Exploring the gardens and meadows at High Clandon Estate Vineyard

PUBLISHED: 17:11 16 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 July 2020

Take tea by the meadow on the open day. photo by Margaret Arnott

Take tea by the meadow on the open day. photo by Margaret Arnott

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As well as producing multi-Gold-award-winning English sparkling wine, the gardens at High Clandon Estate Vineyard offer panoramic views of the Surrey Hills across sweeps of lawn and wafting meadow flowers | Words & Photos: Leigh Clapp

Home to Sibylla and Bruce Tindale since 2004, the gardens complement the beauty of the twelve-acre setting with its vistas across rolling countryside and their award-winning High Clandon Estate Vineyard.

“There was no garden when we moved here, just some very beautiful grassy horse paddocks framed by our lovely views and trees. There was one lovely climbing pink rose bush alongside the stable block and it is still there and delights me that it is from the ‘old’ establishment...a link with the farm’s former self.

The picturesque scene across the lawn and meadowThe picturesque scene across the lawn and meadow

“I discovered we were on solid chalk, the perfect terroir for great wines but not gardens, when I tried to dig to plant shrubs to start a few borders off. Since then it has been a case of pick axe and mulch by the ton to improve the soil and create the gardens. Garden centres still rub hands in glee at the amount of stable manure we buy,” smiles Sibylla.

Originally from South Africa, Sibylla has a passion for gardens that began in childhood. “I can remember being about twelve years old and listening to my mother talking about some of the plants in the garden and of course, my father who was a bulb farmer producing flowers for market, bulbs for gardeners and encouraging me to grow daffodils for market, and I could earn the pocket money arising!

Stroll along paths cut through the impressive meadow with its far-reaching viewsStroll along paths cut through the impressive meadow with its far-reaching views

“Daffodils were seen to be exotic in the Cape as they are really a European flower, not common in South Africa.

“My home garden in the Constantia Valley where I grew up and subsequently inherited was not dissimilar to the way Clandon has developed – large horizons and views but with mountains not London as a backdrop, gorgeous spreading lawns framed by mature trees, some magnolias and flowering peach trees and hydrangea shrubberies. Also horse paddocks,” she explains.

The large pond attracts wildlifeThe large pond attracts wildlife

The couple’s previous property in Cobham had a mature garden with Japanese elements such as mature curving pines set alongside a large koi carp pond and this influence can be seen here as well with Sibylla creating a Japanese garden area close to the house complete with red painted bridge and summerhouse.

“I adore Japanese garden ethos – the wabi-sabi, old and ageing being venerated and used to great effect, combined with the ethos of asymmetry and balance and muted green palettes,” she adds. Visiting gardens in England has also informed the evolution of the garden.

Take a seat and admire the viewsTake a seat and admire the views

“Highgrove Gardens are a dream, the combination of woodland, open fields, closed hedge gardens and avenues is hugely inspiring. Then I love a park-like garden like Claremont with all its scale and water and hills, and of course smaller gardens with dense planting of annuals and perennials, which drive colour through the year.

“I yearn to achieve that as Stuart Cottage Garden in East Clandon achieves! And another garden that inspired me is the beautiful Dunsborough Park gardens with its tulips and lovely espaliered vegetable garden,” Sibylla enthuses.

Glass pieces add a contemporary touchGlass pieces add a contemporary touch

By the house the areas are more formal and then the planting blends in a naturalistic style, melding into the landscape beyond.

There is an attractive potager edged in box with an array of crops, including carrots, beetroot, mangetout, as Sibylla loves the green leaves in salads, and a range of herbs. Wander past flowerbeds and shrubberies, a Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’, whitebeam, avenue as well as a rose and wisteria walk, to the joyous wildflower meadow, a real feature of the gardens, interwoven with mown paths.

The tapestry of interest in the meadow continues all summerThe tapestry of interest in the meadow continues all summer

“We seeded about one-and-a-half acres in the winter of 2004, scraping off the topsoil to lose fertility to enable the wildflower seeds to out-perform the grasses. It’s a chalk meadow mix from Emorsgate seeds, using just seeds, not plugs.

“This meant that in year one there was not much, other than some clovers and poppies dotting across a barren ‘moonscape’ of white chalky soil, but by year two it was a riot,” she explains.

The wafting beauty of the meadowThe wafting beauty of the meadow

More flowers are added every couple of years and the meadow segues from one colour to the next through the year. Spring sees yellow with cowslips, buttercups, daffodils and narcissi, through orange with loads of kidney vetch and red clover, progressing to white in June with oxeye daisies, followed by July with purples of scabious, cranesbill, wild oregano, and ending in August and September with white wild carrot floating above it all.

Large ponds nestle into the meadow and bees dart in and out of three hives set amongst the grasses. “The hives are painted in wild meadow colours. Pink for lavatera colour, blue for cornflower, yellow for cowslips. The bees are busy and produce honey wonderfully,” she adds.

Daisies and poppies in the summer meadowDaisies and poppies in the summer meadow

Encouraging wildlife is a motivation for Sibylla. “There were no birds other than crows when we moved here. Now we have so much bird life as a result of the gardens planted with flowering plants, and the wildflower meadow and ponds providing habitat for all creatures, and hence supporting such a wonderful variety of wildlife,” she comments.

“Hovering over the meadow are butterflies of many species and the one we are most thrilled with is the Small Blue, the rare Cupido minimus, which relies solely on kidney vetch for its lifecycle – and we are fortunate to have that in acres!

The Japanese gardenThe Japanese garden

“So much so, that the Butterfly Conservation Society has marked us as one of the key points in chalk meadows where it thrives.

This has inspired our new gin – called Cupid Blue – as it has some of our Eau de vie de Vin infused with botanicals found in the meadow.”

Sibylla has created a garden of seasonal bloomsSibylla has created a garden of seasonal blooms

Get the look

- Meadows are one of the richest habitats for wildlife, due to the greater diversity of plant species

- Keep in mind that you need an area that has direct sunlight most of the day

- Mown paths through tall summer meadows give definition and a sense of intent

- Seed mixes are available for different soil types to create spring or summer meadows. There are blends for dry, heavy, chalky, moist or acidic soils in sunny, woodland, waterside and hedgerow habitats

- Wildflowers grow best on poor, dry soil as fertile soils allow grasses to overtake the less vigorous flowers

- To help stop grasses overtaking the flowers, add in some yellow rattle in late summer or autumn onto the cut grass

Sibylla’s meadow tips

Every two or three years, we add a bit more of the chalk meadow mix to add to the variety and sprinkle them in smaller ten sq.m rounds in various parts of the meadow simply to enliven it the next summer.

This year, I have also added in extra cowslip seeds, mignonette, poppies and cornflowers – the latter two need to be seeded if one wants to have a show.

The reason for this is that poppies and cornflowers are annuals, and need to have the ground disturbed to encourage germination.

Because ours is a permanent meadow, we need to physically add poppy and cornflower because we never disturb the surface, as this would negatively affect the growth of the perennial meadow flowers.

We cut the meadow in autumn, September/October, once seeds are set and will scatter to grow the following year. We then also remove the hay arising to keep the fertility low to help the wildflowers.

To know

High Clandon Estate Vineyard, High Clandon, East Clandon, GU4 7RP

Usually open by arrangement May to September for groups from five to 20

Adm £15, chd free, wine included. Please check website for Covid-19 updates.

High Clandon Estate Cuvées are available to purchase for delivery at highclandon.co.uk

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