the east, leading to beehives and a bluebell wood which is central to the northern border.
Heading from the bluebell wood back towards the admission gate, the walled garden can be seen. The inner area of this features the National Collection of Tulbaghia, a Camellia house, and the plant sales area. The outer wall area features a Hellebore bank and scree area on the southern side, a small pool on the northern side, and herbaceous borders to the east.
Benches are placed at regular intervals throughout the gardens, and sculptures are featured at the north-eastern approach to the upper lake, on an island in the middle lake, between the middle lake and bog garden, and at the eastern edge of the lower lake. The sculpture between the middle lake and bog garden is placed almost centrally within the whole site and is of Dr Jimmy Smart.
A walled garden immediately to the right of the admission gate and on the north edge of the site formerly contained cordon and espalier apple trees. It now provides space for a sales area of plants propagated on site and it also where the National Collection of Tulbaghia and the Camellia house is situated.
- Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
A detailed history of the garden, largely told in Jimmy Smart's own words, can be found at History of the Garden (marwoodhillgarden.co.uk)
A condensed history, based on the information found at the link, is given below.
At the time the land was purchased by Dr Jimmy Smart, the gardens extended for less than 2 acres. Work was undertaken to remove a great deal of the existing planting, excepting some Rhododendron nobleanum, which Dr Smart stated had been a large draw when he was considering buying the house. Other initial work involved establishing herbaceous borders and clearing the front lawn.
In the 1960s, the purchase of adjacent land enabled the creation of two small lakes and many of the trees appearing opposite the house were planted. In the same year, a greenhouse was built inside the walled garden, which now houses a stunning collection of Camellia species - a plant which Dr Smart showed and judged; he also worked with the RHS Camellia Committee.
Over the years, numerous trees and shrubs were added and the gardens were opened to the public for an admission fee with a selection of plants propagated on site being offered for sale. A new house was built and the old one sold with the new house taking the name of Marwood Hill Gardens.
Around the time of Dr Smart's retirement from medical practice, he was afforded the opportunity to purchase a further 12 acres of adjoining land. This allowed the development of a bog garden in which the National Collection of Astilbe is housed. In 1982, a third and lower lake was created on this land, followed by a folly and scented arbour in 1986.
- Features & Designations
Mainly ericaceous and shillet soil. Good loam but shallow in places.
- Bog garden
- House (featured building)
- Description: Tea Room
- Ornamental Lake
- Garden Ornament
- Description: Sculpture of Dr Jimmy Smart
- Camellia House
- Key Information
Open to the public
Marwood (North Devon)