Relax in the soothing ambience of our wonderful gardens
Lifehouse is set in 130 acres of grounds including 12 acres of listed gardens, created by the chatelaine of Thorpe Hall, Lady Byng, almost 100 years ago and now being lovingly restored to their former glory by our Head Gardener and his team. To ensure you don't miss out on our favourite features please click here to view our garden map.
Strolling through Thorpe Hall Gardens and 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. 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. While the historic gardens have been protected, the approach to the estate, to reach the Lifehouse Spa has necessarily been moved in a direction that has less impact on the life of the village. The new drive winds through typical, natural Essex scrub to arrive at the car park. The grounds immediately adjacent to the new building have been treated as an extension of the historic wild gardens. Trees and shrubs grow out of natural vegetation which will provide interest throughout the year as wild plants flower in succession, receiving just a couple of cuts a year, and the removal of difficult invaders – nettles, thistles, brambles etc. The long border that divides the approach road from the pedestrian walk to the car park is intended as a reminder of the principles of Robinson’s ‘Wild Garden’. Using a style the Americans now call ‘Meadow Gardening’ we are creating a natural grassland environment using grasses and grassland plants from those countries that Viscountess Byng visited and wanted so much to recreate here at Thorpe-le-Soken.
The last couple of years has brought our attention to a number of plants that are particularly special to Thorpe Hall Gardens because of their sentimental significance or their rarity. The Madrone, a tree from California, and very rare in this country is represented by three great specimens.
Careful husbandry and easing of mowing regimes has allowed three varieties of orchid to appear, Early Spotted Orchid, Green-winged Orchid and large-leaved Helleborine have returned after an absence of many years. The Helleborine was noted and pressed for a herbarium specimen in 1897, reappeared in 2010 and became a common resident in 2011. We are also looking for the plants named for Thorpe. In 1927 Lady Byng showed five varieties of Siberian Irises at the British Iris society show; we have tracked them down to Canada. Similarly we have discovered Hemerocallis ‘Viscountess Byng’ and Schizostylis ‘Viscountess Byng’ in New Zealand. 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.