We hadn’t been to Mount Ephraim in Kent for a few years and I was reminded just how beautiful the gardens were by Julie Wassmer when she was researching her new book in the Whitstable Pearl Mystery series called “Murder at Mount Ephraim”.
It was a beautifully sunny day so we headed over to have a look around the gardens and to stop and have some lovely, freshly baked scones in the sunshine.
Mount Ephraim is a family home owned by the Dawes family, throughout many generations. The family have owned the house for over 300 years since 1695.
The house and gardens are on a ten acre estate and it is open to the public from April to the end of September each year. You can also stay in the house all year round either B & B or self catering.
Where is Mount Ephraim
Mount Ephraim is just outside Faversham in Hernhill, East Kent.
The History of Mount Ephraim
The word “Mount Ephraim” is thought to have come from the bible, as other parts of the land have been named after biblical characters such as Joppa, Jacob’s Field and Land of Beulah.
The land has belonged to the Dawes family since the 1690s, first to William Major William Dawes and then passed down to Colonel Bethel Dawes who was the governor of Walmer Castle and the Mayor of Deal. Then to Thomas Dawes and Charles Dawes and then to the Reverend Charles Thomas Dawes (1793-1863).
Sir Edwyn Dawes had the house rebuilt in 1878 and the gardens were started in the early 1900s by his son and wife, Willie and Jeanie Dawes, who employed 12 gardeners to help them create some of the gardens that you see today.
Willie Dawes passed away in 1920 and having spent most of his inheritance on the house and gardens, his son Sandys wasn’t left with much to tend to the house and gardens.
The main part of the house was requisitioned by the army in 1939 and troops stayed there throughout the second world war.
After the war, the gardens had to be restored and this was done by Sandys’s son Bill Dawes and his wife Mary in the early 1950s.
The gardens were opened to the public in 1985 after Bill sadly passed away. Mary and her son Sandys and his wife Lesley continued to run the house and gardens.
They put in a tea room in the old kitchen and helped to develop the estate for visitors which helped to pay for the upkeep.
Mary tended the garden until she passed away aged 93 in 2009.
The gardens you see today are tended to by 2 full time gardeners with some help from part time gardeners and volunteers.
The house and gardens are now run by Sandys and lesleys’ children Will and Lucy Dawes with help from Jenny Dawes and her husband Greg.
The original house at Mount Ephraim was a much smaller building built in 1695. From 1820-1870 it was used by the Vicar of Hernhill, the Reverend Handley. He was thought to have planted some of the trees in the grounds.
The house that you can see in the garden’s today was built by Sir Edwyn Dawes. The old house had to be demolished as it was riddled with dry rot. Sir Edwyn was a wealthy ship owner who was the chairman of the New Zealand shipping company in 1890.
He moved back to his family home in 1870. A new much grander building was built from 1878 using red brick and stone with big Georgian style windows.
The inside has a beautiful cantilevered staircase and marble columns and is a late Victorian Grade II listed manor house. The house was extended in 1913 adding on a West Wing.
The house has beautiful views of the garden and the surrounding countryside.
We parked up in the ample car park at the back of the estate and paid our entry fee and were given a map and guide to the different areas of the garden.
Walking down from the car park to the rock garden you get a good view of the grounds and all the spectacular colours of the trees and plants. It really does take your breath away.
The Rock Garden
The Rock Garden is simply stunning, such beautiful colours and waterfalls. This was built from 1920-1912 by Willie and Jeanie Dawes.
It consists of a Japanese styled bridge with a series of pools with mini waterfalls cascading down between them. The rocks used to create the garden were from a quarry near Maidstone. It also has two pavilions that are used for Weddings.
It’s the perfect place for photographs as it’s such a stunning part of the grounds. Teaming with colour and so many different varieties of plants and trees.
You can stop and listen to the water gently cascading down between the ponds and watch the pond wildlife going about their business.
There are spring bulbs, cherries, dwarf rhododendrons and azaleas surrounded by lots of shrubs and large conifers. Just when you think you have seen the best bits of the garden from the entrance you are left mesmerized by the next part of the gardens.
The lake was added to the ground in 1912. Apparently it was dug by unemployed Welsh miners who dug it all by hand.
It’s truly a beautiful place to walk around with lots of places to stop and just take in the view. The water for the lake comes from springs and the Blean Hill stream and is apparently full of a lot of different types of coarse fish.
There’s a large family of ducks living there who were quite happy to have their pictures taken. We stopped for a while here just to take it all in.
The Water Garden
The Water Garden was created in 1990 by Rick and Aida Sturdy, who are notable landscape gardeners.
