We had a short break in Somerset last week, and on the way home, stopped off at Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet.
I was a little dubious about its merits at first – I’ve don’t think I’ve ever visited gardens that were attached to a designer outlet village before, and I had visions of some sort of shopping mall with landscaping. I needn’t have worried.
Kilver Court is a collection of stone ex-mill buildings. The buildings themselves house shops, including some well known clothing brands, furniture and interiors, and a rather good restaurant and separate café. The restaurant has a courtyard which leads onto the plant sales area for the gardens. And beyond the plant shop are the gardens themselves. It’s an unusual setting, off a main road in an industrial area of a small town. The gardens are spanned by a stone viaduct and overlooked by a splendid brick chimney, and these unusual features give them a character all of their own.
The first thing we did when we arrived was to hit the café for coffee (which was, as agent Cooper might say, damn fine) and cake. We had a quick browse around the shops, and then bought our tickets for the gardens (ten pounds each normally, but with 20% off, courtesy of a discount voucher from the ‘Discover Somerset Gardens’ tourist leaflet). There were only a few other visitors, so we were lucky to have the gardens almost to ourselves. They’re quite small, so it doesn’t take long to walk around, but the weather was still very warm and bright, so we took our time; hung around for a while. It was a peaceful and relaxing experience, and we didn’t want to leave.
I can’t imagine there are many gardens that have a viaduct, but Kilver Court also has many features that you would expect to find in a garden, such as herbaceous borders, a rockery, a parterre, and a small lake. It’s got formal hedges and topiary, and a good range of trees. The lawns looked as though they’re normally kept closely clipped and in pristine condition. Last week though, they were suffering, and there were some extensive brown patches. With the drought we’ve had this year that’s no surprise, and I was glad to see that they hadn’t been using up large amounts of water to keep the grass green. I’m sure the lawns will green up once we get some serious rain (which is happening as I’m writing this post!)
After the gardens, we had lunch in the restaurant, where the food is excellent, rounded off with another of those damn fine coffees to set us up for the long drive home. Before we set off though, we had a look around the nursery, which had a good selection of plants. They were selling off some of the plants cheap, and we left with a couple of clumps of day lillies, which I believe are surplus divisions from the gardens, and for which we only paid two pounds. I’ve put them in to replace the day lillies we already had which have never been particularly floriferous. These came from a customer who asked me to dig them out and get rid of them for that very reason. Optimistically, I imagined that being split up and reset in a new location might provoke them to give us more flowers, but that didn’t happen. Hopefully their replacements will be more generous.