In the village of Otham

In the village of Otham, near Maidstone, lies the small but priceless jewel of Stoneacre, where Rosemary Alexander, founder of the prestigious English Gardening School, has recently turned 14 acres of previously derelict land into a garden of old world charm and character, complimenting a superb, timber-fronted 15th century house.More about village of Otham here.

After only seven years of tenancy from the National Trust, Rosemary has planted giant camellias and wisteria to clothe the ancient walls, filled sweeping borders with herbaceous plants and breathed colour and vitality into every corner. Wildlife flourishes in ponds once choked with weed, Kent apples ripen in the orchard, and the heady fragrance of honeysuckle fills the air above this tranquil and intimate setting.

And then there are Emmetts Garden  and Riverhill, both near Sevenoaks. Largely the creation of Frederick Lubbock, who bought the property in 1893 and sought advice from the garden writer William Robinson, Emmetts has a light touch of formality in its Italianate rose garden, but otherwise follows a relaxed pattern of lawns, glades and gently meandering paths.

Riverhill’s gardens provide colourful hillside decoration to a small country house: a beautiful woodland setting rich with bluebells, a Rose Walk with fuchsias and apple trees, and a colourful “jungle” of azaleas and rhododendrons planted in Victorian times.

With crown jewels like Hever and less well-known, but equally precious gems like Stoneacre, Emmetts and Riverhill, the “Garden of England” remains the definitive horticultural treasure chest, its contents spilling freely from its ever-open lid. If it really is true that one is closer to God’s heart in a garden, then surely Heaven is right here, in Kent.

Art record

A WORLD record for a British watercolour has been paid at auction at Sotheby’s, London. Lilium Auratum , by the Victorian artist John Frederick Lewis, fetched £826,500, almost doubling the previous best of £473,000, held by J.M.W. Turner’s painting of Hampton Court Palace.

Lilium Auratum, noted for its colour and light, depicts two Oriental girls gathering flowers in the walled garden of a harem.



Bridging the river

LEADING architects from around the world have submitted designs for the first habitable bridge to be built across the River Thames for hundreds of years, from Waterloo to Blackfriars.More from beautiful Europe at the best Europe Cities website.

The joint winners are Zaha M. Hadid and Antoine Grumbach & Associates. The latter’s “Garden Bridge”  incorporates an arcade of shops and cafe spaces placed between two towers on the north bank and a glass palace on the south.

The new bridge has still to receive planning permission.

London fairs

LONDON is renowned for its antique and art dealers, and readers can enjoy a special discount on admission to two forthcoming fairs. At the Chelsea Antiques Fair (13th-22nd March), 40 leading dealers will offer an extensive selection of antiques from furniture to porcelain ; and at the Chelsea Art Fair (17th-20th April), some 55 galleries will display paintings, drawings and sculptures. Plan visiting this and more places in England by checking at hotel comparison sites.

Both events take place at Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Road, SW3. The normal admission price to each fair is £6 per person, but our readers may take a companion free of charge if they show a copy of this magazine.