Coleton Fishacre


Coleton Fishacre


 The weather has been glorious the last few days.

How could we let this last fling of summer pass us by without another trip to the coast?


An extract from the National Trust guide:

Travel back in time to the Jazz Age of the 1920s at the country home of the D’Oyly Carte family (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame). The Arts and Crafts-style house, with elegant Art Deco-influenced interiors, is stylish but retains the friendly, carefree environment of the country home it once was. The house was built in the mid-1920s and acquired by the National Trust in 1982. 

A luxuriant 30 acre garden surrounds the house. The Trust is recreating the garden as it once would have been, with the help of the D’Oyly Carte planting books and photographs. Humidity is high in the garden thanks to the sea and the stream that runs down through the valley, and many exotic plants thrive beneath the tree canopy. Spring starts early at Coleton with bluebells, camellias, Chilean fire trees and echiums. In the summer, the glorious Rill Garden is closely planted with flowers in cool pastel shades, and autumn brings the hot colours of the salvias and cannas in the terrace border in front of the house. 



There is a definite feeling of elegance about the house and on more of a domestic scale than many National Trust properties. As with Agatha Christie’s Greenway just up the road (here), it is easy to imagine living at Coleton Fishacre albeit the servants’ area alone is bigger than many of our homes.



 But it is the setting that gives this place its wow factor.

Nestling at the head of a valley running down to the sea, it reminded us very much of Trebah Garden which we visited earlier in the summer (here).



 Glimpses of the sea through the trees



A glade of tree ferns




I found many plants that would not survive outside for me, in the same county but further inland.



Amaryllis belladonna?

I’m fairly sure of the identity of this one but happy to be corrected.



Dianella tasmanica

Last year, following a visit to Overbeck’s garden in Salcombe further down the coast (here), I had to do a similar internet search exercise to try to identify a plant. At Coleton Fishacre this same plant has a label, so that mystery is now solved!



The valley leads down to the Coast Path and a lovely view over Pudcombe Cove

As a sign at the top seeks to warn you, ‘what goes down must come back up’. The return to the house is quite a steep climb.



 The terrace gardens



 Common Blue butterfly on what Mike has nominated as our ‘Plant of the Year’, Erigeron karvinskianus.

Now that we have discovered the Mexican Daisy I am noticing it everywhere.



The hot borders



The Rill Garden

But my favourite part of the garden had to be here. The peace and tranquility of the Rill Garden. Except, should you gaze for too long at the water, there is an unsettling impression that it is actually running uphill!


2018-04-17T16:31:48+00:00September 9th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Crafty Gardener September 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Such an amazing place … love the photo of the common blue … gardens to drool over 🙂

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      They have managed to keep the colour going a lot longer than I have. Definitely drool worthy.

      • Linda September 11, 2014 at 12:30 am - Reply

        I like that….drool worthy…..perfect description for this enchanting place……
        Linda :o)

        • Jessica September 11, 2014 at 8:56 am - Reply

          It would have been a lovely place to live, that’s for sure.

  2. buntyw September 9, 2014 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Fabulous house and gardens – I’d love to visit one day!

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      There are a few similar places in that part of the world. Worth a long weekend at least!

  3. Pauline September 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Such a lovely garden and still firing on all cylinders! It is quite a few years since we visited, must remember for next year.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      The Rill Garden is really lovely. How they keep it going all summer with so much in bloom I don’t know.

  4. Marian St.Clair September 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Like many other gardens in Devon (w/ unique growing conditions), it appears to be a plant-lovers delight. Was it designed by Lutyens? If not, it certainly shows his influence. I love the garden at Trebah; this one looks like a winner too!

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      The architect was Oswald Milne, a former assistant to Edwin Lutyens apparently. It does show doesn’t it, I love this style.

  5. Jo September 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful house with gardens to match. It sounds like they have plenty of interest the year round.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      It is one of those gardens you could go back to at different times of the year and always see something new. Must get my act together earlier next year and start garden visiting in Spring.

