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The Secret Gardens in Sandwich

Updated on December 11, 2016
SheilaMilne profile image

I have been living in the southeast of England for the last seven years, and still exploring the rich history the area has to offer.

The Salutation manor house and a small part of the Secret Gardens
The Salutation manor house and a small part of the Secret Gardens | Source

A Secret Garden at the Heart of an Ancient English Town

I've visited the ancient town of Sandwich many times now. On the way there you pass a signpost or two showing the direction to a place called "Salutation Gardens" but my curiosity let me down on this one and I've always assumed it was a garden centre. Wrong!

So I've always passed it by. I generally park by the quay and go for a stroll around the town enjoying the charming old buildings, narrow streets with interesting names (turning right at Breezy Corner but no further than Hogs Corner). Little did I know that within just a few yards was hidden the beauty of the Secret Gardens at the Salutation, almost in the centre of Sandwich.

What Are the Secret Gardens? A Little History

A manor house, called the Salutation, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as a weekend retreat for Henry Farrer, from London, and his two brothers. It was built in Queen Anne style between 1911 and 1912, on the site of an old inn. It is a red brick, two storey building with internal panelling thought, possibly, to have come from a demolished London residence. In 1950, the house was given Grade I listed status. It was the first 20th century house to be listed in that way, a demonstration if its importance.

Over time it was badly neglected but in 2004 restoration started and the whole place opened to the public in 2007. The gardens have been restored in Gertrude Jekyll's style, although there is no firm evidence that she was involved in the original design.

These days it is no longer a private residence but somewhere anyone can stay: luxurious bed and breakfast accommodation.

What is a Listed Building?

In England, buildings are listed if they have particular historic or architectural importance. The older they are, the more likely they are to be listed.

Of all listed buildings, only 2.5% are Grade I listed, and any "modern" building (after World War II) is looked at very, very carefully.

Starting at the Beginning: our first visit

The Long Border with a brick paved pathway
The Long Border with a brick paved pathway | Source

Just inside the entrance we were greeted with a profusion of colours and luxuriant growth as though we had escaped into another world, an oasis of peace and tranquillity. We could hear the outside world continuing on its busy way but it didn't disturb us in the least. We were in the Secret Gardens. Why had it taken us so long to find this secret?

And the Secrets Continue

A secret garden within the Secret Gardens
A secret garden within the Secret Gardens | Source

It soon became obvious that the Secret Gardens are so called not (only) because they are hidden from general view behind walls, but because there are so many smaller gardens within the whole, gardens you glimpse through greenery as you pass by. They don't cover a huge area compared with many gardens and estates, but there is just so much to see and enjoy that you'll have to pay more than a fleeting visit.

The Secret Gardens Within

Lake and island with seat
Lake and island with seat | Source

Gradually the gardens yielded up their secrets to us. There were about 15 separate sections to discover, wander around, and enjoy. And enjoy them I did. The Vegetable Garden was a delight, the White Garden an area of cool peace, the Holm Oak Walk scented with lavender. Each one had its own particular charm.

Colour Everywhere

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Walks and Paths Around the Gardens

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Formality or the Natural Look?

I don't know whether you'd say The Secret Gardens had a natural look but it is considered a "typical" English country garden, and very different from the formality of a French parterre garden.

Which do you prefer? Formal or natural?

See results

A Lutyens Style Bench

Lutyens style bench
Lutyens style bench | Source

There's a Pretty Tearoom Too

Table inside the tearoom with flower and sugar cubes
Table inside the tearoom with flower and sugar cubes

Don't leave before sampling one of the delicious cakes or light lunches on offer. The attention to detail you'll notice outside in the gardens themselves continues inside to the table settings.

If you can't visit, then the next best thing is to read

Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden: From the Archives of Country Life
Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden: From the Archives of Country Life

As you read this book, or even just look through the lovely illustrations, you will get a really good feel for the Garden at the Salutation. Even the cover illustration could be taken straight from Sandwich!


See For Yourself

How to Find the Gardens

In response to a comment, here is a map to show the position of Sandwich in the southeast corner of England. If you click on the + sign you can zoom in closer. If you also click on the Satellite button, you may be able spot the Gardens, though they look nothing from the satellite image. It's odd, they look small on the satellite image but when you're there, they seem large. It must be a Tardis effect!

They are open all year round, with free entry during the winter months.

Salutation Gardens Sandwich:
The Secret Gardens of Sandwich, The Salutation, Knightrider Street, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9EW, UK

get directions


Sandwich itself is very well worth a mention and in fact an article all of its own. It is one of the original Cinque Ports set up along the south east coast of England by Royal Charter in the 12th century. Many of the medieval buildings are still there and now carefully preserved. If you visit the Salutation Gardens, don't miss the opportunity to visit the town at the same time.

Post Script: After the Floods

High tides coupled with stormy weather on Friday 6 December 2013 resulted in an unprecedented tidal surge. Sandwich was badly hit by the floods and the Secret Gardens did not escape.

Ten years of hard work restoring the gardens to their former beauty disappeared in the space of two hours. The gardens were under two metres (six feet) of water. That in itself is bad enough, but this was salty water. Earthworms, essential to the well-being of a garden as any gardener will tell you, drowned, and plants and bulbs were ruined. Bridges and sheds were broken up by the sheer force of the water.

It took three days to pump the water out but not before £100,000 worth of damage was done.

Nevertheless, after a valiant effort, the gardens were re-opened the following spring and continuing hard work has restored them to their former beauty.

