Mansard House is part smallholding, part garden and part wild; surrounded by Suffolk wetland – meaning we are never short of water or wildlife. My children share the natural swimming pool with a kingfisher, and in the evenings we can watch the barn owl hunt over the field. Rarities include yellow wagtail and nesting turtle dove.
The woodland is mostly alder and crack willow, but I have planted many new trees to liven things up a bit. I like to leave it fairly unkempt with the odd patches of nettles and brambles but we do have a good population of watercress in the streams.
Our main field is managed for wildflowers producing about a dozen round bales of hay a year.
Ragged robin is abundant, creating a pink mist in the spring followed by early purple orchids and the odd bee orchid in areas poached by our livestock.
Closer to the house I have a ‘pseudo-meadow’ where I have introduced species. Yellow rattle is slowly gaining a hold on the rank grass species enabling good populations of oxlips and snake’s head fritillaries.
Perhaps the jewel of Mansard House is the walled garden, complete with crinkle-crankle walls and over 40 fruit trees in espalier, cordon and fan forms. We are almost self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit if it weren’t for the fact that Chelsea Flower Show takes its toll in the labour department each spring. The flower beds around the house are mostly full of mementos from previous show gardens.