  6. Denise September 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    I love the inspiration we receive from gardens I am so enjoying my project Nesbitt garden! I may be a whiile but it’s fun! (and hard work!)

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it Denise. Especially if you are making changes and developing a garden it’s very satisfying. I’ve been dividing huge clumps of grasses today and starting to feel the stiffness creeping in. It’s a nice tiredness though, with a feeling of something achieved.

  7. Christina September 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    I can confirm your ID of Amaryllis belladonna, I have one in my garden too.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      Many thanks Christina.

  8. Charlie@Seattle Trekker September 9, 2014 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    The house and grounds are stunning and your photography really captures the specialness of this setting.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      It is the setting that makes it for sure. There are many houses in Devon and Cornwall on the same theme.. valley leading down to the sea. They are all very special places. I only wish I could live in one!

  9. Caro September 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    You do get some gorgeous photos, Jessica. I’m going to be bold and ask what camera and lenses you use as I can’t get the macro shots that you do. The butterfly photo is just fabulous. I love Erigeron as well. It was the first plant in the Capel gardens that I absolutely fell for as it was growing high up in the mortar of a West facing wall surrounding the walled garden. I’ve also seen it in containers and in Great Dixter it grows around a concrete seat in the sunken pond area. Hoping it will take off in the gardens here too (plenty of walls, here!). Oh, lovely house, too.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      We use a Nikon D80 DSLR and 18-200mm DX zoom lens. A macro lens is top of the must have list, if only the budget could accommodate it. In the meantime we cheat.. crop a photo and blow it up. If the original is sharp enough it will work, as with the Aeonium. The butterfly photo was on the margin. It was a one shot chance, it flew off before we could get a really fine focus.

      • Caro September 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the info, Jessica. A macro lens is on my wish list too as I find that my zoom doesn’t always deliver really crisp close up shots, even with magnify and crop. I have a Canon and one of their EF lenses would be heaven to own – after I’ve won the lottery!

        • Jessica September 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm - Reply

          Yes, there’s a lot depending on a lottery win here too. The Nikon is getting a bit long in the tooth.

  10. Linda from Each Little World September 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    In my next life I am having tree ferns in my garden. All gorgeous and that blue is dazzling. Thanks for the tour.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      I’m tempted to try tree ferns here, but it could be a very expensive experiment! They’re not really hardy and need over winter protection.

  11. Eleanor September 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Ooo looks like a really lovely place. I am a sucker for a rill! Will have to add it to my list . Eleanor xx

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm - Reply

      Your list sounds as long as mine! We have a sort-of rill… a line of B&Q plastic guttering that channels the water away from the house after it rains!!

  12. Isabelle September 9, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Well, I could see myself living there, no worries. Curled up on one of those sofas with a good book whilst the maid brings tea 😉
    And by the way: beautiful photos, Jessica. xxx

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      It is a place dedicated to leisure and entertaining. There is a beautiful outside dining area under a veranda, very handy for the kitchen and the services of the maid..

  13. islandthreads September 9, 2014 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    glad you have some decent weather Jessica and taken time off to enjoy it, it is amazing the difference of by the sea and just a few miles inland, if you have good wind protection as they have then you have a wonderful micro climate, I’ve never seen an Amaryllis growing in the ground before, I love those blue berries, gorgeous, thanks for sharing, Frances

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      I can’t imagine for a minute I’d succeed with Amaryllis in the ground. It is a very striking plant though. A bit like a colchicum, the flower spikes grow straight out of the ground with no leaves. ‘Naked ladies’.

      • islandthreads September 10, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

        Jessica I realised after I posted that this sentence could sound like I meant you ‘if you have good wind protection as they have then you have a wonderful micro climate’ so I’ll rephrase ‘with good wind protection as they have then by the sea they have a wonderful micro climate,’ I too doubt if they would grow inland, are you on high ground, I know Devon has some high ground, Frances

        • Jessica September 11, 2014 at 8:53 am - Reply

          We’re not at sea level, but not high either. Being in a valley offers some protection from north and east wind but it also makes us more susceptible to frost.

