Autumn Plant Fair

Autumn Plant Fair – Sunday 16 September 2018

Our Autumn Plant Fair at Mapperton is a must for keen gardeners.

More than 30 specialist nurseries and garden-related stands from throughout the south-west will offer an unusual and wide choice of herbaceous plants, shrubs and gifts.

Sunday 16 September, from 10am to 4pm. Entry to the Plant Fair is £3. Shared proceeds to Cancer Research UK.

The Sawmill Cafe will be open for refreshments.

Mapperton wedding venue

Mapperton awarded £140,000 grant for wedding venue conversion

Mapperton Estate has been awarded a grant of almost £140,000 by the Southern Dorset Local Action Group.

The LEADER grant of £139,782 will go towards converting a 17th century coach house into a new wedding venue and providing improved facilities for visitors. The project is expected to create seven new jobs at Mapperton House & Gardens near Beaminster.

Voted the ‘nation’s finest manor house’ by Country Life magazine, Mapperton is the family home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich.

As part of an ongoing programme of improvements, the conversion of the coach house will also include a new café, commercial kitchen and lavatories. A new access road and parking area were laid this summer.

Luke Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, said: “We are very pleased that LEADER has chosen to fund this conversion project, which we believe will become Dorset’s finest country house wedding venue, bringing more employment and wider economic benefits to the area.

“The Coach House will be a unique entertainment space which will host weddings and other events for up to 120 people. In addition, we will convert part of the building into a new café alongside other improvements for visitors.

“The building will be heated by our new biomass boiler system, using wood harvested from the estate.

“We hope the work will start in November and expect it to be completed around April next year.

Sir Christopher Lees, chair of the Southern Dorset LAG Executive Committee added: “This project was strongly supported by the Southern Dorset LAG. The money will help provide a far better experience for the visitors to Mapperton, and, in the Committee’s view, promote tourism away from the coast in the beautiful countryside of Dorset.

“We are immensely proud to be able to support this expansion by Mapperton Estate, as it will provide sustainability to the business and added employment in the heart of Dorset.”

The project has been designed by Raise Architects based in Sherborne and led by Andy Foster.

He said: “Converting a 17th century building into a contemporary entertaining space is both challenging and highly rewarding.

“Apart from two new doorways the internal fabric of the building will remain untouched, and visitors will therefore be able to appreciate the exposed stonework, orignal cross beams, wall posts and corbels.

“The building will however benefit from the addition of roof insulation, new timber flooring and many of the external doors will be restored.

“Raise Architects are passionate about finding new uses for historic buildings and are delighted to be working on such an important Dorset conservation project.”

LEADER is part of the Rural Development Programme for England, where the local community decides where grants would have the most benefit. Opportunities to increase the length of the tourist season and create full time, year round employment are priorities for the Southern Dorset Local Action Group.

Grants are European funding and as such are available until 2019. Applications are welcomed by the LAG at any time for capital projects in small and micro businesses, farming, forestry, rural communities and tourism.


Autumn Charity Garden Fair

Autumn Charity Garden Fair brought in the crowds

Crowds of green-fingered gardeners made the recent charity Garden Fair at Mapperton House the most successful autumn fair yet.

Almost 1,000 plant fans attended the Fair on 18 September and a share of the proceeds will go to Oxfam.

More than 25 specialist nurseries took part alongside craft, garden gift and food stands.

Lady Sandwich said: “ We were delighted that so many people took advantage of a perfect day and came to the Fair, which was our most successful autumn sale so far.

“Over the years many charities, both local and national, have benefited from the spring and autumn fairs.

“People who came to the Fair stayed on to take a walk around the gardens gardens or joined a guided tour of the house and enjoyed refreshments in the Sawmill Café. We are very much looking forward to the next plant fair in April.”

Don’t forget that Mapperton House and Gardens are open to the public until the end of October. We look forward to seeing you.

Mapperton cream tea

Mapperton celebrates National Cream Tea Day in style

Please do come to tea at Mapperton on Friday 24 June – and help us celebrate National Cream Tea Day!

On that day a garden entry ticket will be £10, which will include a delicious cream tea – using Mapperton Jam – at the Sawmill Café.

And because we like to do things properly, here are the Top Ten cream tea etiquette tips, courtesy of the Cream Tea Society.

