Outing to Antony House in September 2023

Devon, better known for its cream teas has orange elephants, a nickname for South Devon cattle, which may account for the bright orange elephant (African type) looking over a hedge with an ice cream cornet: clever advertising by an ice cream company.  Into Cornwall and crossing the Tamar by ferry with only a short drive past multicoloured Cornish stone walls and Scots pines to Antony House.   

The house built in 1721 replaced previous properties securing the Lynher estuary for the medieval port of St Germans.  The Carew-Poles are still in residence after 600 years, which may account for an eclectic echo, where children and ancient Chinese ornaments reside together.  Unfortunate red brick changes were made to the house at the beginning of the 20th century and removed by the son in 1947, the bricks buried in a quarry so they would never be reused.  In 1792 Humphry Repton was commissioned and produced one of his garden design Red Books for the incumbent Carew, but only part of the design was followed, mainly the woodland planting under which during WWII the American Forces laid hardcore to park and hide their tanks from enemy aircraft.  

The entrance to the house is enchanting with a classical ball and pillared wall connecting redbrick, stone and cupolaed service quarters on either side of a round lawn and drive, the ornate entrance gateway facing an over large portico but the whole giving a sense of peaceful enclosure.  To the north the Queen Anne façade is unadorned except for a high wall covered in wisteria, part of the demolished ‘mistake’, and curtailed by a gentleman in armour raised aloft.  The open aspect below wide steps leading down through terracing of lavender and rose borders gives two enchanting views, through parkland and the separate Antony Woodland Garden,down to the River Lynher and the Forder Viaduct.  To the east there is a Japanese pond, and an original red brick dovecote leads the eye to an arch way off in the distance.

In the opposite direction past a cone sculpture fountain are the garden rooms which are separated by tall, dark yew hedges and what would have once been a walled garden, now secretive behind locked distressed doors.  A wide walk past a conical clipped yew tree house and a stunning gothic wrought iron gate leads to a Burmese temple bell and continues around the walled garden, mown edging separating the herbaceous border and climbing fruit trees from the garden field, and an extraordinary flowering tree, then into the bothy.  This hot gravelled area of old service and garden sheds then leads quietly through a picket gate into the summer garden, a froth of planting around a central sundial, broken by pockets of deeply coloured gladioli and roses. Through thick yew doorways is a modern knot garden with Lutyens benches, somewhat surreal in simplicity, and enclosed lawns where work is in progress.

On leaving, Jupiter Point overlooking the house, is where a white rabbit once scampered down his hole, perhaps the large safe situated in a garden shed is a remanent, or a repository for their national collection of day lilies.  As for cream teas… the scones were delicious sat under the café colonnade.

A Froth of Planting

Text & Photos by Sarah Herring