The Lifehouse Gardens
The Gardens at Lifehouse are a true treasure and an experience that our guests never forget. They’re made up from a magical mix of pools, lakes, rock gardens, wild grass and shrub areas, rose gardens, sunken gardens, summer houses and lots of places to sit, relax and listen to nothing but the trickle of water from the stream.
If there was ever a natural spa in which to restore and revive the senses then (providing the sun is out!) this is it.
The History Of Thorpe Hall
Lifehouse Spa nestles in 130 acres of grounds that includes 12 acres of listed gardens, which are rich in history. The gardens were created by the chatelaine of Thorpe Hall, Lady Byng, almost 100 years ago. They were Lady Byng’s pride and joy and she re-shaped them with great vigour taking inspirations from the many countries that she visited. When she died in 1949 she left the Thorpe Estate to her companion but he was unable to afford the upkeep and sold it on to the English Electrical Company for use as a rest home for their employees. The grounds then lay empty from 1988 to 2006 and the plants were left un-kept and neglected. Today the gardens are being extensively restored and brought back to life by our magical green fingered Head Gardener, Simon and his fantastic team.
Relax In The Soothing Ambience
Strolling through Thorpe Hall Gardens in your white fluffy robe, you’ll instantly feel the care and dedication that is being put into their restoration. Slip your shoes off and feel the grass between your pampered toes. Walk down across the rock garden to the main lake and watch the ducklings, our resident goose Abby and our heron Harry playing in the water. Or hire a bike from reception and cycle through the peaceful woods – you may be lucky enough to see the beautiful bluebells if you visit in the Spring!
A Scrapbook of Memories
Lady Byng laid out her gardens so that they would become a sort of scrapbook to contain her memories of years of travel and you can feel the changes in style and colour as you walk around the different sections. You have to come to experience their true beauty yourself, but here are a few of our highlights.
- The former courtyard garden has been replaced with a gravel garden containing plants best suited to dry stony conditions. We have looked for plants from countries favoured by Lady Byng – Australasia, South Africa, Southern France, California and Canada.
- The Churchill Summerhouse was built as part of the works undertaken by Lord Byng after World War 1. He took on a team of un-employed ex-soldiers to complete his vision. It is named after Winston Churchill who was a regular visitor and friend of Lord Byng after serving under him in the Boer War.
- The Kitchen Garden would have been used for growing herbs and vegetables ready for use in cooking. Today it is used as an outdoor dining space and the choice of plants seen here reflect its past history as a kitchen garden, you can see herbs, olives and grapes amongst other things.
- The small summerhouse was a favourite spot for the author J.M Barrie who was a regular visitor to Thorpe. You can walk up to this summerhouse along ‘Peter Pan Walk’.
- There is another summerhouse in the sunken garden that is dedicated to Rudyard Kipling, another friend of Byngs and a frequent visitor.
- There are a number of plants that have sentimental significance and rarity. The Madrone, a tree from California, and very rare in this country is represented by three great specimens. Gunnera, from Cornwall sits by each of the lakes, its wonderfully huge leaves almost too exotic for this dry region.
- Peony ‘Lady Byng’ never left us and is now multiplying in our nursery and flaunting her lovely dark cerise flowers in the border by the Sunken Garden steps.
The Lifehouse gardens provide the space and serenity to rejuvenate the body and lift the spirit. So relax, take a deep breath of fresh flower-scented air and think of the work and vision that have gone into these surroundings - we hope Lady Byng would be proud to see them today!