meandering :: the Bonsall magical gardens

A stroll around the beautiful village of Bonsall in Derbyshire on the trail of their Magical Gardens last weekend. This post is dedicated to Lucinda from Lucinda Sans blog to provide her with a little piece of Englishness. (Sorry Lucinda no tea shops though).

Bonsall is set in the hillside above Cromford village, the nearest main town being Matlock and with Derbyshire being completely landlocked the nearest place to a seaside is the stunning Matlock Baths along the dale; complete with illuminated ‘promenade’ running alongside the river and traditional seaside shops.

Bonsall we found is a village with two parts – the upper and lower levels and a very steep climb between the two. If was a very hot day and we really felt the heat as we went up hill and down dale on this trail – you need plenty of puff to complete it – but there are refreshments waiting at the top should you need them.

For me the village open gardens are not always just about the gardens on show but discovering the unusual, the quirky and that mysterious ingredient that makes a village special and more than just a collection of buildings. And this one is different to many – it has been named not just active but hyperactive as the residents all pull together in so many ways to deliver a wonderful village life here that most people would envy.

Starting to climb up the steep hill to the top; the cottages are snuggled into the hillside with gardens that require plenty of terracing made out of the beautiful soft grey of the Derbyshire stone, covered in moss and a tumbling of flowers everywhere.

Notice above the way the same plants, red geraniums along the front wall and in the background lavender, have been placed in rows but in differing pots giving a very striking arrangement.

These little water fountains and wells are everywhere in the village but this is quite a notable one as I love the way it is the community centre at the top of this hill for the bus stop and post box.

Every now and then a little lane would appear off to one side with more gardens to discover.

It was steep going up but seemed even steeper on the drop down the other side. As we continued further down into the valley it was noticeable how the planting becomes very lush with trees and vegetation. Flowing alongside the road is a little stream, often disappearing under some of the houses and then popping up unexpectedly in a garden or two.

Above must have been the tiniest garden on show – a strip only three feet wide between the cottage wall and the roadside where the stream had been left uncovered and only paved to enable access to the front door. Stunning.

This house below is one of my favourites. No showy planting here – just a relaxing vista of greenery, such a peaceful garden with the gentle sound of the trickling water from the well in the corner.

Every now and then there was an alley way…and a footpath….. it would have been so tempting to have explored where they go but with 30 gardens to see no time for detours.

Some gardens had the quirky – I absolutely would love this outside lav and what looked like an adjoining laundry in my garden.

Then there are the eye catching corners where plants have just grown into an unusual or quirky display!

Still winding our way down the hill (it goes on for ever) the road opens out into an open space with houses round about and we find the village cross – this must be the highest set of steps for a village cross that I have ever seen and forms the centre of the upper village even though it is halfway down the steep hill. The road going off at the left corner leads you to the church. I will take you there another day.

On the way to the church are more tiny cottages with verges crammed full of wild flowers and cottage flowers mixed together producing a wonderful untamed show.

Sometimes just a little splash of colour in a pot is all that is needed to make a big statement.

This garden below so appealed to me – the tidy ramshackle – a brilliant collection of bits and bobs brought together in a display by the shed. Notice how the well cut short grass round about gives it more prominence. It reminds me of those little unkempt gardens they try to replicate at the Chelsea show.

The garden above was so tiny it was called a ‘peep over’ and you viewed it from the garden gate. The owners had cleverly used an open metal gate to allow more of a view and presumably let more light into the garden. I so wanted to walk down that little gravel path. Instead I walked up the hill by the side and peeped over the wall. What you don’t see from the gate is the ‘hidden’ table and chairs beyond the planting – so well thought out.

On the way further down the hill now and back to our starting place in the lower village. Here you will find the Fountain Monument in the centre and the tiny village stores – if you are passing do go for an ice cream.

I will leave you with yet another photo of how you can make any little nook and cranny, shed or corner look appealing.

21 Replies to “meandering :: the Bonsall magical gardens”

    1. Opps. Hadn’t finished typing. hit the wrong key.

      I will have to steal some ideas. Like the red geraniums in different styles of terracotta pots.

      And quick, take me down the lane to the church. And down the public footpath.

      Can we take a thermos and sit somewhere and have our own cuppa?

      How hot was a very hot day?

      I’m off to seek google maps for Bonsall.


      1. Probably not your hot – but hot for us in England and especially for me and walking up steep hills too.
        We will be going back as soon as we can to explore more of this village. We have been going down to Derbyshire since I was born but I have never been through Bonsall before in all that time – can’t understand why!!


        1. I want to pick a few places where we will base ourselves for adventuring/meandering/sight-seeing/walking/hiking. I’d love to stay in a village for a couple of weeks and pretend to be a village-dweller. Maybe I will fantasy about being a Miss Marple or Agatha Raisin – I might even go to church and pretend to believe. This is the sort of village I hold in my fantasy.


          1. You would love Derbyshire – though sadly it does get busy but the whole of the Peak District is subject to careful planning control so the villages remain small with hardly any expansion in terms of new housing. If you come in the summer months you would even be able to join in an Open gardens events or see the Well Dressings. There is an abundance of places to stay – cottages, guest houses, hotels etc even Bonsall has a rated B&B called the Fountain – you can google it.
            North Yorkshire has a similar flavour with lots of small market towns and little villages and farms dotted around. The east North Yorkshire coast is quite nice too – famous for historical Whitby but I much prefer tiny Runswick Bay, Sandsend and Saltburn.
            And you can’t beat where our cottage is in South West Scotland for scenery, tiny villages and the coastline is superb.
            And all offer plenty of walking, meandering opportunities.


  1. Thank you for another wander through my home county. We are staying in Bakewell later this year which is a excellent base for walking so I’ll try to retrace your stepson Bonsall.
    Talking of tearooms I assume you’ve been to the Berisford tearooms in Harrington?


    1. Yes we took mum there when we visited earlier in the year. Hope you have a lovely time in Bakewell – they have an open gardens trail which might be this weekend – we might get to go on it.


      1. Sorry. I had a sneaking feeling that you had but was too lazy to look it up!
        If you go too Bakewell on the Open Gardens trail have a look at Tannery House garden.
        It is through an entry, car sized, just, on the Buxton to Matlock road on the left hand side coming from Matlock between aright hand turn and the the Rutland Arms Hotel.
        The garden is beautiful and you can see it through the gates even if it’s not on the trail.
        That’s where we are staying in the autumn.


        1. I think I know the place – very well positioned for being able to access the town and round about.
          It is actually Buxton Gardens this weekend, along with Birchover and Middleton by Wirksworth – too many to decide which one to go to. Bakewell is Sunday 25th August I think – it is listed on the NGS site.


  2. As they say, magical gardens…and charming. Better you than me climbing up and down those steep hills! My excuse is wearing a boot for a broken foot bone at the moment, but not sure that I would be up to it even after it heals…:)


    1. Sorry to hear about your foot – that must be stopping you doing quite a bit. It was a bit of an assault course in this village but many of them are the same in Derbyshire – it isn’t called the Peak District for nothing. In comparison the ‘Ouseburn’ gardens we went to recently near York are very flat and much easier to negotiate.


  3. How beautiful. The Peaks and the area around is just about my favourite place; thosephotos are splendid and really capture the atmosphere.


  4. The gardens and homes and the villages are just so lovely in England. I’m planning to visit England someday and I probably will not want to leave. It looks simply magical.


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