  • Loose-leaf is best. Brew loose leaves in a cup, but remember to serve a second pot of hot water – just in case you’ve over-brewed.
  • If you don’t want to pour, don’t sit near the pot. The person nearest the pot should pour for everyone (if you’re clumsy, best make sure it’s not you).
  • Make the perfect brew. Allow the tea to brew for at least three minutes before pouring – time enough for the full flavour to infuse.
  • Tea before milk. Pour the tea first, followed by milk (so you can accurately judge the required strength) and then sugar.
  • Spoons on saucers, please. Once you’ve stirred, place your spoon on your saucer (think of the table cloth).
  • No outstretched pinkies! Always hold the cup between your thumb and forefinger. Contrary to popular opinion, sticking your little finger out does not a lady/gentleman make.
  • No knives needed. The perfect scone should break apart with a simple twist but they’re very useful for spreading the jam and cream!  Just make sure you’ve got your saucer to catch the crumbs.
  • Spoon then spread. If the table is laden with bowls of jam and cream, spoon your desired amount onto your plate first, before spreading them thick on your scone.
  • Jam before cream. While there’s much debate around which goes first (a dispute dividing Cornwall and Devon), etiquette gurus Debrett’s say you should spread your jam before dolloping cream on top.
  • A final word. Never use whipped cream. It’s utterly improper.
Charity Plant Fair Mapperton

Mapperton hosts a treat for gardeners

Keen gardeners are in for a treat when they get the chance to visit Dorset’s largest charity specialist Plant Fair and spend a day discovering beautiful Mapperton House and Gardens.

This is the 17th year that Mapperton, near Beaminster, has hosted the Fair, being held this year on Sunday 10 April. The Earl and Countess of Sandwich have picked the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance as the charity to benefit in 2016.

Special ticket price

Entry to the Plant Fair alone is £3. There is a special ticket price on the day of the fair of £6 for entry to Mapperton gardens, or £9 for the guided house tour and gardens; under 16s free.

More than 30 nurseries and garden-related stands will be displaying plants of all kinds as well as honey, cider, willowcraft, gifts, cards and garden ironware.

The Fair is open from 10am to 4pm and The Sawmill Café will be open for tea, coffee, home-baked cakes and light lunches.

The autumn plant fair at Mapperton will be held on Sunday 18 September.

More information at

Mapperton to open its doors to more visitors in 2016

Earl of Sandwich and Viscount Hinchingbrooke landscape

Following last year’s record number of visitors to Mapperton House and its gardens, the Jacobean mansion – which featured in the 2015 film of Far from the Madding Crowd – will be open for guided tours in the afternoons, five days a week, from Easter Sunday until the end of October.

The house overlooks the stunning Italianate garden with topiary, grottos and pools, leading to a wild garden which rolls into the scenic valley below.

Voted “the nation’s finest manor house” by Country Life magazine, Mapperton, near Beaminster, has been the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich for the past 30 years.  However management of the historic house and estate is now passing to their son, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, who intends to turn the property into a more widely-known tourist destination.

Plans to improve facilities for visitors this year include the conversion of part of a stable block into a new ticket office and shop, as well as the provision of a new car park.

The Earl of Sandwich says: “We are really looking forward to welcoming more visitors to Mapperton House this year. Until now the house has mainly been open on July and August afternoons, but this year we will be taking small groups on guided tours throughout the season (with the exception of Fridays and Saturdays).”

His son Lord Hinchingbrooke adds: “We have lodged a planning application for various changes which should make a big difference to visitors.  These include a new car park, shop and ticket office, as well as improvements to the area outside the popular Sawmill Café.”

“We hope to complete the first phase of work this year, while in the longer term we plan to build a new drive to the car park, which will provide visitors with a splendid view of the house as they arrive.”

“We’re delighted to open our home to visitors and we hope they will come and spend a day here, touring the gardens and getting an inside view of a very special historic house and family collection.”

The clematis viticella are coming out, Nelly Moser too


Lady Sandwich writes:

As England is sweltering in a heat wave, I just hope our clematis have got nice cool roots, which is what they want. Clematis come from the temperate zones and don’t want over heating, originating, like so much else, often from China.

The wonderful clematis viticella are just coming out in the gardens. We have lots of the viticella type: they are easy to prune (lop ‘em down to 18 inches in March), provide lots of colour as the roses go over and are easy to grow. One of the best is Polish Spirit on the grey wall just left of the big lawn; another is Black Prince in the front courtyard. Clematis viticella alba luxurians, white flowers with dashes of green, is by the garage. I think it’s in the wrong place. Comments please on our Facebook page. What do you think? Shall I root it out?


