Reflective Landscapes

The restored public town gardens at Vivary Park, Taunton and Wellington Park in the Taunton Deane have both received substantial grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards their restoration and repair.

Of all the gardens in Somerset Hestercombe has seen the most significant restoration and investment in recent years. This garden has received a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve the visitor facilities and access to the gardens for all. Restoration of the garden and of the landscape has furthere enhanced the quality. As one result Hestercombe Gardens has won the Euuropean Garden Award in 2016.

Somerset also has a rich and varied landscape ranging from the flat coastal salt marshes around the mouth of the River Parrett and Stert bird hide through to the hilltops of Exmoor such as Dunkery Beacon. There are several prominent viewpoints around the county such as Alfred’s Tower in the east of the county or Deer Leap on the south side of the Mendip hills. Several of these were included into the Regional Route for Somerset and are illustrated as viewpoints and stunning landscape features in the “cultural landscape” section of the website.

In such a varied landscape it is difficult to choose the “the best” example of a particular type of park or garden. For the European Themes the project has attempted to pick out some of the interesting and unusual sites from Gloucestershire to Cornwall to illustrate the main categories.

This is just a taste of the region, there is much more to experience, explore and enjoy.

The county Somerset itself has a population of approximately 500,000 people and it is largely a rural county with a wide range of small market towns and villages. The western side of the county is partly covered by Exmoor National Park and there are 4 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty . The central part of the county is low lying and flat, once part of a huge reed beds that stretched inland for over 40km from the coast. These reed beds decayed to form extensive peat deposits covering a substantial part of this central area of the county. Somerset covers an area of 3452km2 and has great variety in its town and villages each reflecting the local character of building stones and vernacular styles.

Tourism is one of the main economic drivers in the Southwest and parks and gardens of all ages and types have a significant role to play in the future prosperity of the region. The Southwest is the most visited region in the UK with over 24.4m visits in 2001. The south west tourism agency ( holds a wide range of information on the recent branding initiatives being used for the region

Visitors and residents in the county have many sites to choose from. There are parks and gardens to be found across the county some privately owned, some publicly owned and others managed by individual trusts or part of the estate managed by the National Trust (see Opening hours and times vary during the year and visitors are recommended to check before visiting.

The gently rolling landscape of large parts of the county makes an ideal backdrop to park creation and there is a strong tradition of park development from the seventeenth century onwards. Many of the top garden designers of the eighteenth century have worked in the historic county such as Lancelot “Capability” Browne at Newton Park (c.1760) and Humphrey Repton at Ston Easton Park (in1793) and in the 20th century Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens at Hestercombe(1903).

There are many other parks and gardens to visit in the region. Further information is usually available on local tourism web sites or from the National Trust who manages many of the larger sites around the region. In 2003 Westonbirt Arboretum and Stourhead House and gardens (National Trust) had over 300,000 paying visitors putting these attractions in the most popular list for the region.

Top of the list is the most recent and innovative garden project of all, The Eden Project with over 1million visitors. Remember that “there is a whole world to be seen in a garden” and Southwest England has many gardens to choose from.


Cultural Landscape