Capel Manor College occupies an ancient manor estate established in the late 13th century. It was originally called Honeylands and Pentriches, but became known as 'Capels' due to the fact that it was owned and lived in by the Capel family (later Lords of Essex), in the 15th and 16th centuries. The current Manor house (3rd on this site) was built in the 1750s.
Owners include the Warren family and Colonel Sydney Medcalf, who left the house and gardens in Trust, 'so that those who follow on can enjoy like those who went before'. The College was established in 1968 in an attempt to bring life back into the derelict buildings and restore the gardens. The house restoration took 18 years and was carried out under the direction of Peter Robinson, a visionary Principal. Lately the College has expanded significantly and is now a major tourist attraction and is internationally known as a learning resource for all those interested in plants, animals and the environment.
A delightful garden that combines historical features and a series of domestic model gardens that are like a mini Chelsea Flower Show.
This is a garden visitors' paradise! Lots of different gardens from the small front gardens of Sunflower Street to the grander landscapes around the Maonor House. We spent over three hours there and I am not sure we saw everything!
The standard of maintenace, planting and design is now impecable and has improved enormously since my last visit and the whole place has a 'buzz' which makes gardening exciting. I particularly loved the National Gardening Centre. It is a sort of permanent, REAL Chelsea Flower Show 'outdoor' garden exhibition.
I visited on a week day and there were lots of student classes working in the gardens and it was interesting to see how the next generation of horticulturists are trained and good to see the emphasis on practical skills and professionalism.
The food in the canteen was excellent and as it is priced for students there was no NT rip off.
Plant labelling not as prevalent as at Wisley and the shop is so 'non commercial' that I couldn't find anything to buy (except the home grown plants out the back which were a bargain).
Also when we were there there was a floristry competition going on. The smell of the flowers and the quality of the displays was out of this world. The gardens seem change a lot and there were two new ones being built by students for openning later this year (2009). Old favorites I rememeber such as the Queen Mother garden and the Diana Princess of Wales garden are still there though.
It's the sort of garden that you need to visit at least once a year as it changes so much.
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