The English Heritage Listed gardens at Lifehouse are a true treasure and something which our guests never forget. A magical mix of pools, lakes, rock gardens, wild grass areas, rose gardens, sunken gardens, a summer house and lots of places to sit and relax. If there was ever a natural spa in which to relax and revive the senses then (providing the sun is out!) this is it.
Walking through our gardens you will discover many features, some of which have significant historical connections. These include:
1.) Peter Pan Walk and J M Barrie Summerhouse
The Summerhouse was a favourite spot of J M Barrie who was a regular visitor to Thorpe. The plinth at the top of the slope used to carry a copy of the well-known Kensington Gardens Statuette of Peter Pan and the slope has come to be known as Peter Pan Walk.
2.) Winston Churchill Summerhouse
The Summerhouse has been named for Winston Churchill who served under Byng in the Boer War and became a friend and frequent visitor to Thorpe. His admiration for the General was said to be why Byng was made Governor-General of Canada in 1921.
3.) Herbaceous Border
The double herbaceous border leads your eye down to the Sunken Garden and has stunning displays of colour from Spring to early Autumn.
4.) Sunken Garden and Kipling Summerhouse
Once home of Lady Byng’s collection of Iris and late perennials, the Summerhouse is dedicated to Rudyard Kipling, another friend of the Byngs and frequent visitor.
5.) Handkerchief Tree and Middle Lake view
The Handkerchief tree or Davidia involucrata is a superb specimen and is best seen in late Spring when in full bloom.
6.) Old Main Drive
In earlier days, you reached this point after entering the estate at Station Road and driving along the oak-lined drive. The gates that once hung here were the earliest examples of automated gates. Viscount Byng was very proud of them but on the first trial a gate shut on his Rolls Royce and since then they were left open!
7.) Rock Garden
The enormous rock feature was installed in 1931 by Col. Gavin Jones. Jones is famous for building the rock garden at Chartwell in 1948 home of Winston Churchill.
8.) Top Lake
Standing on top of the dam that Col. Gavin Jones so brilliantly used for a rock bank, look across the most recent of the lakes, built around 1880, which Lady Byng described as The Pond.
9.) Liquidamber styraciflua
One of the largest of its kind in the UK and best seen in Autumn when it turns from a pale green to deep crimson – a real spectacle in the landscape.
10.) Queen Mary's Walk and Wilderness Garden
The long avenue that leads away from the lake is named for Queen Mary. Queen Mary was a school friend of Lady Byng and often came to the gardens and enjoyed this particular view. Her husband, King George V, was also a frequent visitor.
11.) Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Strawberry Tree/Pacific Madron (Arbutus menziesii)
Both very large specimens, the Strawberry Tree which is native to California is probably the largest of its kind and incredibly rare to the UK.
12.) Eucalyptus gunnii
Probably the largest of its kind found in the UK, it was grown by Lady Byng from seed off the first Eucalyptus trees that came into the country from Tasmania.