Please Stay a Minute and Say Hello!

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    • Joanna14 profile image

      Christine Hulme 

      4 years ago from SE Kent, England

      Your beautiful pictures capture this lovely place that I have enjoyed and nearly got a job at! Just sad it's now closed. Not sure what is happening to it now.

    • profile image

      sybil watson 

      5 years ago

      What a beautiful lens! I wish I were there right now - except it's the middle of the night for you, so maybe that wouldn't be best. I really enjoyed all of your gorgeous pictures.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      5 years ago from New Jersey

      We traveled to Sandwich several times when we lived in England. Wish we had known of these gardens at the time!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I enjoyed learning about the secret gardens. The photos are beautiful.

    • JadeHandmade profile image


      6 years ago

      What a beautiful garden!

    • GramaBarb profile image


      6 years ago from Vancouver

      I'm so happy to have stumbled upon your delightful lens. If ever I could go to England this garden would be on my list of places to visit.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      I love discovering secret gardens. These are lovely!

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      This looks like an incredible place! I am honored that you linked my Arts & Crafts lenses to this beautiful page. Thank you so much!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Oh I wish I could visit!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great great lens

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 

      6 years ago

      Great lens ! I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rosaquid profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for this charming little mini-vacation. I chose your lens for my Dream Vacation Quest. Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Glad to hear about this place & wonderful photos!

    • profile image

      coolmon2009 lm 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful place and interesting lens

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      looks like a beautiful place to visit! *blessed

    • fugeecat lm profile image

      fugeecat lm 

      6 years ago

      The garden looks beautiful!

    • SheilaMilne profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      @jptanabe: The tearoom is a must! :)

    • SheilaMilne profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      @Soapmarked: Done! :)

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 

      6 years ago

      I have been to Sandwich but I missed the gardens. Likely because it was the wrong tome of year (february), but I did catch the lovely local market day. :). I absolutely love your photos and writing.

    • Soapmarked profile image


      6 years ago from TX

      How beautiful! Would you consider adding a map so those of us who are ignorant of geography can see where you were? Pretty please?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a beautiful lens... really enjoyed it!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a 'feel good' lens. Thanks much for the 'pick-me-up'!

    • Joanna14 profile image

      Christine Hulme 

      6 years ago from SE Kent, England

      Yes- I've visited this place too- so beautiful. Your photos are lovely- a good representation- well done!

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      It looks so lovely! If I ever get to visit Sandwich I'll make sure to visit the Secret Gardens, and stop in the tearoom of course!

    • pheonix76 profile image


      6 years ago from WNY

      Thanks for taking us along on this beautiful journey. :) Looks like a nice spot to sit and read for a day.

    • Liz Canham profile image

      Liz Canham 

      6 years ago

      I love the photos. Thanks for publishing them.

    • Snowsprite profile image


      6 years ago from Cornwall, UK

      What beautiful gardens have you ever visited Cornwall there are lots of NT and private gardens to see?

    • SheilaMilne profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      @Snowsprite: I've seen the Eden Project and Trebah Gardens, both fantastic. I really would love to see the Lost Gardens of Heligan but my excuse for going to Cornwall has gone, unfortunately, so it may be a while.:)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Love th pictures. This is truly a wonderful garden.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice photos presenting the beautiful flowers.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      6 years ago from Concord VA

      Wow, thanks for the beautiful tour and photos. And, thanks for your visit and comment to my butterfly bedroom lens. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very beautiful garden. It looks like a wonderful place to visit. Blessed and pinned to my SquidAngel board.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      6 years ago from UK

      My wife and I love visiting gardens, one of the things we spend a lot of time doing. This one looks great and I would love to "do" it. One of these times when we are in the area I will have to make a detour. It is not an area we tend to visit often however, unfortunately. Still I have your photos as second best, thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Oh what can i say, in one word - Beautiful....:)

    • AishwaryaTiwari1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Picture Perfect !!

    • NausetViews profile image


      6 years ago from Boston

      Beautiful photos and lens!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful garden, yes I like natural... and the combination of color. Very well done lens... Blessings!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Such beautiful photographs - thanks so very much for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      What beautiful gardens Sheila. Blessed.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a wonderful discovery you made and thank you for inviting us along on this beautiful tour of the Secret Gardens. I just had to page up and down several times and would guess that you did something similar as you went back and forth to the various gardens with gardens within gardens showing off their beautiful secrets. This would be a day well spent in lingering....beautifully presented!

    • intermarks profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a beautiful garden. I love garden with pond or small river.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm actually in the process of a big garden project, and i just got a few ideas from you. Thank you. Lovely lens.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      6 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Beautiful pictures! Enjoyed your lens immensely.

    • Monica Ranstrom profile image

      Monica Ranstrom 

      6 years ago

      How beautiful! Thank you for sharing this amazing garden!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a beautiful place.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      Thank you for a delightful write-up about the gardens; we're really pleased you enjoyed your visit - and that you finally succumbed to curiosity and popped in for the day.

      We hope to see you again soon. Our Dahlia festival will be in full swing at the beginning of September and we'll have hundreds of them on display throughout the many 'rooms'.

      Best regards,

      Jon (The Secret Gardens)

      P.S. We have a book written and ready to be published, detailing the history, folklore and legend of the garden. Keep your eyes peeled for it soon!!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      This is amazing. I would love to visit this site someday. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a cool find.

    • alidabdul profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful place, I like it :)


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