AN "uplifting" transformation of the gardens and a new bistro are just two reasons to visit Tapeley Park this year. The sustainable stately home near Instow, owned by Christie Estates and home to Hector Christie, has recently opened its doors for the spring and summer season having undergone a huge facelift in its gardens over the winter months.
In the Nineties, the stunning lake at Tapeley, ensconced amid Scots pines, palm trees and the largest Thuja plicata trees in the UK, was emptied, with two feet of silt and mud removed. However, the two "feeder" ponds above the lake, which had not been touched for two centuries, were left alone – even though trapped water was pouring through cracks in the walkway, threatening to wash away the barrier at any time!
"This winter we've bitten the bullet," Hector explained. "The Tapeley team, headed by gardener Chris Barham (pictured below), played a major role digging areas out by hand where the JCBs could not reach and filling huge cages with rocks to reinforce the leaking, weak walkway.
"The result is two crystal clear emerald green pools, separated by a waterfall. It really feels like a blockage has been cleared, giving those who visit this area an uplifting feeling inside."
A revitalised wooded space, with the lake as its centre piece, is the outcome. Aside from the aesthetic improvement, the silt removal has had a huge ecological impact and the water now runs clear.
Other additions for this year, beyond the Italian terraced gardens, Highland cattle and renewable energy projects, include a new orchard being planted, a revamp of the children's play area and more polytunnels to supply the tea room with fresh produce.
"As significant as all of the above put together is the arrival of the new caterers," said Hector. "The Exmoor Beastro had the reputation of being the number one restaurant on Exmoor National Park, according to TripAdvisor, and has now settled into the old Queen Anne Dairy buildings here at Tapeley. The refurbishment is spectacular, reinstating and enhancing the former charm of the building."
While continuing to cook over fire when possible, the Beastro team, of Alex Nutt (below) and Fiona O'Mahoney, will aim to rustle up a brand of unconventional and personal food, using the pesticide and GMO free foods produced at Tapeley.
Future events at the Beastro include guest chefs, collaboration nights, cookery lessons, live music and more, and it will also be open for evening meals in the near future.
- Tapeley Park is open Sunday to Friday (closed Saturdays), 10am to 5pm. Details: www.tapeleygardens.com.