  14. Donna@GardensEyeView September 9, 2014 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    You have so many beautiful and really amazing areas preserved that I long to see…this one goes on the list. Took my breath away with your pictures.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      Thanks Donna. If you are ever in England I’d recommend the gardens of Devon and Cornwall, there are many like this. They are a constant source of inspiration. And envy!

  15. Marigold Jam September 9, 2014 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Beautiful. Lovely photos and I adore that blue berried plant so unusual a colour for berries.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      The Dianella is lovely isn’t it. It is only frost hardy down to -5 so probably wouldn’t make it through a hard winter.

  16. Sarah September 9, 2014 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    This is another garden I have longed to visit and from your pictures it looks even better than I imagined. I love the rill garden! It was good to see the inside of the house too, it looks quite homely just on a larger scale! Sarah x

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 9:05 pm - Reply

      It is a very homely house. We’d have taken more pictures of the inside but it was crowded with visitors, very difficult conditions for photography.

  17. rabbitquilter September 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    Another lovely house for ‘the’ list!! I love The Rill garden, they fascinate me!

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      It reminded me of one of those illusions where water seems to flow uphill. You can almost see it in the photograph. It’s the angles of the ‘steps’ in the rill against the downward sloping paving that does it I think.

  18. snowbird September 9, 2014 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    What a super day out! I do love the house and the gardens and wow, some of those plants are amazing, especially the tree ferns and the aeonium, the butterfly is simply gorgeous!xxx

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      I’ve never seen a common blue before, smaller than I’d imagined but no less striking. A gorgeous colour!

  19. Mark and Gaz September 9, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    A beautiful house and garden Jessica! The interior surprised me the most though, unusually contemporary for a NT property.

    • Jessica September 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Yes indeed. Built in the 1920s, presumably of value for its Lutyens connection. And a lot more accessible than the ‘normal’ NT property too, photography allowed and even touching the items. I spotted one woman peering underneath an eiderdown…

  20. Sol September 9, 2014 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    the bedrooms are lovely as well aren’t they. Did you see the electric bar fire in the shape of a yacht? when the blue bells are out it is stunning

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Oh no, I missed the yacht. There were just so many people around. We will definitely have to go back in Spring.

  21. Alain September 9, 2014 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Beautiful house and garden! It is amazing the range of things they can grow.

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:24 am - Reply

      I find it hard to believe it’s in the same county as me, a real microclimate.

  22. Virginia September 10, 2014 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Wow! You keep adding to my list of ” Must See” places for our 2016 trip Jessica! We have NZ Historic Places Trust membership and we get entrance to your National Trust properties – and you do here when you visit us! I loved the blue butterful – that’s one we don’t have here . Thanks for sharing your visit, we did enjoy it .

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:26 am - Reply

      You’re welcome Virginia. Between now and 2016 I will try and add a few more!

  23. Sigrun September 10, 2014 at 6:03 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica, thank you much for this wonderful pictures, I have visited this garden in 2003, it is realy wonderul. I love the interieur very much, it is so special and a bit modern.
    Greenway house was not mine, the garden is horrible, the view to Torquay glorius. Greenway I have seen in July this year, works from outside the house (must), nice shop and tearoom. But the garden – there is a lot to do for the Trust.


    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:32 am - Reply

      The garden at Greenway is more like mine here.. very natural!! Also like mine the slope is much steeper. It makes it difficult to cultivate successfully. Perhaps the Trust have decided just to leave it that way. In my garden though there is definitely more work to do.

  24. Denise September 10, 2014 at 7:17 am - Reply

    It is one of those houses you look at and think, ‘I wish I lived there…’ And then you sigh a bit, and then you think about all the dusting and hoovering and having to get the really big ladder out to reach the inside of the windows, and then you think, ‘But my little house is good enough for me,’ and off you go, having enjoyed the visit and the daydream!

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:35 am - Reply

      Ah, but if you had four house staff and six gardeners… then you could just kick off your heels, sip your cocktail and twirl your long necklace..

