by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:29th August 2023

Exploring the beautiful hillside estate

We continue to explore the magnificent National Trust sites around the southeast of the UK. On this occasion, we’re heading to Emmetts Garden, the hillside retreat in Ide Hill, Kent.

Emmetts Garden is an Edwardian estate located on one of the highest points in Kent. From these wonderful gardens, you can enjoy far-reaching views across the beautiful Wealden countryside and the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The delightful gardens you can explore at Emmetts today have been lovingly managed and manicured by the National Trust since 1964, when they were bequeathed to the trust by Charles Boise.

Visiting Emmetts Garden will also allow you the opportunity to head to the nearby National Trust site of Chartwell, the exquisite family home of Sir Winston Churchill.

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However, why not include both sites on a circular road trip from the nearby town of Westerham.

So, let’s grab our National Trust cards and discover Emmetts Garden.

Where is Emmetts Garden

How to get to Emmetts Garden

Emmetts Garden’s GPS is TN14 6BA or you can find it by using What3words ///vouch.ramp.smiled

- By Train
The nearest mainline station to Emmetts Garden is Sevenoaks,4 ½ miles away. A taxi rank is at the station.

- By Car
Emmetts Garden in Kent is 1 ½ miles south of the A25, nearby the village of Sundridge, located just a few miles south of the M25.

There’s a free car park for National Trust members; parking charges may apply to non-members.

A little bit of history on Emmetts Garden

Rare global species in Kent

Prior to 1860, Emmetts Garden was sweeping farmland, a beautiful house was built high on the land and in 1893, the banker and passionate plantsman Frederic Lubbock purchased the estate.

Frederic Lubbock adored plants and trees and set about creating the delightful Edwardian garden that you can enjoy today.

Deep lush planting in the rockery of emmett's gardens consisting of ruby red acers, deep green specimen trees and a path meandering between them
The striking rock garden

Frederick enlisted the help and extensive knowledge of his friend William Robinson, a well-respected horticulturist, writer, and garden designer. Between them, they began to create the fascinating gardens filling them with rare and unusual species of trees, shrubs, and plants from around the world.

Lubbock crafted different components of the garden, including a magnificent rockery, a scented rose garden, ponds, and a bog garden, as well as planting a vast number of trees.

A view of the rose garden at emmett's to the countryside of the kent weald beyond
View across the Rose Garden

Frederic Lubbock died in 1927, and Emmetts Garden was acquired by American geologist Charles Boise. Charles wanted to ensure the continuity of the garden was kept and continued to employ Frederic’s head gardener George Tylor for another 34 years.

Although Boise made various alterations to the garden, the core origins of the estate were preserved.

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Exploring Emmetts Garden

Step into Discovery Cabin
Strolling through the National Trust visitors centre, you’ll wend your way up beneath a dappled canopy of towering trees. Spotting lush shady planting along the way and tree stumps embracing their next vocation in life, a welcoming home to thousands of tiny insects and local wildlife.
Spires of purple flowering foxgloves in among the woodland undergrowth, next to a rotten tree stump in emmett's gardens in kent
Purple Foxgloves; a gift to wildlife
Reaching the top of the shady walk, you’ll stumble upon the Discovery Cabin. This characterful log cabin wouldn’t look out of place in a Huckleberry Finn novel.
The wooden discovery cabin within emmett's gardens with views overlooking the weald of kent
The Discovery Cabin
Step inside to uncover the history of Emmetts Garden, which is brought to life through the tales and images of the Lubbock and the Boise families.

Where to stay near Emmetts Garden

Willow Cottage
This beautiful holiday home with exposed beams is in the heart of Westerham and surrounded by some delightful restaurants and shops. It’s around 1.7 miles from Chartwell and offers free parking.

The Kings Arms Hotel
This charming pub is in the centre of the historic town of Westerham. It has plenty of amenities on your doorstep and offers a full English breakfast. It’s around 1.7 miles from Chartwell and offers free parking.

Emmetts Garden Rockery

A voyage of discovery
This was one of my favourite spots in Emmetts Garden, the enchanting Alpine and Rock Garden; you can even meander through the centre along the snaking pathway.
A rustic stone pathway through Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden, weaves it's way between the planting.
Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden

You enter the Rock Garden along the top path through a charming little wrought-iron gate. Immediately your eyes are flitting everywhere, trying to observe all the tiny plants nestled amongst the light-coloured rocks.

Here you’re at the highest point of the Alpine and Rock Garden; the delightfully crooked stepping-stones guide you down through the rockery as you admire the thoughtful planting along the way.

The dappled shade provided by ruby red acers and lush green ceders in Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden in kent
Exploring the Rock Garden
The beautiful and delicate garnet-coloured Acers offer dappled shade as you stroll through. As the gnarly Kentish ragstone stretches high above, so many tiny flower heads poke through the loose gravel it’s impossible to spot them all.
A pathway through Emmetts rock garden with ruby red acers and alpine planting either side
Follow honey-coloured pathway

What I especially loved in this rockery was that there were plants from across the world and hardy British species planted amongst the rocks and boulders.

Minute little alpines gave way to heathers, feathery ferns and sedums; it was so thoughtfully planted throughout.

A small waterfall flows over the rocks in Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden into a small lily pond.
Lilly Pond in Emmetts Rock Garden

As you wend your way along the honey-coloured pathway to the bottom of the rockery, you’ll discover one of the many ponds located throughout Emmetts Garden. This lily pond was alive with different species of wildlife enjoying the fruits of the National Trust’s gardener’s labour.

In the near future, we will add a rockery within our own garden; visiting Emmetts has given us plenty of inspiration.

