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Mount Ephraim, Luxurious B&B in the Kent Countryside. Part 2 The Gardens and Fruit Farm

By Lyn Funnell

After we booked in to our room in the beautiful B&B wing in Mount Ephraim, we went out to explore the Edwardian gardens, which stretch over 10 acres. They’re the sort of gardens that I love, divided up into many different areas, reached by walking through hidden gaps in the walls and hedges.

We started our walk by passing the topiary, with yew trees carefully trimmed into different shapes, from animals to a wartime tank.

Then we walked through the Millennium Rose Garden, planted in 2000, then along the lawn to the Gardens at the front of the magnificent house.

Across the lawn and down some steps, we spotted a lake at the end. It was dug out by hand in 1912 by unemployed Welsh miners. It’s a lovely relaxing place, but we didn’t see any of the fish.

Through a wooden gate, we came upon one of my favourite places. It’s called the Miz Maze and was planted in 2004.

A Miz Maze was a Medieval labyrinth and Mary Dawes’ nickname was Miz.

The Dawes family has owned Mount Ephraim for over 300 years.

It’s tall herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses planted in a Catherine wheel shape and instead of walking along beside tall hedges like a usual maze, you brush your way along narrow paths through overgrown plants.

We found another area over a wooden bridge. Ahead of us stretched a steep hill and an area of the garden which was obviously uncultivated.

Past the Maze was an area which was a delight for children, and parents with a rich imagination.

Willows were woven into a camp, and there were other natural amusements.

Lucy Dawes is working on having some pods in a field further on for future guests.

The gardens have two full-time gardeners, and also several volunteers.

In the morning, Lucy Dawes showed us in the main house, which is popular for weddings, then her father Sandys drove us around the fruit farms.

We parked in a field in the area where a music festival is held annually. The views were stunning in every direction.

There were just a few properties in the distance, and straight ahead were 500 acres of unspoilt woodland.

Below us were 40 acres of small apple trees; Gala, Bramley, Cox and Braeburn, which grow quick.

Further on were 20 acres of Conference Pears, and then the cherries, which were how we’d discovered Mount Ephraim.

Kentish Cherries. The Best!

The cherries are all grown under tunnels, as heavy rain can split them.

Also, the pickers can work when it’s raining, and the birds can’t get at the fruit.

There are 45 acres of trees, and the picking season lasts for six weeks. They are planted in double rows, and there’s room for a tractor.

Past the cherry trees are 10-15 acres of Victoria plums, then more apple trees on both sides of the track.

They hung on the tiny trees like Christmas tree baubles. They’re such a bright natural red that they look as though they’ve been sprayed with dye.  But no, they’re Mother Nature at her most colourful.

The farm has had a varied history, with money poured into it by Willie Dawes, nearly bankrupting the Estate.

From 1920 the farm was rented out to a farmer, but the family took it back in 1960 and have run it themselves for 60 years.

There is a row of caravans near the church where a group of Romanians stay once a year when they come to Kent to pick the fruit.

In the past, hops were grown on the land and the pickers would come from London and live there during the school holidays , bringing their families with them.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and it’s wonderful to see over 300 years of history carrying on into the 21st Century.

I’m really looking forward to next year’s cherries, and I do hope that we can return to Mount Ephraim again.

There’s still a lot to see there that we missed.