A Rare Treat


Walking up the hill to the garage Mike announced that we were in for a rare treat. We’ve had a few days out recently. With the fabulous weather enjoyed this autumn it would have been rude not to. And the destination was somewhere rather pleasant. But I did still wonder what he had in mind.

“Wife is paying for lunch.”

It seems that one of my cards is about to expire and to avoid being struck off as Missing In Action it was time for me to put something through it. “In that case it’ll be a large glass of wine for me today, no being fobbed off with a ‘medium’..”



Knightshayes, nr Tiverton, Devon


And so, after a very pleasant lunch at the Hartnoll Hotel, with (large) glass of Pinot, we continued on to Knightshayes.

Sir John Heathcoat and his family moved to Tiverton in 1816, after their lace making business in Loughborough was destroyed. It was Sir John’s grandson, John Heathcoat Amory, who commissioned the building of the house. It was designed by a renowned architect of the day, William Burges. Burges was well known for his eccentricity, demonstrated in the Victorian Gothic masterpiece he created (edited from National Trust website).



No photography is permitted inside.



But it was the gardens that we had mainly come to see

Topiary is a strong feature at Knightshayes. So immaculate was the clipping here that I had to go up and stroke it, just to make sure it was real.



A fox crafted from yew

All around the hedge there are hounds in pursuit, reflecting the Heathcoat Amorys’ passion for countryside sports.



The Pool Garden



Willow sculptures join the topiary today




The formal areas of the garden are surrounded by extensive woodlands. The Garden In The Wood is beautiful and especially inspiring for me as it is exactly what I’d like to achieve at home.



The last member of the family to live in the house was Joyce Wethered, both a respected gardener and a world championship golfer winning the English ladies title four times. Was it she who shared my love of Hydrangea paniculata? There are a number of stunning specimens in the woodland.




Leaves are just starting to turn..



But the highlight of it all must be The Walled Garden

Restored by the Trust in 2001 the four acres within these walls are packed with blooms and vegetables.  Specialising in varieties of produce grown in Victorian times, the garden has a vast collection of heritage crops which are now almost extinct.



There’s even a small vineyard




Goosie Lucie, Victoria and Albert, and Tufty



Perfectly positioned on the return journey to the car there’s an extensive Plant Centre. Had I mentioned that to Mike? I can’t remember..

On this occasion no pots fell into my basket.



I couldn’t leave completely empty handed though, could I?


2018-04-21T20:01:06+00:00September 27th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Joanne September 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful place to visit, it looks stunning! Another rusty duck too, I’m sure it has settled into your lovely garden now.

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      The duck will have to be the start of a new collection I think.

  2. Amy at love made my home September 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Of course you couldn’t leave with nothing! What could be better than a rusty duck either!! Fabulous. Knightshayes is a lovely place to visit isn’t it. xx

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      I checked out the website of the manufacturers of the duck. They make a pheasant too. Life size. I wonder what Ptolemy would make of that??

      • Amy at love made my home September 27, 2014 at 9:00 pm - Reply

        It would be amazing to see what he made of it!! I have a robin by (I assume) the same people, never thought of calling him Hucknall though, you could have the whole family in metal, they would eat a lot less!! xx

        • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:49 pm - Reply

          Apparently these metal birds are on sale at a number of NT shops and I have seen them around a lot lately. They do make a robin. (And mice… grrrr!!!) I shall be on the lookout for the pheasant.. 🙂

      • Virginia September 27, 2014 at 11:07 pm - Reply

        It couldn’t be nearly as beautiful as he is, so it shouldn’t ruffle his feathers too badly!

        • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:23 am - Reply

          He would get a shock if he tried to peck it though.. bent beak!

  3. justjilluk September 27, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Stunning! Loved the willow statues. And your duck.

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      The badger was a total surprise when we came across it, deep in the woodland. So hate the cull.

  4. wherefivevalleysmeet September 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Lovely to see the walled garden at Knightshayes later in the season Jessica – when we visited it was being planted up. I purchased some bright blue sweetpeas which turned out to be shocking pink – very nice, but it was the blue I hankered after.

