Cranborne Manor is the home of Viscount Cranborne, the 7th Marquess of Salisbury, and its kitchen garden is indeed a great summer destination for all foodies.
The original Manor house, which was called the Chase Court, was built as a hunting lodge for King John in the 12th Century, and the estate was a popular royal hunting ground until the end of the 17th Century.
The Manor came into the ownership of Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, and the family has lived here ever since. The garden was originally laid out by Mounten Jennings and John Tredescant who also supplied some of the plants.
As you enter the main entrance from the car park you will see a wonderful garden centre and plant nursery, where you can buy plants raised by the gardeners. There is also a really good tea room which uses the produce from the kitchen and herb garden.
The walled vegetable garden, the kitchen garden and the herb garden (or “Green Garden”) are really beautiful, and although they are structured along formal and classical lines, with central axes, vistas, height and structure, they are very relaxed in feel. The soil is managed organically and you can tell that that it is extremely healthy and fertile.
You will see hazel wigwams and arches used to grow zucchini, wildflowers, fruits and sweet peas, which scramble upwards with wild abandonment. The gardeners have made great use of all the space, and this garden is a practical lesson that anyone, however small their own garden, can grow food and flowers upwards.
There are seating areas dotted everywhere, so you can take the long view and analyse the planting in detail.
There is also a great abundance of wildlife all over this garden: bees, butterflies, moths, birds and ladybirds abound. When you go for a walk through the kitchen garden, nearest to the house, there is an apple archway absolutely filled with birds.
Although the house itself is not opened to the public, the philosophy with regards to the estate is that visitors are able to wander around at their own free will. There are estate walks marked, and they criss cross all over the surrounding countryside. There is a very good village shop in the town, called Cranborne Stores, and it even sells locally reared meat. The village pub is called the Sheaf of Arrows and there is also a restaurant with rooms, La Fosse.
You cannot fail to walk away inspired with growing ideas and tips, and although this is a very grand design there are so many small, personal and intimate spaces and planting formats that can be used in smaller gardens.