Very very busy at the moment but it was too good an opportunity to miss when Nic suggested we nip out to another garden for a couple of hours this afternoon. My pangs of guilt quickly faded as we drove through the Cheshire countryside, air-con and sunglasses on and dog in the boot. I had selected Stonyford Cottage Gardens from the Cheshire Gardens of Distinction leaflet, as it was only a few miles away and quite small (in comparison to, say, Tatton Gardens). We had driven past the brown tourist sign pointing off the A556 many times but had never realised what a beautiful garden lay hidden down a quite unremarkable lane.
The car park gives onto a small grassy area with a few trees (perfect for providing shade for a dog) through which could be glimpsed the brand new timber tea room and patio area. We had come prepared with flask and sandwiches but I could have forced myself into tea and a slice of cake! We paid our £3 entry fee and received a very friendly and informative welcome. The garden is quite quirky and it is obvious that its character has been passionately developed by the owners. It really came home to us how much work goes into creating a garden when we were shown an area which represented what the land was like before work started.
I was really struck with the feeling of being miles from anywhere in this garden, despite the occasional noise of passing cars and trains. A small lake lies at the centre of the garden, with an island reached by wooden bridges. The transition from “mainland” to island is almost un-noticeable and the wooden bridges and walkways linking both provide pleasing curves and contrast beautifully with the plants. So much variety is packed into such a small area. The island is quite untended beyond the immediate vicinity of the paths and the feeling of being in wetlands such as the Everglades is reinforced by the signs warning us about crocodiles! The odd gem of a plant such as the extraordinarily vivid blue Himalayan poppy surprised us as we wandered along the paths through the trees. The rest of the garden is more structured and carefully planted. Purple Candelabra Primulas edge many of the pathways, particularly pleasing against the wooden boardwalks. Grasses, ferns, shrubs and trees provide lots of colour and texture and I can’t wait to see the masses of irises when they come into flower. We sat at the top of the garden on a bench looking across the lake, with the musical sound of water running down through the rockery to our left. Nic was quite happy to sit there awhile with his book and coffee whilst I roamed around with my camera. I also took the time to sit down and just soak up the atmosphere and sunshine and again felt as if we were far away from home and day to day worries.

But all good things have to come to an end and we wandered back along to the nursery at the entrance to the garden. Hens pecking around on the ground and drinking from a small fountain reinforced the informal and home grown feel. We retrieved Daisy from her shady spot under the trees and dragged ourselves away. But we’ll be back as I have a feeling those irises will be stunning in a few weeks time and it’ll be hard not to pop in when I’m passing by – and I’ll definitely sample the tea and cakes next time!
By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I’d love to hear your comments too!

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