An abundance of England – A Dorset Garden Tour (EGT5)

Friday 23 to Thursday 29 September 2016

Dorset unfolds like a pre-industrial vision of Albion. The county lies between the green chalk downlands and the spectacular coastline. Its beaches and geology are great tourist attractions. In between are market towns and picturesque villages buried in the deep valleys of this agrarian landscape. Most of its gardens are classic manor house in style, privately owned and gardened in contemporary versions of the English plantsman’s garden. Manor houses are hidden in secluded locations and focus the narrative of the centuries past since they were built. For garden lovers both amateur and professional Dorset is truly a home from home.

Price: £1,300

The package includes:

  • English conversation classes and Course Dossier
  • Six nights bed and breakfast stay at The Kingcombe Centre run by the Dorset Wild Life Trust; five nights evening meals)
  • Transport and garden admission
  • Expert guide accompanying every visit
  • Transfers from Crewkerne Railway Station
  • Personal & baggage insurance (please see our Terms & Conditions Page)



Day Period Activity
Friday   23/9 ARRIVALS
Arrivals and welcome reception at the Kingcombe Centre (Dorset Wildlife Trust) the base for the week. Introductory presentation to Dorset gardens. Meeting of friends old and new over dinner in this splendid rural venue.
Evening Arrive Crewkerne railway station. Transfer to Kingcombe Centre.

Welcome reception and introduction Dinner.

Kingston Maurward is a summary of Dorset garden history in an early 20th century garden with surprising Italian connections! Athelhampton is a beautiful example of Arts and Craft garden design. The picture perfect manor house in its vale of water meadows was a place Thomas Hardy’s father worked as a stonemason. Its garden “rooms” are very refined and it was to gardens like this that the makers of Hidcote and Sissinghurst looked for ideas. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) wrote novels that bridged the old and the modern worlds and was born in the thatched cottage at Bockhampton
Morning Garden Briefing.

Depart for Kingston Maurward.

Afternoon  Visit Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace, Higher Bockhampton and Athelhampton.

Dinner at Kingcombe Centre.

Abbotsbury is known for its sub-tropical gardens (celebrating their 250 birthday this year!), its surviving abbey buildings including St Catherine’s Chapel, a 14th century pilgrimage chapel that stands on a hill between the village and the coast and the Swannery.  The coast includes a section of Chesil Beach, a barrier beach part of the Jurrasic Coast World Heritage site. The Swannery, the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world, dates from 1393  and is where Anna Pavlova’s 1920’s dance troupe sought inspiration for Swan Lake.
Morning Garden Briefing.

Depart for Abbotsbury and Swannery

Evening Pub supper
After the briefing, walk or ride to Mapperton (almost our neighbour ) and explore the terraced gardens hidden behind the ancient manor house. Landscape architecture seamlessly unites the house with its setting. The house is connected to the landscape with its panoramic views via terraces and contrasts.
Morning Garden Briefing.
Depart for Forde Abbey
Afternoon Visit Lyme Regis.
Fossil hunting with Paddy, professional fossil hunter
Evening Dinner Lyme Regis (price not included)
After the briefing, walk or ride to Mapperton (almost our neighbour ) and explore the terraced gardens hidden behind the ancient manor house. Landscape architecture seamlessly unites the house with its setting. The house is connected to the landscape with its panoramic views via terraces and contrasts.

Sherborne Castle enjoys a special place in the history of English gardening. The aesthetics of English landscape were born here. “Capability” Brown embraced the philosophy and came to Sherborne to masterplan the landscape and make a lake between the ‘new’ and old castles.

Morning  Garden Briefing. Walk  (one and half hours) or drive to Mapperton Manor
Afternoon  Visit Sherborne Castle


John Tradescant (1570-1638) is the important name for today because Cranborne is an example of a garden created and re-created by a royal gardener and plant collector. The gardens surround an exquisite manor in the middle of the royal hunting lands of Cranborne Chase.  Their 17th century design was revitalised by Lady Salisbury in the 1970’s. Inspired planting and contemporary sculpture make this a lively garden. Lady Salisbury herself became royal gardener by advising Prince Charles at Highgrove.

Kingston Lacy is an example of an architectural mansion and Grand Tour art collection that is rare in Dorset but familiar to anyone visiting gardens on other garden tours. In the early 19th century the architect Charles Barry transformed Kingston for Mr Bankes, the owner collector. In style it demonstrates riches, culture and travel. The obelisk in the centre of the formal garden is an original from Egypt. The garden is a formal setting for the palazzo house and has many Victorian features including fernery.

Morning Garden Briefing.

Depart for Cranborne Manor via Cerne Abbas Giant.


Explore Kingston Lacy via Knoll Grass Garden if time permits

Thursday  29/9 DEPARTURES
Transfer to Crwkerne Station for return by rail to London Waterloo Station

Friday 23 September

It is envisaged that course participants will fly into London, travel by Underground or taxi to Waterloo Station and take the 16.20 train to Crewkerne Station (direction Exeter).

Thursday 29 September

Manchester Language School will arrange transport for everyone to Crewkerne Station to enable course members to return to London Waterloo in time for an evening return flight home.  Alternatively, members may wish to stay overnight in London.

For advice and all assistance email Bill Godfrey at Manchester Language School.


Manchester Language School reserves the right to change the programme according to the availability of the gardens, personnel and venues listed and substitute appropriate alternatives.