A peaceful and tranquil area, these Water Gardens owned by the John Lewis Group are a great place to visit, a hidden delight in the scenic Hampshire countryside which are the perfect place for the Slow Traveller to spend a quiet afternoon outdoors.
Until the 1870s this piece of land was just a watery copse when an area was excavated for gravel with which to build local roads and create the drive up to Longstock House, creating the main lake. The land was then bought in 1914 by Reginald Beddington who began to design a water garden, tapping his streams into the River Test for his water supply.
In 1946 John Spedan Lewis, already the owner of a large estate in Leckford, bought nearby Longstock House and set about creating these magnificent Water Gardens across both sites. The whole estate now spans over 2,800 acres and is staffed by John Lewis employees.
It took six years to establish them, as the ground was so waterlogged that each island had to be dug out by hand. His aim was that they should look natural rather than formal. It gave him great satisfaction to sit in the (still existing) summer house with a phone line and secretary and run the John Lewis business from such an exquisite setting. When he died in 1963 the Gardens were given to the John Lewis Partnership with the proviso that they were to be maintained and enjoyed by all members of the Partnership.
The approach is along narrow leafy lanes from Stockbridge, hinting at the tranquillity and beauty that awaits you. Once through the entrance to the gardens you can feel an immediate sense of serenity. The water of the lakes is crystal clear, the paths weave away invitingly through the lush vegetation and tall trees. Small islands are linked by bridges.
The planting is designed to have interest and colour for all seasons – rhododendrons, irises and azalea for Spring, bright primulas and all varieties of hostas as summer approaches. The lakes attract water birds such as herons, moorhens and kingfishers. There are many wildflowers to attract insects.
These gardens are judged amongst the finest in the world by the International Water Lily Society as they have over 40 different waterlilies. You can easily while away an hour or so here and come away refreshed and calm, but also invigorated by the experience.
VISITING LONGSTOCK GARDENS
How to get to Longstock Gardens
By car: A30 from Stockbrige to village of Longstock then follow brown tourist signs. Continue past the Farms Shop and Nursery and the Water Gardens are on the right. There is plenty of free parking opposite the entrance.
There is no regular bus service to the Water Gardens.
When are the Water Gardens open?
Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 12pm and 1.30pm – 3.30pm, Sunday 11pm – 1.00pm.
How much does it cost to visit the Water Gardens?
Under 3: free
Tickets must be pre-booked.
Are there any facilities at the Water Gardens?
No, but the Leckford Farm Estate is less than a mile away with a large restaurant, loos, a Farm Shop and Nurseries.