The beautiful gardens at Avebury owe much to the inexhaustible efforts of Lt-Col Leopold and Mrs Nora Jenner, who lived here between 1907 - 1935. When the Jenners’ arrived at Avebury, the gardens were less than impressive. Neglected, overgrown and generally in need of some TLC. A project was soon underway headed by Nora Jenner to remove the overgrown planting and regenerate and landscape the gardens. Much of what you see today has been maintained to her original design by The National Trust who took possession of the property from the official receivers in 1991. Even then, the gardens had once again slipped into disarray and required an extensive programme of restoration to return them to their former glory.
The Monks Garden, was original a kitchen garden till the early 1920s when it was replanted as a rose garden. When The Trust took possession of the property it was decide to replace the roses with bedding plants to extend the flowering season. I can’t for the life of me figure out why such a decision was taken. A rose garden, similar to say that at Mottisfont in Hampshire, would have been quite stunning today. I can only think that bedding plants are easier to maintain so were considered the easy option - could be wrong of course.
Church Garden (small orchard)
The Church Garden, set adjacent to St. James church which was built by the Saxons and much altered by the Norman’s and who’s tower overlooks the garden, was originally part of the Monks Garden and enclosed an icehouse and glasshouse. As part of The Trust’s restoration programme, it was decided to create a small orchard with quinces, damsons, hawthorn and mulberry trees. Along the walls were planted figs and blackcurrant. Nothing goes to waste at Avebury Manor, as the produce is harvested and taken to the Circle Restaurant where it is turned into mouth-watering dishes.
The gardens were largely designed to sit comfortably within a series of 16th and 17th century walled enclosures. The box and yew topiary in the West Garden, were planted by the Jenners’ in the early 20th century. Its design correlates with the geometric pattern found on the high-relief ceiling in the Tudor Parlour c1590/1600. The West Garden has been created as if in a series of rooms with an ornate pond stocked with carp as its centrepiece.
Half Moon Garden
The Half Moon Garden has a curved wall which dates from the 18th century but is believed to stand on much earlier foundations and is likely to have been part of the 12th century priory wall. The ancient wall has a variety of climbers: purple grape vine, several varieties of clematis and honeysuckle.
The Lion Walk is so named after a stone table which was removed before The Trust acquired the property. The Lion Walk comprises of a lawned avenue flanked on one side by topiary hedging and the other by a herbaceous border.
Original entrance to the South Garden
Pet Cemetery - South Garden
At the South Garden you will pass the pet cemetery. The Jenners’ were very fond of their cats and dogs and several are buried here. You will also discover the original entrance with iron gates topped with stone pineapple finials, the latter placed there by the Jenners’. This was once the grand entrance and drive which would have swept up to the south door.
East Garden and Lavender Walk
The entrance to the east door will take you along the Lavender Walk, formally known as ’The Slow Way’, a continuation of the avenue from the High Street. The path is flanked either side by Lavendula ’Hidcote’, chosen for it sweet heady fragrance. The East Garden is where you can see the oldest part of the house, dated around 1555 - 1580 and built by William Dunch. With your back to the stable museum look to your right and you will see evidence of sarsen stone used in the construction of early Avebury Manor and more than likely obtained from the neolithic henge at a time when the stones were of little interest other than for building materials.
The Italian Walk is so named for its marble figure of a draped muse by Gae Monti of Revenna, removed by previous owner. The walk was created by the Jenners’ and may have followed an existing path. I have no idea what purpose if any, the ditch which runs parallel to the walk was used for. It’s certainly manmade and is affectionately referred to as “the moat” by Thrust staff and volunteers.
Avebury is an enigmatic place and these ancient gardens evoke a peacefulness that positively encourages you to sit awhile and may be read, sketch or paint as many do. Or you may simply find yourself closing your eyes and drifting away to the sound of birdsong.
The Manor gardens are open from 1st April to 31st October from 11am - 5pm every day except Wednesday.
Source: Liz Porteous - Volunteer Avebury Manor