  25. frayed at the edge September 10, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

    What a beautiful house ……. but the best photo of the whole post for me was the butterfly! I am having serious butterfly envy now – I have never seen one of them – I guess they don’t come this far north!

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:36 am - Reply

      It’s the first one I’ve ever seen too. The blue is really quite stunning.

  26. SeagullSuzie September 10, 2014 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica, oh….I want to go there, it’s on my list and I’m sure when we move we will go. Great photos of a stunning place. I noticed you have mentioned a macro lens in reply to a comment. I could not afford the Nikon Macro lens, but bought a Sigma one instead (still expensive but not as much) and it’s great. I’m just about to post some macro images having used it.
    We have lots of Mexican Daisy here and the insects love it.

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:43 am - Reply

      I’m really looking forward to seeing your macro shots. I thought of you when we drove past Brixham, Coleton Fishacre would be an easy trip. You will have the luxury of being able to see it in all seasons. Em has given me some seed of Mexican Daisy which is germinating already, hopefully I’ll have lots next year too.

  27. Anny September 10, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Heaven knows I’m no gardener, but water features really ‘do it’ for me. This rill is captivating – why can’t I ever think of doing anything like that!

    • Jessica September 10, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

      I really loved the rill. In fact that whole part of the garden was just gorgeous. In a less formal way I want to do more to channel water here too, there is certainly enough of it after rain.

  28. Chloris September 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful place; lovely house and garden and breathtaking position. Thanks for the visit, this is certainly one I would love to visit myself.
    And a rill; I have always wanted a rill.

    • Jessica September 11, 2014 at 8:44 am - Reply

      It was odd to see such a formal structure in a riot of cottage garden planting, but it did work.

  29. Rosie September 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful place – the house looks familiar in some way. I expect it has been used for a film or TV drama at some time perhaps? Lovely photos of both house and gardens and I love the rill garden:)

    • Jessica September 11, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

      It looked familiar to me too. In my case just because it’s been an earmarked page in the NT handbook for so long perhaps. This was our third attempt at getting there, worth it in the end!

  30. Janet/Plantaliscious September 11, 2014 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I love Coleton Fishacre, and I am torn between the rill garden and that bit where you emerge out of the shade into the meadow above the cove, with the sudden view of the sea, for favourite bit. A gorgeous garden.

    • Jessica September 11, 2014 at 9:00 am - Reply

      Yes, I remember the bit you mean. I also liked the viewpoint over the garden and cove, from up near the house. I think that’s where the photo of sea glimpses came from. It doesn’t really show up, but central to that view at the moment is a rather magnificent magnolia still with flowers.

  31. sustainablemum September 11, 2014 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    The house looks really familiar to me too. I wonder if I have come across it in an autoboigraphy or biography of a family who visited/spent time at the house. The gardens are beautiful, I have never heard of rills but they look wonderful.

    • Jessica September 11, 2014 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      A rill is just a channel of water, in a formal garden usually enclosed by paving or lined with concrete as here.

  32. CherryPie September 11, 2014 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    That is a wonderful setting for a house and the house looks very inviting too.

    • Jessica September 12, 2014 at 9:36 am - Reply

      Very much so Cherie.

  33. Em September 12, 2014 at 11:40 am - Reply

    What a gorgeous place. I love the Aeonium. Lovely to see you yesterday. xx

    • Jessica September 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      I am tempted to get an Aeonium, maybe for a pot so it could go undercover over winter.

  34. casa mariposa September 17, 2014 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Beautiful! Why is it called a Fishacre? As an American, that has a very literal translation and I’m imagining farmer’s fields full of fish. I love the views and plantings at Agatha Christie’s garden! If you’d like some blue mistflower seeds, email me at and I will gladly send them your way.

    • Jessica September 17, 2014 at 9:37 am - Reply

      The only reference I can find to ‘Fishacre’ goes back to a family name as far back as the 13th century, with members living in the local area. Link here. Many thanks for the seed offer.

  35. Cathy September 17, 2014 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Lovely building and views – but that rill garden….sigh……

    • Jessica September 17, 2014 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      If you’re ever down this way, it’s well worth a visit.

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