Visit the Coverwood Lakes gardens, Ewhurst
PUBLISHED: 06:39 11 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:23 11 May 2015
Take a stroll through the enchanting landscape of Coverwood Lakes, open on selected days in the spring and the autumn, where you might even spot the likes of Madonna doing a spot of filming…
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2015
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The 14-acre, privately-owned gardens at Coverwood Lakes, near Ewhurst, are perfect for a relaxing ramble in the spring, when they are open on selected days to showcase the extensive collection of azaleas and rhododendrons. As well as enjoying this stunning floral display, visitors can stroll through the grassland farm, around the lakes and past the bog gardens, while also admiring the impressive collection of mature trees and shrubs.
Home to the Metson family since 1952, the gardens were originally laid out in 1909 by Dr Henry Charles Stephens, son of the famous inventor of blue-black ink, known as Stephen’s Ink. By the time the Metson family bought the estate, however, the grounds were in a state of neglect and smothered in brambles. Over time though, the gardens were cleared and rejuvenated, plants and trees added, the paths reinstated and the lakes established.
“It’s a magical place to live, up high in the Surrey Hills on our own, surrounded by acres of greenery,” says owner Nigel Metson. “Life seems like being on holiday all the time.”
On the trail
Today, you can follow a marked trail through the picturesque gardens and farm, past pedigree Hereford and Ryelands cattle, grazing sheep and horses, to the four lakes fed by natural springs.
The gardens themselves are beautifully landscaped with a wide variety of trees and shrubs, such as a magnificent tulip tree, oaks, sorbus, maples, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. A further three-and-a-half acres have been given over to an arboretum of decorative trees from all over the world, including cedars, firs, Oxydendrum (sourwood) and wellingtonias. Elsewhere, along the edges of the streams linking the lakes, the damp conditions are ideal for lysichitum, gunnera, lily-of-the-valley and swamp cypress.
At the first lake, a creeper-clad stone arbour backed by conifers draws your attention. The views across the lake are wonderful with the reflections of the surrounding colours shimmering on the water’s surface. Crimson rhododendrons and golden azaleas appear to ripple in the water, where you may be lucky to spot carp swimming in and out of the water lilies. A small waterfall links the second and third lakes.
“We’ve also placed a bench at the edge of the water,” adds Nigel. “It’s a lovely spot to take in the atmosphere.”
Maintaining the gardens and lakes is ongoing, particularly pruning in order to keep the vistas and pathways clear. Regular tasks, fitted around the farm calendar, keep everything ticking along nicely, such as using a boat with an electric weed-cutter on the lakes – from March and then monthly until the end of September – or having a big spring push to keep paths clear and the garden looking tidy.
“Because it’s a large area, the overall impression looks well manicured but it’s not meticulous like a plantsman’s garden,” adds Nigel.
Opening the gates
Coverwood Lakes has been opening with the National Gardens Scheme for over 50 years and many visitors return year upon year to spend time taking in the relaxing atmosphere, especially as there is always something new to see.
“We have also diversified the farm activities by holding wedding receptions under marquees by the top lake, creating a mobile café and catering with our home produce and renovating an old stockman’s cottage for a holiday let,” says Nigel. “Then there’s our opera and music evenings, which we’re celebrating 25 years of in 2015.”
Often used as a film location too, during your visit you may well be walking in the footsteps of Madonna who filmed W.E. here, a movie about Wallis Simpson. So you never know just who you might see reflected back at you in the lakes.
Get the look...
• Add a series of ponds to your garden, thinking about how to make the most of reflections
• For the backdrop, create layers of planting with trees, shrubs and ground covers
• Plant massed rhododendrons and azaleas, underplanted with blue bulbs, for the spring
• Remember that these plants work best with ericaceous, humus-rich, acid soil
• Give the impression of an informal landscape style with naturalised bluebells and ferns
• Design meandering paths throughout the garden
Need to know:
Coverwood Lakes, Ewhurst GU6 7NT. Open on Sunday April 12, Sunday April 19, Sunday April 26, Monday May 4, Sunday May 17 and Sunday May 24 (11am-5pm) and Sunday October 18 (11am-4.30pm). Admission £5, children free. Garden visits for clubs and societies are welcome by appointment any time of the year. Please enquire about rates. For more on the National Gardens Scheme openings, see ngs.org.uk. The next Coverwood Lakes concert, which are celebrating their 25th anniversary year, takes place on Sunday June 28. For more information on the wedding venue and holiday cottage, see the website: coverwoodlakes.co.uk