Minterne Magna House and Gardens

A little bit of heaven…

As you walk from the car-park across the road to the large gates of Minterne House, you know that this estate is going to be different. There is something altogether right about having a church beside the entrance gates. The idea that deceased family members should be installed not far from their ancestral home, is somehow rather comforting. As you continue up the gravel drive, all is revealed, the lake, the house and the garden just beyond. It must be with a sense of awe that visitors to this country and county, walk past this house, viewing the lake, the lawn and the back of the house. It somehow conjures up “Downton Abbey”, but with a little more cosiness.

The gardens are landscaped in the manner of “Capability” Brown and laid out in the shape of a horseshoe. The garden trail is about a mile in length with benches at regular intervals so you can sit and enjoy the peace and tranquility. Famed for its seasonal profusion of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Japanese cherries and Magnolias all set in a peaceful wooded valley the garden has been described by the writer Simon Jenkins as a ‘corner of paradise’. Small lakes, streams and cascades, plus a Himilayan Hut, all offer wonderful views to the walker. In summer the streams are enhanced by primulas, astilbes and water-lilies. Over 200 Maples and Acers provide sensational autumn colouring. Information boards are placed around the garden so that the trees, shrubs and flowers are seen for what they are.

Minterne House is the home to Lord Henry Digby and family. The house and estate has a very interesting history, the estate having been bought by Robert Digby, a member of the Digby family of Sherborne Castle, in 1768. By his own description, the valley was ‘very bare, trees not thriving’ and the house itself was ‘ill-contrived and ill-situated’. Since that time much has changed, the garden having been re-designed and the house re-built. The Digbys and the Churchills are both associated with the estate and there are great tales of two ladies from the families who led extraordinary lives.

There is much to like about visiting Minterne, this little corner of paradise, but without a doubt, the lasting taste of fruit scone and clotted cream is unimaginably heavenly.

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