Travel through the pretty Dorset countryside beyond Dorchester passing famous ancient landmarks such as Maiden Castle and the much photographed Cerne Abbas Giant before arriving at Minterne.
The 17th century manor house has been in the Churchill & Digby families since 1620. And the gardens, which are the focus of today's tour, compliment this fine mansion beautifully.
The Minterne Valley was landscaped in the manner of Capability Brown in the 18th Century. The gardens are laid out in a horseshoe below Minterne House, with a chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams. They contain a unique collection of Himalayan Rhododendrons and Azaleas, with Spring bulbs, Cherries, Maples and many fine and rare trees; the garden is noted for its Autumn colouring.
Of particular note are the large plants of Magnolia Campbelli which flower in March and April, together with a profusion of spring bulbs. Many flowering cherries were brought from Japan in 1920 and the Pieris Forrestii with their brilliant scarlet shoots, originally came from Wakehurst. A very fine collection of Davidia Involucrata ( the pocket handkerchief tree) produce striking bracts in late May and early June, when the streams are lined with primulas, astilbes and other water plants. Over 1.5 miles of walks with Palm trees and towering Rhododendrons framed by tall Cedar and Beech trees, provide a new vista at each turn. The changing seasons make each visit to Minterne a memorable experience.