23rd to 26th September 2020:

from plot to plate: Chefs gardens & potagers

A garden tour hosted by Sarah Wain, recently retired as the inspiration behind the famous West Dean Kitchen Gardens and led by Sophie Piebenga.

This tour explores ways in which we can all become happily more productive, to learn from the ‘experts’ how to grow the finest kitchen garden produce throughout the year and in many cases, how to use all that is grown in the most delicious ways. We have chosen a contrasting selection of the very best examples of kitchen gardens in the West Country: We are taken from the plot to the plate at both THE PIG-at Combe and at Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s  River Cottage; at South Wood Farm we see Arne Maynard’s design for a productive potager and we glimpse true estate gardening at Edmondsham House and ask ourselves “to dig or not to dig”- as this is currently the key question, especially when faced with the splendour of Charles Dowding’s own No Dig garden.  Our host, Sarah Wain was the inspirational force behind the restoration of the famous Kitchen Garden of West Dean, Sussex and we are delighted to welcome her to the Boxwood team. The tour is based at the Georgian Summer Lodge Hotel in the Dorset village of Evershot where they too have a small kitchen garden.  All the bedrooms are divinely pretty and comfortable, the food is of the highest quality and the staff could not be more caring; you will be warmly welcomed.


Day 1: Wednesday 23rd September

The tour starts at Bristol Parkway Railway Station at 09:15. Those that wish to bring their own cars to the hotel will be transferred at 10:15 to the first visit, THE PIG-at Combe in the secluded Otter Valley. There apparently is a saying in Devon that ‘if you stick your finger in the ground it will grow’, and the kitchen garden here is the productive beating heart of this small specialist hotel that is part of the growing number of ‘piggeries’ owned by Robin Hutson, all of which put a big emphasis on growing excellent fresh produce on site for the Chefs to choose from.  At The PIG-at Combe there is a kitchen walled garden, herb garden and infusion garden that we will be shown as well as offered a Chef’s tasting. Then onto the traditional kitchen garden at Forde Abbey that still supplies the house and the estate. A cream tea will be included in the visit. Travel on to Summer Lodge with time to settle in before dining together in the award-winning restaurant with wine included.

Day 2: Thursday 24th September

River Cottage is the name of the old farmhouse, garden, kitchen classroom and headquarters of writer & broadcaster Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and his enthusiastic team. We visit the working organic small holding before sitting down to a delicious lunch straight from the garden. We then venture to the edge of the Blackdown Hills to South Wood Farm, one of Arne Maynard’s most all-round pleasing designs. The garden enwraps a 17th century thatched farmhouse and includes a nuttery, orchard, trained fruit and a beautiful productive potager.  Return to the hotel with time to change before dining together at The Acorn Inn, a few steps up the lane.

Day 3: Friday 25th September

At Kingston Lacy Victorian Kitchen Garden, we discover a fascinating complex of immaculately restored glass houses that includes a Vinery, Orchid house and a small sunken glass house. There will also be time to visit the adjoining Kingston Lacy Community Allotments. In the 1940s there were 1.4 million allotments in the UK. This has now dwindled to around 330 thousand but with more wishing to grow their own, waiting lists are huge throughout the country. We then continue to Wimborne Minster for free time to find your own lunch followed by a visit to Deans Court that has a 18th century ‘serpentine’ wall. It was the first organic garden in the country to be accredited by the Soil Association. The last visit today is to Edmondsham House, where the walled kitchen garden has been organic for 35 years and ‘No Dig’ for 16 years Head Gardener, Andrew Haynes will talk us through the running of this highly productive garden. Return to Summer Lodge to dine together in the hotel restaurant.

Day 4: Saturday 26th September

Owner, Chris Smith will welcome us to Pennard Plants where we discover one of the largest selections of edible plants, heritage and heirloom seeds, fruit and herb plants to be found in the UK. In the nearby village of Alhampton, Charles Dowding will show us his remarkable productive patch and talk us through the ‘No Dig’ principals.   The new gardening buzz in the West Country is The Newt. Here we are introduced to the decorative kitchen garden and learn how the wonderful array of top fruits are being trained to be productive and decorative. Lunch is included on arrival. The coach will then return to Bristol Parkway Railway Station for 17:00 hrs and for those that need to collect cars you will be returned to Summer Lodge by 16:00.

How much & what’s included:

Price per person: £2595

(Single supplement of £300 levied by the hotels)

The price includes: three nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation at Summer Lodge; three dinners with wine (two at Summer Lodge and one at The Acorn Inn); plus three lunches as stated in the itinerary, and transport from Bristol Parkway Railway Station or Summer Lodge. The price does not include extras or travel insurance. Please note that hotels used by Boxwood Tours are invariably hotels of character featuring a variety of rooms & styles.

Joining Arrangements: Depart Bristol Parkway at 09:15 and travel to THE PIG-at Combe by coach. Alternatively, if you wish to take your own car to Summer Lodge at 10:15 we will arrange transport for you to join the group at the first garden. On the last day, the coach returns to Bristol Parkway (17:00) and we will arrange for transfers back to the hotel by 16:00 to collect cars.


Arena Tours Ltd is a company committed to customer satisfaction and consumer financial protection. We are therefore pleased to announce that, at no extra cost to you, and in accordance with ”The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018” all passengers booking with Boxwood Tours are fully protected in the unlikely event of our insolvency, please contact us for further details.

 ABTA Travel with confidence