Posted by: marymarthatours | March 8, 2013

Mill Dene Garden in the Cotswolds

Recently, Martha wrote a blog about our September 2013 plans to visit the Abbey House Garden with our Quilts & Textiles of England & Wales tour group.  We had hoped to get there in 2010 when we had planned an herb garden tour of southern England.  Martha is excited that this year we will finally get to this wonderful garden.

I too have a special garden that I am looking forward to seeing on this year’s tour — Mill Dene Garden in Brockley, near the Cotswold town of Moreton-in-Marsh, where we will be staying for our first three nights.  Like the Abbey House Garden, we had hoped to visit Mill Dene in 2010.  That would have been another first time visit for Martha and me, and we were disappointed when the 2010 tour did not get enough registrations to go.

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I love the story behind the making of the garden at Mill Dene.  It is a story with a long history.  The village of Brockley was home to 12 mills at the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086.  And although we don’t know when the present mill was constructed, it is assumed that a mill has been at this site since the middle ages.  In 1914, the mill building was converted to a residence.

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Wendy and Barry Dare fell in love with the property and purchased the two halves of the then derelict building in 1964 and 1975.  Over the years they have purchased adjoining property, and now the garden is over 2 acres in size.  The site is mostly sloped, although early on the Dares did create a level area of lawn where their young sons could play ball.  This area is now referred to as the ‘Cricket lawn’ and features a willow fox sculpture, one of many art pieces in the garden.  Learning as they went, the Dares added a rose walk, a herb potager, hundreds of spring-flowering bulbs, and perennials.

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On one piece of acquired land at the top of the garden, the Dares planted a fruit garden, protected from the birds by several medieval-style tents.  I love Wendy’s story of their special gooseberry bushes which she told in a back issue of The English Garden magazine:

As each of the grandchildren arrived, we planted a half standard gooseberry tree in their honour.  Each has a large notice beside it with the child’s name and announcing that it was under that bush that he was found.  We do have to explain this to American and Japanese visitors, who find their babies in quite different ways.”

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It is this sense of gentle fun and whimsy that Wendy has brought to all of her garden efforts at Mill Dene.  She has created a garden of peace and tranquility with just a bit of surprise as you wander from one area to another.  Add to that the fragrance of flowers, the sound of water, and lots of places to sit and enjoy, and it sounds heavenly.  I’m really looking forward to our visit.

(by Mary)
Photo credits:  All photos from Mill Dene Garden website, and used by permission. 

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