Bishops Avenue, Fulham Palace Road, SW6 6EA
Until 1973 this was the home of the Bishop of London. Once surrounded by the largest moat in England it has been occupied since prehistoric times. The garden of 1760 has remained largely unchanged. The sweeping lawn is surrounded by one of the best collections of trees in London with a huge holm oak over 500 years old. It rests majestically on its supports while tubby squirrels play tag along its branches. Here in Fulham they make a pretence of collecting supplies for winter, but there never seems to be a sense of urgency to their foraging.
A Tudor arch leads into the Walled Garden. This used to be like The Secret Garden, with a giant, unruly wisteria and the scattered remains of an orchard. It is gradually being restored and while it has lost the forgotten feel, it remains charming. The glass house has been beautifully reconstructed, a working kitchen garden created and more fruit trees have been planted. None of the trees are particularly old but many have lichen-encrusted branches and twisty stems. The new saplings are mere sticks supported by stout stakes, but in time a proper orchard will grow up. Beyond the Walled Garden is a small woodland area and also the Palace’s meadow, which is a sea of wild flowers in summer. The drawing room cafe sells light lunches and excellent teas. You can sit looking out over the lawn or picnic in the seclusion of the garden. Even in winter the view is lovely.
Nearby, Bishop’s Park runs alongside the River Thames. It has also recently been restored with a beach and ornamental lake. The only sad part of this story is that Fulham Palace Garden Centre at the end of Bishop’s Avenue closed earlier this year. We were threatened with a branch of a giant pet shop chain, but this fell through. Apparently the site has to be used for some sort of horticultural business; it seems so sad that they didn’t leave us with the lovely garden centre we already had. Jane.