Root and Branch Reformers

The area around Sutton St Edmund in south east Lincolnshire is not called South Holland for nothing, for it was Dutch engineers who drained the fens in the 17th century and Dutch growers who turned it into England?s market garden. And, when garden designer Arne Maynard and his partner bought Guanock House at Sutton St Edmund in the early 1990s, he recalls how the red brick former manor house with its big windows, and the quality of the light that they filtered, felt ?as Dutch as the landscape?.

Guanock House stands on slightly raised ground (called a ?hill? in these parts) overlooking the surrounding fenland, and is thought to have been a Roman settlement and later a monastic grange, once part of Spalding Priory. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Guanock House passed to the Dayrell family, who had it remodelled in the late 17th century. In the early 1900s, much of the surrounding land was sold off, and by 1982, the historic building, listed Grade II, was in urgent need of repair. A London quantity surveyor then bought and res-tored the house, which was in good repair when Arne Maynard took it on.

The five acres of land surrounding it were not, however, and many of the out buildings either needed complete restoration or, worse still, lay in heaps of rubble all around. Fourteen years on, the gardens at Guanock provide an inspirational setting for the house itself, and include a wilderness garden, an orchard, a physic garden, a lawn parterre, a herbaceous garden, a lime walk, a kitchen garden and a winter knot garden.

Rosie Atkins, the curator of Chelsea Physic Garden, who has seen Arne?s garden grow over the years, recalls how its 10th anniversary was celebrated with a live performance of A Midsummer Night?s Dream which went on until ?the last rays of sun fell on the surrounding cornfields?. Now, mission accomplished, Guanock?s garden, with its twin pavilions and adjoining five bedroom manor house and coach house, is for sale through Jackson-Stops & Staff (020 7664 6646) at a guide price of £1 million.

This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on March 23, 2006.