This weekend, after purchasing our Christmas tree from Moors Valley, we thought we’d continue the festivities and paid a visit to the Christmas Fayre at The Larmer Tree Gardens in Tollard Royal. The Gardens sit on the border between Dorset and Wiltshire, and are something of a hidden gem. Ben has a connection to the family who owned the estate, so there’s somewhat of a vested interest (as well as the fact that the leading three day event rider, William Fox-Pitt, also has family ties to the estate) although I do feel we’d still be as enchanted by its charm even if we didn’t know the backstory. Best known these days for the annual Larmer Tree Festival held every July – which we were lucky enough to be given day tickets to two years ago (and I want to go back next year!) – the gardens are actually only open from Sunday-Thursday between March & September, so the Christmas Fayre was a one-off opportunity to see the gardens in the throes of winter.
A little nugget of info that I hadn’t realised until I sat down to research this blog post was that the Larmer Tree was the first private gardens opened for public enjoyment in the UK, way back in 1880 when Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers inherited the Rushmore Estate. Pitt Rivers spent years making the gardens what they are today, and structures – such as the Nepalese Room and the Colonial style pavilion pictured below – appear at sporadic intervals between beautifully manicured lawns and broad-leaved woodlands. The wooded areas are mesmerising – it’s clear a lot of time has been invested in intertwining the many trunks and branches to create an almost-hypnotic effect.
I also didn’t know that in the summer, picnics are encouraged with free use of the deckchairs, croquet equipment and open air music on some Sunday afternoons!
Onwards to the Fayre, which to my mind was pitched just right – about two dozen stalls all under cover in the beautiful Pavilion (a fascinating building which blends new and old architecture perfectly) – with a choir outside, complimentary mulled wine and Grounded Coffee Co, who sell freshly ground coffee from the back of their converted Defender (the dog was quite cute, too!).
The stalls had clearly been carefully chosen to fit in with the surroundings, and as such was a treasure trove of rustic Christmassy goodness. After much deliberation – I could have bought it all! – I finally settled on a dried wreath, in beautiful pale greens and oranges.
We left with lighter wallets and warm bellies and went in search of some sustenance – unfortunately we hadn’t booked anywhere so weren’t able to get into our favourite pub, but if you’re paying a visit to the Larmer Tree and are feeling peckish, I can highly recommend The Museum Inn in nearby Farnham for both ambience and fantastic food. We ate there about a month ago and the seabass was incredible!
The Larmer Tree is open between March and September, Sun-Thurs, and the Festival runs for five days every July – tickets are on sale now.