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      It does look good. I remember your post. I’d love to have so much space to grow vegetables, and plants for cutting. And geese…
      Sorry to hear about the sweet peas.

  5. snowbird September 27, 2014 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Lol….love your little duck. What a great place to visit with lunch and a large white thrown in! I do love a walled garden and this is gorgeous. The willow sculptures are amazing, and those geese sure look happy.xxx

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      They had real ducks too. They were stubbornly sitting next to a bright green hose. Not very photogenic so it didn’t make the cut.

  6. Marian St.Clair September 27, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I’ve only made one tour of Devon, I think it was 2007. Knightshayes was one of the most memorable gardens of the trip. The walled garden, in particular, was outstanding. It’s nice to see it’s beauty in another season. Love your little ducky!

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      It’s time you were back! I’ve always wanted a walled garden, this one is really lovely.

  7. Denise September 27, 2014 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Those willow sculptures are quite inspirational. I have a massive crop of willow sitting in the garden busy doing nothing. Hmmm…I wonder…Daisy would make a marvellous model…

    Beautiful photos, as always! Glad you had a lovely day.

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      There you go, a new project. Daisy in willow. Will she sit still long enough that’s the thing. I spent a good few minutes watching the chickens. I love the way they cluck happily to themselves as they wander about.

  8. Christina September 27, 2014 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    Dear Jessica, ooh I am so excited about your post about Knightshayes, since that was one garden that my husband and I wanted to visit, when we were in Devon this year in June, but run out of time to do it. Looks like we truly missed out on something! I just love it when gardening is done on such a grand scale and the house seems to be fabulous as well. Thanks for taking us on for the tour.
    Love your metal duck sculpture, it is quite unique and I can see it fitting perfectly in your garden. Wishing you nice rest of the weekend!

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Christina. Gardening is definitely done on a grand scale here. We only scratched the surface of the woodland, I’d love to go back and take in more of the walks.

  9. Chloris September 27, 2014 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you for a lovely post about Knightshayes. I’ ve never been so it was lovely to see your photos, specially the walled garden. I love your duck, of course you had to have it.

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      The duck was made in Africa, from old oil drums. It needs a companion or two though really, doesn’t it?

  10. Rosie September 27, 2014 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    What an enchanting garden and the house looks wonderful too. I’ve been seeing hydrangea paniculata around jin gardens and garden centres ust lately and really like it. Your little duck is a super souvenir of your visit:)

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      It is my favourite hydrangea. I’ve inherited mop heads and lace caps, but if I purchase any more it will be paniculata.

  11. Cathy September 27, 2014 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    This would be one of our visits when we make it down to the SW – thanks for giving us a preview. Lots to see even in late September – and lovely willow sculptures

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      It’s been a fantastic autumn so far. We’ve done far more garden visiting than usual, it’s all looking so splendid still.

  12. Alain September 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Beautiful place. I particularly enjoyed the walled garden and your little duck at the end.

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      It’s a really cute little duck. It’s out there on its own tonight.. I hope a fox doesn’t make off with it!

  13. Katie B September 27, 2014 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous grounds indeed! Utterly amazing topiary, the fox looks like it’s really leaping over the hedge!

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      The fox and hounds are brilliant. Although after reading Stephen King’s The Shining topiary animals always leave me feeling rather unsettled!

  14. sustainablemum September 27, 2014 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden. There is something special about walled gardens they always look amazing, shame they need an army of gardeners to keep them!

    • Jessica September 27, 2014 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      There is something special about walled gardens, they always feel like a bit of a sanctuary. There was a beautiful one on the estate where we rented a cottage for a while. Shutting the gate behind you felt like shutting the world out.

  15. CJ September 27, 2014 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    A treat indeed, it looks absolutely wonderful. I really like to see topiary, especially in yew. And the walled garden is perfection. The duck was a good find, perfect for you I think! Enjoy your Sunday Jessica. CJ xx

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:21 am - Reply

      It’s rather fun that topiary. Especially as the fox never gets caught!

  16. hoehoegrow September 27, 2014 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Ha! yet another trademark rusty duck to add to your growing brood! Fantastic! Looks like an interesting place to visit. I love the walled garden. However, it is classed as severely letting the side down to leave a plant nursery empty handed !!

