East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens
East Ruston Old Vicarage
East Ruston Old Vicarage is the home of Graham Robeson and Alan Gray. Their magnificent 32-acre garden is one of the most spectacular horticultural attractions in the UK. But the best news is, it’s less than a mile from Boundary Stables (just 15 minutes’ walk), and you can actually see the gardens from the courtyards of Fieldfare and Kestrel, and also from the Paddock.
In 1973, when Graham and Alan bought East Ruston Old vicarage, the house had been standing empty for two years, and the two-acre garden was just a wasteland of wild grass. By the time the lovely old house became a permanent home to Graham and Alan, in the mid-1980s, the garden was looking pretty good, due to lots of TLC during the pair’s weekend visits from London, over the intervening years. Gradually, as beautiful and rare plants thrived under the green fingers of Graham and Alan, the garden itself grew, and it has become home to many animal species that had been lost as a result of modern farming methods.
Belts of Italian alders (Alnus cordata), Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus, of which there are hundreds of species) provide shelter for many other plant species. The garden’s microclimate is so successful, and the variety of flora so diverse, that it was among the first six gardens to be approached by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) with an invitation to be a Partnership Garden. Graham and Alan were delighted to be in a position to raise money for this charity, and East Ruston Old Vicarage is the only private garden to be asked by the RHS to carry out plant trials.
The garden is divided into themed sections, including the Woodland Garden, where the fun starts early in the year with aconites, snowdrops, and primroses. The Desert Wash is designed to resemble parts of Arizona; the Apple Walk is planted with old-fashioned varieties of eating apple; and the Winter Garden offers a cheeky glimpse of Happisburgh Lighthouse through a porthole cut in the shelter belt. Other areas of the garden include the Dutch Garden (featuring, of course, tulips!), King’s Walk (an immaculately kept lawn, bordered by ten obelisks of yew), Tree Fern Garden, Rose Garden, Exotic Garden, Mediterranean Garden, and Diamond Jubilee Walled Garden.
East Ruston Old Vicarage is also the home of many types of birds, including the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the barn owl (Tyto alba), the goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), and the long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) – a tiny bird, vulnerable to hypothermia, that takes sanctuary in the sheltered garden. Another resident of the garden is the endangered hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius). The avellanarius (meaning ‘hazel’) is the only extant species of the genus Muscardinus (one of 11 genera of the dormouse family), and it is protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
After a gentle stroll around the gardens, you can relax in the cosy tearoom or in the pretty Tea Garden with a cuppa and a slice of cake, or maybe a delicious home-made lunch, prepared with produce grown at the Old Vicarage. Before leaving, why not have a look at the Nursery Garden, where there are plants for sale – all propagated from Graham and Alan’s own stock.
The Old Vicarage Gardens are easily accessible to wheelchair users, there are disabled toilet facilities, and for RHS members, entrance to the garden is free.
Our five single-storey cottages at Boundary Stables, each with level access and convenient wet-room showers, are ideal for couples, young families, dogs (accompanied by their humans), and those with restricted mobility.