West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton

Another Day Out In West Norfolk

June 2004

The Editor reports on a delightful day out at Ryston Hall

Another Day Out in West Norfolk - Ryston Hall

Ryston Hall, between West Dereham and Denver, opened its gardens to the public on three Sundays last month. We decided to take a wander through the delightful settings, some of which date back to the 17th century.

For those of you who don't know Ryston Hall, it was built by Sir Roger Pratt in 1670. The cost of building the house was £2,880. 18s 18d of which £13.16s.6d was spent on laying out the garden! I wonder if I could get hold of the builder or the gardener, or both. The original gardens were formal in design enclosed by a brick wall on both the North and south front. A 1635 map shows no woodlands on the Ryston Estate whatsoever. In the 18th century the walls were taken down as the formal gardens were replaced by parkland. The bricks from the walls were probably used by Sir John Sloane who extended the house in 1789.

Today's boundaries of the formal gardens had been fixed by the end of the 19th century when the garden was a mix of densely wooded areas to the east and west, intricate formal flower beds on the south front, an orangery and rock gardens. In the latter part of the 20th century the Rhododendrons and Azaleas took over from the laurel bushes and what a colourful spectacle they make. The flower beds on the front lawn have gone and the conservatory on the east side of the house was taken down before it collapsed. The Arboreal garden contains a range of botanically interesting trees which are considered by the Norfolk Historic Gardens Survey as approaching its best.

The hall and gardens are approached by a long winding drive whose entrance is close to Ryston church. Our first stop was about a hundred yards along this drive when we spotted those most delightful annual visitors, Egyptian Geese and Pink-Footed geese. There appeared to be several breeding pairs spread either side of the drive. The hall itself is home to several chickens, quail and a small flock of guinea pigs. The latter group being safely contained within the wall garden.

We, as early arrivals, had the added pleasure of being directed around by two of the Head Gardener's children. They took immense delight in leading us to the walled garden to introduce us to their pet animals and birds. They even showed us an up-turned but broken pot in which a hen was sitting on her eggs.

To complete the visit, the Hall Tea Rooms were opened to the public and the gardening team offered a wide range of basket and bedding plants at reasonable prices. Although not blessed with the sunshine of last week, the weather allowed us to amble through the gardens at our leisure and made sure we had an enjoyable afternoon.

Ray Thompson

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