It can be found opposite the Lake and it consists of a stream and a small water cascade. It’s surrounded by mixed shrubs and trees and is a lovely peaceful area to walk around, teaming with wildlife.
The LIttle Wood
The little wood is on the far side of the lake up the hill. You can see rhododendrons, oak trees, a canopy of bluebells, Solomon’s seal and hundreds of daffodils.
We walked up the hill wondering what we would see next and were greeted with an amazing array of trees in every shape and every colour.
The hill was designed by the Sturdys. It’s been artificially created and from the top you can see Blean Woods and you get a fantastic view of the Mizmaze.
Before you get to the mound you walk through an amazing area full of different types of trees including acers, gum trees, cirches, crab apple and loads of different types of trees.
It really is quite stunning to see so many different types of trees all in one place. All the trees are labeled which I thought was a lovely idea so you can see which ones are which.
We loved going from tree to tree trying to guess what type of tree it was.
This area is called the Arboretum and was created to celebrate Mary Dawes’ 80th birthday and to also celebrate the 300th year anniversary of the Dawes owning Mount Ephraim.
It’s a fantastic area and such a lovely tribute to Mary and the Dawes family.
We walked up the hill to a really large fir tree and had a great birds eye view of the Mizmaze.
The MIz Maze
It is thought that there was a laurel maze planted in the woodland at Mount Ephraim in 1916 and this was in the shape of a Mizmaze.
A Mizmaze was apparently an ancient labyrinth made of raised turf paths. They were thought to have been created by Monks to give them a space to exercise and a place to meditate.
The current Mizmaze was created by Sarah Morgan in 2004 and was designed using ornamental grases and herbaceous perennials which create a “catherine wheel” of colours.
It really is quite stunning and great fun to walk around. It’s really lovely with so many vibrant colours and so full of wildlife. I loved the idea of the free standing door as the entrance to the Maze.
The Mizmaze was chosen as “Miz” was coincidently the nickname given to Mary Dawes who lived at Mount Ephraim from 1950-2009.
The Millennium Rose Garden
I love roses and know how hard they can be to grow. This garden had a spectacular array of roses and was obviously a great pride and joy to the gardens.
The Millennium rose garden was designed by Nigel Lee Evans featuring rose arches on Wrought iron.
There is a huge variety of roses planted by Sarah Morgan which gives the garden a beautiful colourful hue and delightful scents.
The Cricket Ground
Opposite the house you can see the cricket pitch and pavilion. This is Sparrows Hill cricket ground and is used by Boughton Cricket Club.
Topiary Garden and Herbaceous Border
This was planted from 1910-1911 and you can find it leading up to the tea room. On the outside of the garden there is a beautiful and stunning border of shrubs and roses. It’s full of colour and texture with a variety of border plants from the traditional to the more unusual.
In the middle of the garden comes the “piece de resistance”. Two rows of immaculately trimmed yew hedges in the shapes of birds, animals and first world War memorabilia.
It’s absolutely fantastic and great to wander around and look at the different creations. A truly stunning garden and a perfect place to stop and have a cuppa and home baked delight.
Staying at Mount Ephraim
Mount Ephraim has 5 luxury guest rooms for Bed and Breakfast or Self catering. The rooms are available all year round and you can enjoy exclusive access to the garden when booking these rooms.
The Bed and Breakfast is available from Thursdays to Saturdays and the holiday self catering part can sleep 12 people in 6 double bedrooms and 2 shared bathrooms with a large kitchen diner, games room and two sitting rooms.
A beautiful setting for a wedding, Mount Ephraim is licensed for ceremonies and can hold up to 100 people for a wedding breakfast or 175 for the evening reception.
It can also be hired for private parties or corporate functions.
The Tea Room
The tea rooms are just by the Topiary Garden and are located in the West Wing of the house.
You can grab freshly made sandwiches, cakes, cream teas, ice creams and hot and cold drinks from the serving hatch at the side of the house.
There’s plenty of seating outside and seating indoors if the weather is rainy.
We stopped there after our tour of the gardens and I had a lovely cold apple drink and a freshly baked scone with jam and cream. Delicious.
Mount Ephraim is a stunning garden to walk around.You can tell it’s been a labour of love for the generations of the Dawes family.
They have created a beautiful garden full of so many different types of plants and trees and the colours are so breathtaking . My pictures simply don’t do it the justice it deserves.
It’s a lovely walk too and it’s such a peaceful and tranquil place for everyone to enjoy. It definitely comes highly recommended from me.
There’s a lovely playground for children to enjoy just by the maze and delicious freshly baked goodies to be enjoyed from the cafe. What more could you ask for?