The best garden in Suffolk? A trip to Helmingham Hall 

I’m not a gardening expert but I  know what I like. Of all the gardens I have visited – and there have been many – I like Helmingham Hall Gardens in Suffolk the best!

Everything in the garden is rosie

This was our second visit. When we went before, the spring bulbs were at their best and Helmingham Hall was ablaze with bright tulips and daffodils. Just a month on, the roses and cottage garden flowers are starting to take over, with stunning shapes and colours.

The vegetable gardens are also doing well.  Huge, perfect lettuces with no sign of slug damage were in the cold frames and there were broad beans ready to eat. The microclimate created by the ancient walls in this part of the garden means that figs and peaches can already be seen and it looks as if they will provide a bumper crop.

We met the gardener

Where else can you find an actual member of the aristocracy in the garden doing the weeding and chatting to the visitors except at Helmingham Hall? The Tollemache family have had the house and garden since the 1400s. Both times we have visited, the current Lady Tollemache has been working alone in the garden. She is a Chelsea gold medal winner and is clearly passionate about her gardens. We had a chat about what a nightmare bindweed is! Lovely lady.

I love that she literally gets her hands dirty and is not at all grand. We look forward to visiting for their Autumn Plant Fair on 18th September, although we might be tempted along before then.

I just wish I could have a nose inside the splendid moated mansion. Sadly, this isn’t open to the public.

If you are in the area, I urge you to visit Helmingham Hall Gardens. I can’t recommend this fabulous garden highly enough! More information and opening times can be found here.

6 thoughts on “The best garden in Suffolk? A trip to Helmingham Hall 

  1. As we have found, it isn’t always the gardens which we are expected to love, those which are visited by countless thousands and which are meant to be “the best” (such as Hidcote Manor Gardens, Sissinghurst, etc) but those which are less well known, such as Cadhay (near Ottery St Mary) here in Devon. I once read that Helmingham Hall’s gardens were the most romantic in Suffolk. I don’t know what qualifies a garden to be ‘romantic’ but it sounds like you are well and truly smitten! Wish we could make the trip to Suffolk – not been since 2002 and we absolutely love it. It’s the only county we actually crave to be in after our home county of Devon. There is nothing quite like the reed marshes as Snape, the beach huts at Southwold, the ‘pagodas’ at Orford, the cathedral (with aviary – I wonder if it’s still there?), Abbey ruins, and cathedral at Bury St Edmunds, and the seafront at Aldeburgh with the atmospheric Martello tower. Oh, for a walk along the shingle beach from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness …
    A place which comes close, though, is Rye and the walk along the Royal Military Canal on NT land from Appledore, in May, with the ‘May’ blossom is in full bloom.
    However, we do have some lovely gardens here in Devon, in particular RHS Rosemoor in N. Devon, Knightshayes Court in E. Devon and, here in S. Devon, Coleton Fishacre.
    Margaret P
    Margaret P

    • Margaret, we have the same tastes! I adore Suffolk, and loved Rye when we were there

      • To my knowledge, I have no family connection with Suffolk or Rye, but when I first visited Suffolk (on a house swap arranged through NWR – the National Women’s Register) way back in 1984 with a lovely family in Long Melford, I simply fell in love with the county. It was in July, the golden crops had yet to be harvested and the fields were edged with scarlet poppies. And windmills! You don’t see many of those here in Devon! I thought it was qll quite magical, it had an ethereal quality to it. And those lovely inland towns as well, such as Lavenham and Hadleigh. We visited Kentwell Hall, then being renovated by the family who had only recently bought it, and Melford Hall, and Ickworth, too. We loved Snape and when husband and I returned some years later we booked to see a concert at the Maltings, and have been a few times since then, always in August for the Prom concerts. We even had a pre-concert supper once at the Maltings, with a table overlooking those reeds – no wonder Britten wrote some wonderful music which really sums up that coastline magnificently. I love the incidental music to Peter Grimes. That is Suffolk to me!
        And then Rye – we once stayed in a B&B (no longer a B&B) on the Military Road which goes out of Rye, and it was reputedly Grebe, which was Lucia’s house in the stories by E F Benson. On our last visit to Rye we stayed in Winchelsea, close by, again in a lovely B&B (not sure whether it’s still up and running as a B&B – Cleveland House.)
        Margaret P

    • Sue, you would love it. Its not too huge either so not exhausting to get round. Hope things ok with you. I will pop over to your blog!

  2. Goodness … Just imagine living in a house owned by your family for 600 years!
    I do like visiting gardens even though I don’t get involved in gardening.

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