River Wissey Lovell Fuller

A Day Out In Norfolk

July 2003

Another in this irregular series

A small party of us set out one Sunday to go to Elsing Hall, a beautiful Grade 1 Historical Monument, very much today as it was when it was first built in 1470. Elsing is a small village some six miles south-east of east Dereham, and proved quite difficult to find: the Hall is about two miles out of the village.

Our trip was mainly to see the gardens as we were all members of Ruthe Gray's Gardening Club. However, on seeing the house, our breath was taken away by its beauty. On the north side, the original porch and oriel window front the great hall, whilst on the left there is a chapel and on the right a large cooking area. The south side, though, is so much more interesting. It comprises two projecting half-timbered gables with stepped barge boards with herring bone infill between the framing. Covering this lovely exterior are hundreds of old-fashioned roses, their fragrance enriching the air.

There is a moat (more like a river actually) around the house, bordering which are flower beds, shrubs and specialist gardens such as the yew and lavender gardens. Some of the plants are quite unusual; indeed some are very rare. There is also a water rain, a device for pumping water into the house, and a fish stew, a pond where fish are bred for eventually ending up in the kitchen. To appreciate the gardens properly, you should leave at least an hour, at the end of which a trip to the lovely old kitchen is a must. There you can have a delicious slice of any one of many home-made cakes with a cup of tea. You can also contemplate how the owners, Mr and Mrs Cargill, with the help of one handyman, manage to keep the grounds and gardens in their, most beautiful condition.

Elsing Hall is only open May - September on Sunday afternoons. Entrance charge is very reasonable at £3 and, as you leave, you can buy some of the plants that are grown there. Unfortunately, the house is not open to the public (except the kitchen) but the gardening paradise more than makes up for that. Try to go, you will not regret it.

Graham Forster

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