Take the plunge into wonderful water gardens

5 minutes

Splashing out on a water feature for your garden can be huge investment and needs careful research to ensure a successful result. Private Client Director Julie Webb highlights some of the most wonderful water gardens to visit to get your imagination flowing.

Most garden designers insist that ‘a garden is not a garden without water’ and I tend to agree.
From the beautiful sound of moving water to plant reflections and waterlilies on ponds, the water attracts so much wildlife such with dragonflies and wagtails skimming the surface for insects or ducks making their home in the reeds, not to mention a frog or two.

While man-made lakes and fountains add a majesty to grand country estates, many clients are now harnessing water for wild swimming with garden lakes and pools while others look to create a more formal setting, perhaps adding fish to create complete tranquillity.

If you are thinking of incorporating a water feature into your garden, it is wise to explore the possibilities by visiting the best examples of natural and eco-friendly options, to see how they could translate into your own garden setting. Remember also that you need to declare the value of the water feature to your insurer as it may not be covered as standard under your home insurance policy. Water features, sculptures and gardening equipment are all too often overlooked, so talk to us to ensure you are properly covered.

While creating a water garden can involve a substantial investment, it can bring great rewards both in please and making your home even more appealing when it comes to selling.

To speak to us about the insurance you have in place for your home and garden, please call 020 8256 4901, or email privateclients@howdeninsurance.co.uk

Here are some my favourite wonderful water gardens to explore. Remember to pre-book entry.


River of dreams

Houghton Lodge, Stockbridge, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge oozes romance and the River Test flowing at the bottom of the garden is an even dreamier delight (film makers have used the location as a backdrop for movies such as David Copperfield, Wilde, The Buccaneers and Murder at the Vicarage).

Lovers of natural gardening can wander through a water meadow where sheep and alpacas graze while new planting in the 18th century chalk cob walled garden brings a long season of colour.

Open Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm, weekends and Bank Holidays from Easter weekend March 29 to October 31, 2024.


Harnessing the rain

RHS Rosemoor, Devon

This garden of two halves, gifted by Lady Anne Berry to the RHS in 1988, sits in a north Devon Valley surrounded by forest. Rainfall is high so the abundance of water has been harnessed to create rockery streams and a fabulous bog garden.

The Cool Garden, designed by  RHS Chelsea Gold medal winner Jo Thompson, features an odyssey of curving rills and swaying grasses with planting of blue, white and pastel-coloured flowers to provide a calming space.
Find a bench by the main lake to relax and savour the reflections of huge trees on the water while considering ideas to take away.

Open seven days a week, 10am-6pm (closes 5pm October - March).


Pond partner

Longstock Park Water Garden, Leckford Estate, Hampshire

John Speldon Lewis was not only a smart retailer, the founder of the John Lewis Partnership also had a passion for gardening. Within the Leckford Estate, his tranquil six-acre water garden is one of the loveliest in the country. More than 40 waterlilies cover the crystal-clear water and strong blocks of colourful planting alongside the water please every gardener. Better still, the nearby Leckford Estate farm shop, tearoom and plant nursery is a must while you ponder your next pond project!

Open from April 2, 2024, Tuesday to Sunday 10am-3:30pm.

Visit: leckfordestate.co.uk


Fit for a Czar

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

In a river valley on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District, Chatsworth has always enjoyed a ready supply of water. Everything is on a grand scale and in 1844 it was suggested Czar Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, might visit so the idea of welcoming him with a fountain even higher than the one at his summer residence, Peterhof, appealed to the 6th Duke of the Devonshire. The Czar never visited but the dramatic fountain was named after him and has been known to shoot 90m (300ft) into the air. In extremely hot weather the fountain is not active to conserve water.

Open daily 10.30am-5pm to November 8.

Visit: chatsworth.org

Astor’s orders

Hever Castle, near Tonbridge, Kent

It took 800 workers to excavate Hever Castle’s magnificent 38-acre lake. Started in 1904, William Waldorf Astor wanted the project completed in two years and instructed “carry on the works regularly and continuously by day and night (except on Sundays) when so ordered”. It takes about an hour to walk round the lake but more time is needed to savour the ornate Italian Garden and fragrant Rose Garden with 4,000 roses. Definitely a garden to capture the imagination.

Main season opening until October 26, 10.30am-4.30pm last entry and November until 3pm.

Visit: hevercastle.co.uk


Tea at Earl Grey’s home

Howick Hall Gardens & Arboretum, Northumberland

Charles 2nd Earl Grey, the Prime Minister who saw through the Great Reform Bill of 1832, is probably more widely known for his namesake tea which was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin, using bergamot to offset the taste of lime from Howick’s well water. With so much natural water, the garden is home to sensational bog gardens and visitors can also walk down to the beach while considering how to duplicate the bog garden in their own grounds.

Open April 1-September 30, 2024 Monday-Sunday 10.30am-6pm. October 1 to November 10 until 4pm.

Visit: howickhallgardens.com


Living work of art

Stourhead, Wiltshire

This enchanting garden was the vision of banker Henry Hoare II and described as a ‘living work of art’ when it opened in the 1740s. With temples and follies at every turn this world-class landscape garden continues to thrill visitors. The streams which feed the huge lake start at Six Wells Bottom. From this dam, look east into this open valley which once formed part of a medieval deer park. Look for wildlife on walks across the 2,500-acre estate which offers a wealth of ideas to take home.

Open daily 9am-4.30pm (closes 3pm during winter).

Visit: nationaltrust.org.uk


Bathe in beauty

Bodnant, Conwy, Wales

There’s room for plenty of thought here, in a peaceful valley where riverside dells make this 80-acre garden a water wonderland. The Bath is an oval, terracotta-tiled pool just below the front lawn, created by Henry Pochin, who founded the garden in 1874. It is now the centre of an exotic garden ablaze with colour from spring to autumn.

Open daily 9.30am-5pm.

Visit: nationaltrust.org.uk


Fizzing with ideas

Westonbury Mill Water Gardens, Herefordshire

Bog gardens, meandering streams and shallow ponds edged by marginals from iris to candelabra primulas, giant rodgersia and gunnera bring magic to Deborah and Mark Constable’s 3.5-acre garden which fizzes with fun and ideas. There’s new interest at every corner and plenty of seating to enjoy views of the Herefordshire hills and think through ideas. Don’t miss the old water wheel and water-powered cuckoo clock.

Open 11am-5pm until September 30.


Natural power

Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland
If you are lucky enough to have a natural water supply, do visit Cragside where Victorian inventor Lord Armstrong’s home was the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, along with the first installation of an electric light bulb. Surrounded by a woodland landscape, gardens and water courses can be explored along the miles of footpaths that crisscross the rugged hillside.

Open every day to November 3, 2024, 10am-4pm

You can also see some of our favourite gardens to explore should you be looking to add a new piece of sculpture to your garden. Inspiration to put garden sculpture in the spotlight.

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