If, like us, you enjoy visiting the National Trust gardens around the United Kingdom, then grab yourself a copy of the latest ‘Gardens of the National Trust’.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and it won’t be long before you’re planning your next trip.

Emmetts cornflower meadow

It brings a smile to your face
As you step outside the enclosed rock garden, the views across the local landscape are beautiful. From here, you can also admire the Wildflower Meadow stretching into the distance. The wildflower meadow at Emmetts was laid to lawn by Lubbock and then turned into a golf course by Boise; today, it attracts all the local butterflies and bees.
A densely planted meadow of blue cornflowers and tall golden grasses at emmetts garden in kent
Cornflower Meadow

Just nearby the Wildflower Meadow is the Tulip Meadow; this meadow has been planted with tulips since the Lubbock family owned the estate.

As we visited Emmetts Garden in early summer, the tulip meadow evolved effortlessly into a cornflower meadow. It was awash with a sea of enchanting azure cornflowers.

This stunning section of the garden was captivating as the exquisite blend of delicate cornflowers and golden ears of corn made me smile.

Hiking the Kent Countryside

Westerham is located within the picturesque region of the Kent Downs and just a short distance to the High Weald. They are both Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). To explore the hiking trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey map that will help you along the route is no. 147, ‘Sevenoaks & Tonbridge’.

Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.

Emmetts Rose Garden

Simple yet elegant

The formal Edwardian Rose Garden at Emmetts is a particular showpiece of the garden and was created by Frederic Lubbock for his wife Catherine between 1910 and 1920.

The Rose Garden lies in front of Emmetts House, so it was easily accessible for the Lubbock family to stroll out of an evening amongst the captivating, scented blooms. Today Emmetts House is private, so you are unable to visit.

A bronze nymph atop a fountain at the centre of the rose garden at emmets gardens in kent
Emmetts Rose Garden

The Italianate rose garden continues to be meticulously maintained by the National Trust gardeners. It is the only section of Emmetts Garden that is formal in its design.

The main central feature of the Rose Garden is a modest circular stone pond and fountain filled with waterlilies. When Lubbock originally created the garden in the early 1900s, the pond was small and square.

The formal planting of the rose garden, framed by pink octavia Hill roses, at emmets gardens in kent
Pink Octavia Hill roses

It’s a beautiful garden to sit and relax in; the simplicity of just using a pink and white colour palette makes it even more striking in early August.

Wander up a couple of steps to the rose-canopied pergola to admire the unfurling Kent landscape.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

The North Garden at Emmetts

Planting from around the globe

As we amble further through Emmetts Garden, we effortlessly find ourselves in the North Garden and appreciate the views over Ide Hill.

The North Garden is delightful; you’ll feel like you’re on a journey of exploration. The winding paths lead you from one lush area to another, with extraordinary species of plants in all shapes and sizes.

A stepping stone path winding its way through the north garden at emmets gardens in kent
Top of the North Garden
The North Garden has gradually been restored back to how Frederic Lubbock would have once known it. At the top of the ridge is a flourishing pond, a paradise for the local wildlife and water-loving plants.
The lush cottage garden planting of the north garden at emmets gardens in kent
Across the North Garden
The ground gradually slopes down the verdant ridge to another large pond below. All around are rare species of plants collected from around the globe. The planting in the North Garden is such a credit to Lubbock and the horticulturist William Robinson.
A meandering path through the north garden at emmets gardens in kent
Winding path through the North Garden
You’ll discover an astonishing array of Japanese Maples, Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Azaleas; these provide dappled shade to smaller plantings below. Here you’ll also spot irises, anemones, fuchsias and crocosmias, to name a few.

Discovering more National Trust homes & gardens

We’ve visited many National Trust sites and explored their beautiful gardens, which are so meticulously kept. A few places that particularly stand out for me are Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Scotney Castle, Chartwell in Kent and Bateman’s in East Sussex & Nymans & Standen House in West Sussex.

The South Garden at Emmetts

Head off on a woodland walk

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more peaceful at Emmetts, we wend our way to the South Garden.

Here you’ll enter a Quiet Zone where you can sit and enjoy the enchanting sounds of nature. A gazebo also offers a place to rest those weary feet and appreciate your surroundings.

A small wooden gazebo overlooking the kent countryside in the south garden at emmets gardens
Gazebo in the South Garden

The South Garden is a relatively large area. It is home to exotic trees and shrubs, some of which are rarely seen in the UK and were brought back to England from international expeditions.

The South Garden, along with many parts of Emmetts, suffered greatly during the storm in 1987. Some species were saved; however, 95% of the surrounding woodland was lost. The path of recovery is well underway, but it will take years for mother nature to fully recuperate.

The lush planting in the south garden at emmets gardens in kent
The South Garden
From the South Garden, you can head off on a woodland walk. If you love Bluebells, then Emmetts Garden is the place to visit in late spring when the canopied woodlands cover a sea of delicate nodding bluebells.

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

A flavoursome pit-stop

In the Old Stables

There’s always time to enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake. The charming tearoom at Emmetts Garden is located in the Old Stables, just a short detour from the North Garden.

If you bring your own packed lunch, there is a spacious picnic area which overlooks the Wealden countryside by the entrance to the gardens.

Roses growing up the side of the old stables tearoom at emmets gardens in kent
Old Stables tearoom

Your loyal canine friends are also welcome at Emmetts; Emmetts Garden is given a three-pawprint rating. As long as your dogs are kept on a short lead, then you are free to wander throughout all the garden areas and woodland.

Go on, grab your National Trust membership card, and visit Standen House in West Sussex.

Our video of Emmetts Gardens

We have created a little YouTube video of Emmetts Gardens.  Why not take a look?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

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