The story behind the gardens
Homeyards Botanical Gardens were created during the 1920’s and 30’s for Maria Laetitia Kempe Homeyard. Her husband William had invented and manufactured a very popular patent cough syrup called Liqufruta. They used their fortune to buy Ness Cottage at the east end of the gardens and many of the steeply sloping patchwork of fields above the picturesque village of Shaldon.
Following William Homeyard’s death in 1927 Maria continued to create not only the large private garden but also built 54 distinctive houses which completely transformed the hillside above the village. With the guidance of garden designer William Sears, Maria created an informal terraced arboretum with a level walk along the top providing many views over the Teign estuary and across Lyme Bay.Mrs Homeyard died in 1944 and there being no heirs, Teignmouth Town Council bought the gardens in 1950 for a nominal sum. Currently under the stewardship of Teignbridge District Council, admission to the Gardens is free and they are open all year round.
A book about the history, Aturfuqil’s Shaldon is available from local shops and Teignmouth Museum. A ‘blog’ maintained by the Friends of the Gardens lists items of news and developments in the Gardens: http://shaldonbotanicals.wordpress.com/
Trees and plants
365 trees and shrubs were reputed to have been planted but only a few of the originals survive, among them: Three fantastic Weeping Beech (Fagus sylvatica Pendula) specimens dominate the lawn area around the Italianate gardens, the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus X andrachnoides) a native of Greece and the large Monteray Pines (Pinus radiate). More unusual recent plantings include the Maidenhair Tree (Gingko biloba) and 3 Tree Ferns (Dicksonia Antartica).
William Sears had designed the famous Italian garden at Lindridge and used a number of similar features in this area of the Homeyards Garden. From the disused Gardeners Hut, now a roost for lesser horseshoe bats and swallows, the central steps lead down to a rectangular lawn. Remains of a rose covered bower have recently been discovered as have broken pieces of a memorial bench and table Mrs Homeyard set up in honour of William Sears . . . ‘thoughts go deep’. At each end of the lawn there are classical balustrades and beyond, now rather overgrown, rockeries planted up with Mediterranean style plants.
Pond and Rill
The rill flows down through a series of 3 smaller ponds into the larger pond below; this was stocked with huge ornamental Japanese goldfish in Mrs Homeyard’s day. The area has recently been replanted and it is hoped that this water feature will run as a closed circulatory system in the near future.
The Witches Cave
This small grotto constructed of Torquay limestone is reputed to be where ‘Old Mother Gum comes down from the woods at dusk and takes tea in her secret cave’.
Mrs Homeyard entertained her friends to tea and bridge in this ‘summer house’. Its lead roof was stolen many years ago but remains of the weather vane and flag pole can still be seen. It’s hoped to refurbish this important feature of the Gardens and external funding opportunities are being sought.
Pick up a leaflet on Homeyards from Shaldon Tourism Centre.