News Update – June ’13

A Miscellany of Trips  

The last few weeks have been very eventful, featuring a number of trips of one form or another, involving:

  • A visit to Preston, nr Canterbury, to look at a beautiful Pulham garden that, for some reason or another, managed to evade all the Pulham databases, so it can now be officially recorded for the first time.
  • A potentially disastrous trip on a trip to London.
  • A personal trip to a Pulhamite Celebration at Bawdsey Manor, Suffolk, and
  • A very successful trip at Shipton Court, Shipton-under-Wychwood, with the Oxfordshire Gardens Trust.

Elmstone Court – a Rediscovered Pulham Garden near Canterbury

In October last year, Martyn Cox, Gardening Correspondent for the Daily Mail, wrote an article about the gardens at Elmstone Court, Preston, near Canterbury, and mentioned that they had been constructed by James Pulham and Son.   This was interesting, because I had never heard of them before, and they are not included on any known Pulham database.   This was obviously something that had to be investigated, so I contacted Patricia Simpson, the present owner of Elmstone Court, who kindly invited Val and myself to visit.  

130600-1 - Elmsotone Court - Cave Group 

Val Christman, Patricia Simpson and myself outside the entrance to the grotto at Elmstone Court

Thanks to an incredible amount of hard work invested by Patricia and her late husband John, over the last few years, these gardens have been completely brought back to life, and are in incredibly good condition.   There is quite a large grotto, a lovely flight of rustic stone steps, rockwork planting pockets galore, and a delightful small bridge that is a small version of the ones in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, as described in Chapter 30 of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy.   My account of our visit is written up as the June edition for our regular Site of the Month feature – see

An Accidental Trip on a Trip to London

Friday 3rd May was not a good day for me.   I was setting out on a trip to London with my wife, Pat, when I tripped on the bottom of a flight of steps and cracked my left humerus just below the shoulder, which means that I shall be walking around with my arm in a sling for the next couple of months or so, and unable to go on long car journeys etc.   Thankfully, the initial pain and bruising has subsided, but several of the ‘normal’ things in life, such as washing, dressing and food preparation etc are temporarily quite a bit less ‘normal’ than ‘normal’.  

 130600-2 - In the Wars

A welcome break for the Temporarily Incapacitated

A Pulhamite Celebration at Bawdsey Manor

Val and I were invited to a ‘Pulhamite Celebration’ at Bawdsey Manor on Saturday, 11th May, hosted by Ann and Neils Toettcher.   As I was unable to travel, my place was taken by Val’s father, Jack Sexton, who, like Val, is a professional landscape gardener, and who – like their ancestors – specialise in the creation of rock and water features, and have created a number of award-winning gardens at the Chelsea Show in recent years.   This was a private function, so cannot be reported or pictured here, but sufice to say that Neils and his family are doing a wonderful job in restoring these gardens, and helping to preserve their part of our Pulham heritage.   The gardens at Bawdsey – including their unique 300-yard long and 40-ft high Pulhamite cliff – are discussed in detail in Chaptef 19 of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy.

 130600-3 - Bawdsey Group

Ann and Neils Teottcher with Val Christman and her father, Jack Sexton, at the Bawdsey reception

Presentation at Shipton-under-Wychwood

The next trip that I had to miss was to the Shaven Crown, in Shipton-under-Wychwood on Saturday 18th May, where Val and I were scheduled to do a presentation for the Oxfordshire Gardens Trust – an event that was sold out some weeks in advance, and to which I had been greatly looking forward for some time.   But it was not to be.   However, Val took over the whole presentation, which was greatly enjoyed by all those present.   One of the guests was Chris Pulham, another direct descendant of the Pulham family – and consequently one of Val’s distant cousins – and the person to whom I am mainly indebted for his family’s genealogical research that I was able to use in my book.   He and Val are shown in the accompanying photograph.

130600-4 - Shipton by Bee Shipton Court on a murky Saturday in May (left), and Jane and Chris Pulham with Val and Kevin Christman

Following lunch, the guests spent a most interesting afternoon looking round the Pulham gardens at Shipton Court – discussed in my Site of the Month feature in November 2012 at   These gardens date from 1919-20, and are one of the later creations of the firm.   The weather was very gloomy and overcast, but the atmosphere brightened considerably when the vistors were entertained to a most generous and enjoyable tea, laid on and hosted by two residents, Paul and Martin.

Dates for Your Diary

We have two more important presentations to make in Wales at the end of September, by which time I am determined to have totally recovered from my present restrictive situation.   These are:

Thursday, 26th September, 2 p.m.

St Paul’s Parish Centre, De La Beche Road, Sketty, Swansea, on the NE tip of Singleton Park, Swansea.   West Glamorgan Branch of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust.   Organiser:  Ann Gardner,

Saturday, 28th September, 10.15 a.m.

Dewstow Golf Club, Caerwent, Monmouthshire, South Wales, NP26 5AH.    Welsh Historic Gardens Trust.    After the presentations and book-signing, there will be a light buffet lunch, followed by tours of the wonderful Gardens of Dewstow – NOT TO BE MISSED!   Admission £25 inclusive of lunch and garden tour.   Organiser:  Helena Gerrish,, 01600 860005

We hope that you will be able to attend one of these events, and very much look forward to meeting you there.   We have prepared a special DVD montage of more than 200 images that illustrate the tremendous range and versatility of Pulham’s work, and this will be shown during the assembly of guests, prior to the presentations.   There will be a Q & A session after the presentations, and signed copies of my book will be available at the Special Presentation price of £25 (RRP = ££5), so book early to ensure your place, and get there early to enjoy the pictures

Stop Press

Saturday 25th May.   The Saturday Live programme on BBC Radio 4 contained an item by John McCarthy, describing a tour of the Pulham Gardens at Dewstow with their owner, John Harris.   This piece resulted in a five-fold increase to the average daily number of visitors to!   Come and join us to follow in their footsteps on 28th September, and read all about these wonderful gardens – with their pools, cascades, tunnels and subterranean grottoes – in Chapter 22 of:

Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy

Is The Perfect Present for a Garden-Loving Friend

Click on, and you’re half way there!  

Best Wishes – and looking forward to better weather! – to all our Followers

 Claude Hitching

(+44) 1707 323391

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