Garden Magic

The last time I saw Copse House at Brook, near Godalming, Surrey, the quintessentially Edwar-dian house with its spectacular Jekyll gardens had been painstakingly?and expensively?restored by its then owner over a period of 12 years (?Property Market?, Country Life, February 27, 1997).

The house was on the market with Browns of Guildford (01483 531166) at a guide price of £1.45 million and I wondered, somewhat naïvely, whether anyone would have ?the cash and the courage? to carry on the good work.

Well, somebody did, and for the past eight years, Copse Hill has been the idyllic family home of South African-born Alastair Wood and his wife, Tish, while their twin sons were at school at nearby Charterhouse. Now the boys have gone off to university and their parents are looking for something smaller, so Copse Hill is back on the market with Browns at £2.25m.

The ?magical? garden has been no problem at all, Mr Wood says. He simply re-engaged the landscape gardeners who were already looking after it??they come in once a week, and that is that?.

Built in 1906, Copse Hill stands in six acres of gardens and grounds at the head of a valley high in the Surrey hills, with breathtaking views to the South Downs in the far distance. It has three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five double bedrooms, four bathrooms, a games room, and all the usual offices.

The gardens designed by Jekyll in 1912?13 for Robert Wood Williamson?no mean garden designer himself?are a kaleidoscope of colours and textures, created from a series of ?rooms?, ponds and sunken gardens surrounded by banks of rhododendrons, and woodland criss-crossed by romantic walks. Alastair Wood feels that he and his family are ?the true beneficiaries? of Jekyll?s gardening genius?and she was turning 70 when she created those at Copse House.

Inevitably, wherever you find Jekyll, Lutyens will not be far away, and Hoe Farmhouse at Hascombe, near Godalming, is another instance of the happy collaboration between the two. Once part of the Hascombe Estate, the original 16th-century farmhouse was altered by Lutyens in 1890 for Joseph Godman, and has been owned, and let, for the past 50 years by the same family who bought it from the Grosvenor estate. Having recently restored the house and gardens (using garden designers Herald Nicholson to work from plans by Jekyll), the farmhouse is being offered for rent through Cluttons (01903 882213) at a guide price of £8,000 per calendar month.

The new incumbent will be one of a long line of distinguished tenants, for in 1915, in the wake of the Dardanelles fiasco, Hoe Farmhouse was let to Winston Churchill and his brother Jack as a weekend retreat. Describing the setting in a letter to his brother, Churchill enthuses: ?It really is a delightful valley, and the garden gleams with summer jewellery?.

Shortly after the Second World War, Country Life went to see the house and garden created by master-builder Walter J. Shepherd on the site of ?an ugly Victorian pile? at Lurgashall, near Haslemere, on the Surrey/Sussex border. Having bought Parkhurst House with 198 acres from the Canon of Chichester in 1945, Mr Shepherd secured a rare ?licence to remodel?. He virtually demolished the house and rebuilt it completely.

The gardens were recreated round the Victorian original. To his great disappointment, his son recalls, nothing appeared in Country Life, and in 1947, Mr Shepherd sold it.

Extended in the 1970s, Parkhurst House, with two cottages and 73 acres of gardens, grounds, paddocks and woodland, is back on the market, through Strutt & Parker (01483 306565) and Knight Frank (01483 565171) at ?offers in excess of £4m? for the whole.

The house, described as ?elegant but in need of modernisation?, has a reception hall, four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, two/three further bedrooms and a further bathroom.

This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, July 28, 2005. To subscribe click here.