As part of the comprehensive restoration programme at Farringford, the grounds are also being returned to their Tennyson-era appearance. In 1854 the poet described his “careless-order’d garden, / Close to the ridge of a noble down”, and we are striving to recreate the stunning setting of the home he loved best in the same carelessly-ordered fashion! The extensive grounds afford beautiful views of both the house and Freshwater Bay, and we hope you will take full advantage of a trip to Farringford by exploring the outside.
The main attraction is the walled kitchen garden, which Tennyson loved to walk and sit in with his family and guests. All the Tennysons were keen gardeners, constantly planting shrubs, raking up leaves, gravelling paths and laying hedges; according to acquaintances, Tennyson had such a love of the natural world that he couldn’t even bear for flowers to be picked on his grounds! Our colourful planting scheme is based on the many descriptions of the garden provided in Emily Tennyson’s journal, and on the striking watercolours painted by family friend Helen Allingham. This includes oriental poppies; poet’s laurel (Danae racemosa); ‘King Arthur’, ‘Galahad’ and ‘Guinevere’ varieties of delphinium; and tobacco plants (Nicotiana sylvestris), which were said to be over seven feet high in Tennyson’s day. We are also growing fruit and vegetables, in keeping with the practical use of the garden to provide food for family meals. Apple and quince trees are being planted, accompanied by a working greenhouse cultivating traditional shrubs and flowers. In the garden you will also find a sundial crafted for the Tennysons by the sculptor Mary Seton Watts, wife of the celebrated Victorian painter and close family friend George Frederic Watts. The garden is a work-in-progress, and we very much hope our visitors will return in future years to see how it develops with each new phase of planting.
Elsewhere in the grounds, visitors can enjoy a walk round the re-created historic parkland, which is currently home to hundreds of sheep! You may also be lucky enough to catch sight of the red squirrels that have made Farringford their home.
“Went to our withey bed, such beautiful blue hyacinths, orchises, marsh marigolds and cowslips. Wild cherry trees too with single white blossom. The park has for many days been rich with cowslips and furze in flower. The elms are a golden wreath at the foot of the down, we admired the mespilus in flower and the apple trees with their rosy buds. [Alfred] dug the bed ready for the rhodedendrons. A thrush was singing among the other birds, as he said ‘mad with joy’. At sunset the burning splendour of Blackgang Chine, and St Catherine’s, and the red bank of the primeval river contrasted with the turkis-blue of the sea (that is our view from the drawing-room) make altogether, a miracle of beauty. We are glad that Farringford is ours.”
(Emily Tennyson’s Journal, April 1856, after buying Farringford)”