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

      As penance I will double up next time… 🙂

  17. Linda from Each Little World September 28, 2014 at 2:23 am - Reply

    The garden in the midst of the topiary curves is too lovely. Looks like a wonderful day out. Your new “pet” is delightful but I want that roof gargoyle!

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:28 am - Reply

      The gargoyle is rather splendid isn’t he. I usually find them quite macabre but this one just seemed a bit grumpy!

  18. Mark and Gaz September 28, 2014 at 2:56 am - Reply

    Another gem of a place we haven’t heard of before, it looks wonderful!

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:30 am - Reply

      It is. And quite near the motorway so easy to nip in to next time you’re down this way. Although you’d need more than a few minutes to see it all, together with the woodland it’s massive.

  19. Charlie@Seattle Trekker September 28, 2014 at 3:15 am - Reply

    Love the garden and grounds, the photos your took are amazing. This must have been a really fun visit.

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:33 am - Reply

      Thanks Charlie. It’s refreshing to see a bit of fun in a garden and things that can only be found by exploring, like the badger.

  20. Kris P September 28, 2014 at 4:14 am - Reply

    The topiary fox and hounds wall is wonderful! Thank you for sharing your visit. I’m glad you found such an appropriate memento of the visit to take home.

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:37 am - Reply

      The duck has found a little place in a gravel garden. It does look lonely though, needs a mate.

  21. Pauline September 28, 2014 at 8:52 am - Reply

    As soon as I saw your first photo, I knew where you had been! This is one of our favourite places for taking visitors. I have never been there at this time of year though, usually it is spring when we go as the woodland garden is my favourite part. The pool garden always looks so cool and stunning in its simplicity, definitely a case of “less is more”!
    Love the duck, of course it had to come home with you!

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:39 am - Reply

      A visit in Spring is a must. I knew about the walled garden before visiting, but was taken aback by the scale of the woodland. We barely saw half of it.

  22. David Marsden September 28, 2014 at 9:34 am - Reply

    I realise how fortunate we are to live in a country so blessed with many beautiful gardens and then I find out about another one I’ve never heard of. A grand day out with a glass of wine to boot. Dave

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:46 am - Reply

      Hi Dave and welcome to rusty duck.
      We are truly blessed. Even if I just stuck to Devon and Cornwall I don’t think I’d get round them all, there are so many I keep wanting to go back to. There are gems that I haven’t even seen once yet, like Heligan.

  23. Sue@GLAllotments September 28, 2014 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Those willow sculptures are cropping up everywhere now.

    We went to Knightshayes when we were on holiday in the are a few years ago but could’t visit most parts as we has our dog with us They seemed to think it was OK just to leave her tied up outside of the garden which we would never consider fot a whole variety of reasons, It;s so frustrating that some are happy for dogs on leads to visit and others aren’t.

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      I did see the sign outside the walled garden prohibiting dogs, maybe it was because of the ducks and geese etc. I did wonder where you were supposed to ‘park’ them as suggested by the sign, as there seemed nowhere to tie them to, even if you were happy to leave them.

  24. steph September 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    a rusty duck—-with attitude! how cute. but those gardens!! my goodness, the inspiration there is overwhelming…..and if anyone can incorporate some of that goodness, you and mike can! wow!!!!!

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      If I can get anything like that here we will need to do some serious thinning. Seeing a variety of different places now makes me realise that there is shade.. and shade. The tree canopy is far too dense.

  25. Isabelle September 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful treat – and I am absolutely in love with that duck! xxx

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      Isn’t it cute? Think I’d better find him a cosy place under cover to spend the winter.

  26. Jo September 28, 2014 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Such beautiful gardens. I do love to see a walled garden being used for what it was intended, and of course you couldn’t return home empty handed, the duck is fab.

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      I only wish there had been some gardeners around, I’d have loved to know how they kept everything looking so good.

  27. Donna@GardensEyeView September 28, 2014 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    This is definitely a treat…the long vistas, the special garden areas like the pool and topiary but yes the walled garden is my favorite.

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      In my dreams I would have a walled garden.

