Formal garden

On the edge of a secluded valley, deep in the Dorset countryside, is Mapperton House, a Jacobean manor house, and home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich.

The house itself is only open for a few weeks during the summer, but the gardens are open from the beginning of March to the end of October and were the reason for our visit.

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Meet my topiary man, called Peregrine. He has just received his annual clip and has been given new eyes, nose and buttons made from dried seed heads.

It’s a good time to trim box hedges when the weather is dull and before the frosts begin.

Topiary box man

This is an extraordinary house – Indian in style, yet built of Cotswold stone and set among the Cotswold hills. It was built c1805 for the Cockerell family (a descendant of diarist Samuel Pepys’s nephew).

John Betjeman, who visited as a student, mentions Sezincote in his poem ‘Summoned by Bells’: “Down the drive, Under the early yellow leaves of oaks… the bridge, the waterfall, the Temple Pool and there they burst on us, the onion domes.”

Sezincote, Cotswolds ©Lavender Hedge