CareMoor for Ashcombe Gardens
Restoring the Picturesque landscape of Simonsbath.
Survey work in 2001 revealed the existence of a forgotten garden at Ashcombe, Simonsbath. Laid out by the Knight family in the 1820s, the gardens were part of a Picturesque designed landscape, that includes White Rock Cottage, the old School-house and Gardener's store. Sadly, never fully realised the gardens were gradually lost. The Simonsbath project has been set-up to investigate and sympathetically renovate the gardens and landscape, working with the local community and volunteers to bring this important part of Exmoor's heritage back to life.
Ashcombe is a remote, sheltered, wooded valley high on Exmoor at Simonsbath with a rushing moorland stream running through it. It lay within a vast area of moorland for 1000s of years and then in 1820 it became the subject of a vision to create a wild garden close to a Georgian mansion that was being built at the same time.
Although the gardens were never finished, paths and the traces of little stone bridges remain lost within areas of laurel, sitka spruce and ash that had taken over the valley. The creators, John and Jane Knight, also revealed great white rocks and partially diverted the stream to make a flower garden.
Since 2019 a small group of volunteers have been working to bring the garden back to life. But almost immediately ash dieback tragically led to the felling of around 30% of the tree cover. During 2020 it also became apparent that the sitka spruce were infested with a beetle which would eventually kill them and they too were felled in autumn 2021. Undaunted by the devastation that these losses caused, there was also a sense that there was an incredible opportunity to reawaken the original garden vision of a wild valley with rocky outcrops, waterfalls, native trees in diversity and exotic species that were available in 1820.
Thanks to funding from CareMoor, the Somerset Gardens Trust and support from Exmoor Parish Council volunteers have now planted around 200 native trees including hornbeam, hawthorn, yew, juniper and box, as well as some exotic species. We have also sourced some wonderful water loving plants from Venn Nurseries and have so far planted 300 greater tussock sedge and 50 flag iris.