Mannington Hall Gardens
Mannington Hall Norfolk NR11 7BB
When she was a student, Lady Laurel Walpole dreamed of running the British Museum; she ended up doing perhaps the next best thing: managing the historic Walpole estate in North Norfolk, which she married into in 1980. She and her husband Lord Walpole have lived at Mannington Hall, a moated medieval manor house, since the 1960s, and during this time they have been custodians of the family archives and have opened up the hall's beautiful gardens, which encircle the house. They encompass a classic rose garden, full of almost extinct varieties and best viewed in early summer, a sensory garden full of plants selected for their appeal to all five senses, a ruined church and a willow tunnel and playground for kids. Behind the house and moat is a small lake with a path all the way round, while in front of the house, the Greedy Goose tea-rooms serves up excellent sandwiches and snacks, cakes and scones, with homemade jam to die for. During recent years, the Walpoles have also started to run themed tours of the ground floor of the house, showing you around themselves and thereby giving a very much inside story on the property and its history. Once you've seen Mannington, drop by at the estate's other property, Wolterton Park, two miles away, which is open to the public one day a week and the rest of the time is worth a visit for its grounds, ruined church and lovely countryside walks.