Covering over seventy acres, the fabulous arboretum and gardens are a plantsman’s dream.
Discover lakes as well as other water features, a Walled Garden, Sculpture Garden, avenues, a Rose Garden and a Rockery.
A magnificent collection of over 600 varieties of snowdrop including unusual species such as ‘South Hayes’ and ‘Walrus’, all carefully labelled.
Don’t miss the fabulous herbaceous border to the south of the Walled Garden.
Home to Michael and Anne Heseltine.
The gardens are only open 18 days a year – they are extremely popular so book early to avoid disappointment.
Michael Woodhull was born at Thenford in 1740 and inherited the estate from his parents at the age of 14. A keen bibliophile and poet, Woodhull spent much of his time translating Ancient Greek. Between 1761 and 1765, Woodhull built a manor house to replace an Elizabethan house which stood near the Church. Nothing remains of this earlier building although the area is dominated by water – fishponds, a canal and lakes. The architect of the eighteenth century building is unknown although English Heritage suggests that Woodhull designed the building himself with the help of a local architect. Woodhull married Catherine Ingram in 1761. Her portrait was painted by Johan Zoffany c1770. She holds a basket of flowers which suggests the Woodhulls were both keen gardeners.
The Woodhulls had three children each of whom predeceased their parents. On Woodhull’s death in 1816, the estate passed to Mrs Woodhull’s sister. Thenford remained in the Severne family until the end of the nineteenth century when it was bought by the Summers family.
In 1976, Spencer Summer’s widow sold Thenford to Michael and Anne Heseltine.
Over the last 45 years, the Heseltines have developed the gardens and arboretum with advice from amongst others, Harold Hillier, Lanning Roper and Roy Lancaster.
The two acre Walled Garden was designed by George Carter. It contains copper domed pavilions, wooden obelisks, mirror pools, fruit cages, an aviary and at its centre, a water feature by William Pye. Scattered outside the walls are the Armour Boys by Laura Ford. Ford wrote in 2006, ‘It is hard to believe that the soldier striding forward, engaged in battle, full of adrenalin, when struck down can become so quiet, so without life, so still. Armour Boys are not only about our tendency to violence but also our sense of invulnerability which is instantly and shockingly reversed in the presence of death.’
The herbaceous border at Thenford lies due south of the Walled Garden. In an article in Country Life in 2020, Lord Heseltine explains that ‘Darren Webster, our head gardener, was repairing the top of the wall around the old kitchen garaden and pointed out that the outside was facing south. We seized the opportunity to create a herbaceous border and a grass walk; they were so successful that we have just doubled the border’s size.’
Nearby is the rill with a scallop shell pond designed by Maggy Howarth at the far end.
The sculpture garden was designed by Anne as a series of rooms, each separate from one another. This allows none of the sculptures to compete against one another. There are works by numerous artists including Elizabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick and Michael Ayrton.
‘Collecting plants and trees is the most wonderful therapy and form of escape,’ explains Michael. ‘You go into a different world and it took me away from my red boxes. We are both born magpies and the process of collecting has been an essential characteristic of what we have done at Thenford.’