We grow other types including lots of different clematis montana, now over and pruned. You can see the pruning right up the house. There’s clematis armandii, an early scented evergreen clematis to the right of the Orangery. And it’s named after – guess who? Pere David Armand, the same French missionary after whom davidia involucrata is named (see my previous entry) and who discovered the Giant Panda.

Then there are the herbaceous clematis, like clematis tubulosa ‘Wyevale’; there’s yellow clematis flammula, the huge, rampant, autumn flowering clematis rehderiana, and its similar rampant friend on the pergola, a garden variant of clematis vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We have a couple of the elegant clematis texensis particularly ‘Gravetye Beauty’ on the grey wall. You won’t find many large flowered clematis because they are difficult to prune and temperamental to us. But ‘Nelly Moser’ is around in the front; and another Nelly by the East Grotto faces purple clematis x jackmanii climbing the West Grotto and twining with rosa ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’.

Climbing and rambling roses everywhere in June

Lady Sandwich writes:

I look round Mapperton gardens in late June and I see climbing and rambling roses all over the place, mostly out of control and definitely out of reach. There are some on the pergola – Emily Gray, Parkdirektor Riggers, Veilchenblau, Blairii No 2; others are scrambling over the Red Wall – Goldfinch, Rambling Rector, Albertine, filipes Kiftsgate; and about the house and stable blocks are, amongst others, Zephirine Drouhin, Mermaid, climbing Iceberg, Niphetos, Aloha and the greatest and most difficult Gloire de Dijon. Also around are Mme Alfred Carriere, Lady Hillingdon and that hybrid from rosa gigantea, Cooper’s Burmese.

I’m only mentioning some of the roses we have at Mapperton and I have to admit I’m an old-rose enthusiast; you won’t find modern roses here except a self-sown heroine by the Orangery; we admire her for her bravado.

There’s quite a difference between climbing and rambling roses. Ramblers are bigger, in fact huge with some going up to 40 foot; they flower once a year, are mostly sweet scented and come from two main stocks, the Japanese multiflora, introduced in 1862, and the German wichuraiana in 1891 and named after its German discoverer Max Ernst Wichura.

And you prune them differently; in fact the pruning difference is probably the most important reason for knowing what sort of rose you are dealing with. Climbers are usually more controllable and can be grown up a pillar or a pergola or over a hedge. Just for your information, you may think that the wonderful New Dawn is a climber; she’s not, she’s a wichuraiana rambler.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ now out, ground elder too (alas!)

Lady Sandwich writes:

Another rose this week, out at the moment. Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, the yellow banksian rose, is an enormous climber from China introduced here in 1824. She’ll climb any large tree, clothing it in soft pale yellow spays of flowers. Named after an 18th century Lady Banks, wife of the great botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks, she’s a bit tender, but less so than her cousin Rosa banksiae ‘Alba plena’. She needs no pruning as she flowers on the sublaterals (i.e. the smallest branches) and pruning would reduce next year’s flowering.

The persistent, vigorous weed ground elder (aegopodium podagraria) is spreading as usual all over the garden as if it owns it. Actually, I think we have the National Collection. Like rabbits, ground elder was introduced by the Romans (as food and medicine), and like rabbits it takes over. You can eat it, though. I have made ground elder soup and quite delicious it is with a bit of cream. It doesn’t compare with say asparagus soup but it’s good, so long as you pick young shoots before flowering. Use a recipe for nettle or spinach soup and substitute ground elder. At least you’ll feel it’s of some use and you won’t sting yourself.


Rosa Niphetos and a plague of dandelions

Lady Sandwich writes:

This week I’ll focus on just two things: a special rose in the Orangery and dandelions!

The rose in the Orangery is rosa Niphetos, often called the Wedding Rose and very popular in 19th century wedding bouquets. She’s a French tea rose, introduced in 1889, with blousy white flowers and a delicate tea scent. The joy of these old climbers is the flowers droop so you can touch and smell them (unlike the stiff hybrid tea climbers of today).

Dandelions. We have just got through the first April plague of dandelions, thank goodness. I know you won’t believe this but it’s true. My husband and I have just been on holiday in central Asia and he actually asked me to photograph dandelions in Samarkand. Garden visitors, if you want to pick dandelion flowers, please take them to the potshop and the lady there will give a small treat for every ten.