  28. Anne September 28, 2014 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    We’ve been there a couple of times when we’ve been that way. It’s really lovely and my favorite is the walled garden too.

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      So much must change from season to season, we’ll have to go back in Spring I think.

  29. Sarah September 28, 2014 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    That does look such a treat. It all looks wonderful especially the wall garden. I loved the duck! Sarah x

    • Jessica September 28, 2014 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      I loved seeing the live ducks too! Hope all is going well with your move Sarah.

  30. Patrick September 29, 2014 at 1:42 am - Reply

    What a wonderful travelogue and I thoroughly savored it. I came to appreciate good topiary after touring the grand gardens of Europe and obviously this is of that same caliber. Nice work my friend.

    • Jessica September 29, 2014 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Possibly not on the same scale as some of the European gardens, but just as finely executed. Whoever clips those hedges has a very good eye!

  31. Em September 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    4 acres! Wow – that’s enormous. I’d love to go there and what a find with the duck. Not as nice as the originals though so I’m sure there’ll be no rusty fighting. x

    • Jessica September 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      It’s coated in lacquer so not really rusty.. cute though eh?

  32. Jennifer September 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Oh, wow. What a beautiful place. I can see why you enjoyed it so much. The gardens are breathtaking! The hedges are particularly interesting to me, they are so immaculately shaped and tended. I’m glad you had a great outing, thank you for sharing. I hope you have a good week.

    • Jessica September 29, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Those hedges truly were immaculately clipped, and recently by the look of it. There was hardly a leaf out of place. You too Jennifer.

  33. Annie September 29, 2014 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Ooh that walled garden … a rare treat indeed. I remember Knightshayes well – you may remember I grew up on the borders of Somerset and Devon – but back then it all looked a bit more ramshackle.

    • Jessica September 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      I do remember. Walled gardens really do have something special about them don’t they. There is a picture somewhere, probably on the NT site, of the garden before restoration. Quite a difference.

  34. SeagullSuzie September 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    What beautiful images Jessica, from a beautiful place. I love topiary and the willow sculptures.

    • Jessica September 29, 2014 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks! I’m quite sure we’d have found more of the willow sculptures had we had time to explore more of the woodland. Next time!

  35. Anna September 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Now that looks a most desirable place to visit Jessica especially the walled garden. I like your alternative plant purchase – of course it had to come home with you – there’s no question about it.

    • Jessica September 29, 2014 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      It looks well at home nestling between terracotta pots. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a mate though..

  36. Josephine September 30, 2014 at 2:33 am - Reply

    The gardens are quintessentially English, I miss them so 🙁
    What a beautiful estate. Thank you for sharing you special day out.

    • Jessica September 30, 2014 at 9:34 am - Reply

      Very English, complete with sheep and a ha-ha!

  37. elaine September 30, 2014 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Such a panoramic garden – great shots. The topiaried hedges are so neat – the edges so crisp – so effective too. You are lucky to have so many gardens to visit on your doorstop – love your new duck too.

    • Jessica September 30, 2014 at 9:37 am - Reply

      I’ve barely scratched the surface Elaine and there are so many that deserve a visit in more than one season. They fill me with grandiose ideas, that’s the problem.

  38. Janet/Plantaliscious September 30, 2014 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Love the duck… The topiary is admirable, the walled garden looks amazing, but it was all those trees that drew me. Bet the woodland garden looks amazing in spring. Do please take us there?!

    • Jessica September 30, 2014 at 11:42 am - Reply

      Oh… if you insist! 😉

  39. islandthreads October 1, 2014 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Jessica you are lucky having so many wonderful gardens to see not too far from where you live, so much inspiration and growing in similar weather, yes I know there are differences but there is nothing here and very, very little on the mainland for me to see, I like the wall garden border, I’m not a fan of topiary but the willow sculptures are nice, love your sculptured duck, definitely a collection in the making, Frances

    • Jessica October 1, 2014 at 10:25 am - Reply

      You are making a wonderful garden of your own Frances but I agree, it is so useful to be able to view other gardens for ideas and inspiration, if not to purchase a plant or two. Quite a few of them close for winter though, so I’ve been making the most of this summery September. All change now.. rain is back in the forecast.

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