Discover fascinating open gardens in three historic places

May 12th, 2019
Posted In: Garden style & living

Visiting open gardens is a way of seeing more of a town than the normal ‘tourist’ usually sees.

Instead of just walking down the streets, you step through the gates and walk behind the walls. Many gardens belong to individuals. Or they belong to organisations, but the public access can be quite limited except on ‘open gardens’ days.

Whitstable Open Gardens is in a charming and historic fishing village

Eat fresh fish at Whitstable Harbour between visiting gardens.

Faversham, Whitstable and Canterbury are three of Kent’s most historic places. Indeed, it would be fair to say that they all belong in any list of the ‘most historic places in the United Kingdom’. All three have group ‘open gardens’ events.

If your friend or partner is not particularly keen on gardens, then perhaps you can tempt them with historic buildings, interesting walks and good places to eat.

Historic open gardens in Faversham at the end of June

The Abbey Physic Garden in Faversham is behind Abbey Street, the UK’s best preserved Medieval street and is in the grounds of the ancient Elizabethan Grammar School, seen above. Open for Faversham Open Gardens on June 30th.

Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day

I’m one of the organisers for the Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day It’s held on the last Sunday in June every year.

Faversham is the least famous of the three historic places in this post. But it is steeped in history. Its ancient harbour operated as a Cinque Port in Henry VIII’s time. It has Shepherd Neame – Britain’s oldest brewery – and Abbey Street, the UK’s best preserved Medieval street. Faversham Open Gardens raises money for the Faversham Society, which was started in the 1960s to save Abbey Street from demolition.

Visit Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day

Faversham’s Market Place dates back to Medieval times. We have a garden market with 30+ stalls on Open Gardens day.

The town dates back to before Roman times but is largely Medieval and Georgian. Those who enjoy gardens can visit 30+ gardens on June 30th. Non-gardeners can explore the 400+ Listed buildings and some of the UK’s oldest pubs.

Faversham also has an open garden day with the NGS, with three gardens open. It’s usually earlier in June.

Visit garden designer Posy Gentles' garden

Garden designer Posy Gentles’ garden is open for the NGS on 1st June.

Visit gardens in a historic seaside town

And you can visit the now fashionable – but still fascinating – former fishing village of Whitstable. Although I don’t suggest reading that sentence out loud while eating a mouthful of quiche.

Whitstable opens 10 gardens for the NGS every May with a large selection of gardens. They range from contemporary outdoor spaces to converted fishermen’s yards.

Open gardens in historic Whitstable in May

Visit Whitstable and enjoy a stroll along its famous pebbly beach. with its former fishermen’s huts and excellent restaurants.

Whitstable’s clapperboard fisherman’s cottages and brightly coloured beach huts still have the feeling of a bygone age. So you can combine garden visiting with fish and chips on the beach, trawling the art galleries and nationally famous restaurants, such as the Sportsman at Seasalter, JoJo’s at Tankerton, The Whitstable Oyster House or Wheelers. Although do book first.

Whitstable’s Open Gardens have seaside-y gardens and gardens behind Victorian terraces. Here’s a review of a previous year’s Whitstable Open Gardens with more detail on some of the gardens. Although not all last year’s gardens are also open this year, several new gardens have joined.

Roof garden overlooking beach on Whitstable Open Gardens

Ocean Cottage is a small roof garden open for Whitstable Open Gardens. It overlooks Whitstable Beach.

Some gardens overlook the sea. Read about them here if you want to create a seaside garden.

Don’t miss gardening writer Francine Raymond’s garden. It is stylish and contemporary while feeling relaxed. Find Francine’s tips for styling your garden here.

Francine Raymond's stylish open garden

Francine Raymond’s garden is both delightful and inspiring. You can see more about it in my post on Garden Style and also in last year’s review of Whitstable Open Gardens.

Canterbury Cathedral Open Gardens

And what about Canterbury Cathedral? This is the sort of iconic building that sits on the ‘to-do’ list. It’s been there for more than a thousand years, so it’s easy to feel there’s no great rush.

But if you’re a garden lover – especially one who is linked to non-garden lovers – then Canterbury Cathedral Open Gardens offers a once-a-year opportunity to see the gardens behind the ancient walls.

Canterbury Cathedral open gardens

The precincts of Canterbury Cathedral have half a dozen private gardens open for Canterbury Open Gardens.

Canterbury Cathedral open gardens in May

I particularly like the way Canterbury Cathedral head gardener Philip Oostenbrink has created little corners of planting amongst the ruined walls of this ancient historic site. Planting is also planned to encourage wildlife. So the Cathedral precincts are a valuable resource, improving the air quality in the city of Canterbury.

Held in May for the NGS , Canterbury Cathedral Open Gardens covers both the private gardens and also the patches of open space. The gardens are run by Philip Oostenbrink.

Philip’s own tiny jungly garden in Ash is also open on  July 28th.  He opens it on the same day as a tropical garden nearby. This belongs to head gardener Steven Edney and his partner, Lou Dowle. Steven Edney was head gardener at The Salutation in Sandwich (now closed). The Salutation is a beautifully restored Edwin Lutyens house and garden.

Visit the Salutation gardens every day of the year

Edwin Lutyens designed both the house and garden at The Salutation. Steven Edney has restored the garden to reflect Lutyens’ innovative spirit.

The Salutation is now closed, although there will be NGS opens gardens in Sandwich, another a fascinating historic town.

Exotic front garden

Philip Oostenbrink’s ‘exotic’ front garden in Ash, Kent.

More about visiting open gardens in Whitstable, Canterbury & Faversham

Whitstable, Canterbury and Faversham are all just over an hour by train from London St Pancras. They can also be reached from Victoria station, although it’s a longer journey.

Driving: All three towns are close to the M2 motorway, around 30-60 minutes from junctions 5 and 2 on the M25. But travel times can be longer on hot, sunny weekends.

Places to stay/eat: Visit Faversham has information on where to stay, eat and visit in Faversham. Visit Canterbury has visitor information for both Canterbury and Whitstable. There are plenty of Airbnb options in all three places.

And the boutique hotel concept has also just arrived in the area, with The Pig at Bridge joining the more traditional hotels and b&bs.

PS – don’t miss Broadstairs…

Although it isn’t part of any group open gardens, fellow blogger Dan Cooper of The Frustrated Gardener sometimes opens his garden in August for the NGS. (If he isn’t opening, there will be other good NGS gardens in the area.) And Broadstairs is an absolutely charming seaside town, with a generous sweep of golden beach and one of the best ice-cream parlours in the world. It is where Charles Dickens lived. Read more about Dan’s garden, created for entertaining, here.

See behind walls and gates with open gardens schemes

See behind walls and gates with open gardens schemes.

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Visit open gardens in three of Britain's most historic places


2 comments on "Discover fascinating open gardens in three historic places"

  1. Loving the the attractive colours of the woodwork. Thanks for sharing.

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