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Garden Design Projects in Dorset

We have compiled a selection of Rumbold–Ayers' most recent garden design projects in Dorset. Click on the “read more” links below to see the full story:

Large Country Garden, Dorset/Wiltshire Borders

A Garden Design near Shaftesbury Dorset Summary: Landscaping of ¾ acre garden, including a new swimming pool and terraces, pergolas, formal lawn and parking area.
Location: Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs AONB
Scope of work: Conceptual Plan, Construction Details, Hard and Soft Landscape Specifications, Planting Plan, Construction Monitoring


Plan of a large country garden design near Shaftesbury Dorsetthe site

The site lies within the “greensand hills” landscape of the Vale of Wardour - an area characterised by small, rounded hills interspersed with stream and river valleys, a large proportion of woodland, and mostly small, irregular fields bounded by hedges with hedgerow trees.

The garden extends to circa ¾ acre on a roughly south-facing slope and has good views to the east (towards Wardour Castle), and to the south-west, albeit being somewhat windswept. The 19th Century greensand and brick house has been extended in several phases, resulting in a pleasingly informal, vernacular appearance.

the brief

The challenging brief called for significant changes, whilst still retaining extensive lawn areas. Although the garden already included some mature elements, the clients had several specific new features in mind:

  • a swimming pool, and
  • an outside dining area, both to be sheltered from the prevailing winds;
  • a new kitchen garden, in a sunnier and more convenient location,
  • a softer visual transition to adjoining paddocks, and
  • an enhanced driveway and turning area.

Further, the arrangement of the driveway led visitors to the kitchen door, rather than the more impressive front door on the south elevation of the house. The clients wanted the option to encourage visitors to the front door, without sacrificing the existing sense of privacy in the garden.

Views of a large country garden design near Shaftesbury Dorset

the design

A swimming pool can look rather depressing in our English winters, even if it's covered, and so we decided to locate it a little away from the house, where it won't be too obvious, but still close enough to avoid the need for a separate pool house for changing etc.. Pergolas to the north and west, together with the existing boundary fences and hedging, combine to create a sense of privacy and offer some shelter from the wind. The sandstone paving around the pool extends into a sunbathing area on the north side for maximum sun.

There is always a special magic about waterside dining, and so we sited the outside dining area along side the pool. It too is sheltered from the prevailing winds by the pergolas and the lowered elevation of pool area. The dining area is defined by contrasting brick paving.

Although there is something to be said for a vegetable patch that has been cultivated for many years, vegetables and herbs are much more conveniently located close to the back or kitchen door, in full sun, and accessed via an all-weather path. Hence, we moved this to the south facing embankment close to the house.

The original driveway didn't really allow enough space to turn a car around - something one would generally expect with a larger property such as this, and the parking arrangement led one naturally to the kitchen door. Although there wasn't enough room for a turning circle, we were able to create additional turning space and parking for three cars, with a wide path and steps leading to the front door. A line of removable oak bollards, and a row of pleached trees help to guide visitors to the front door, despite it not being directly visible as one enters the driveway.

Areas of un-cut meadow grass, and a shelter belt of carefully placed trees extending into the adjoining paddock, blend the garden into the wider coutryside, and help to provide shelter from the wind. Strategically placed gaps in the tree planting offer views to the landscape beyond.

Swimming pool large country garden design Shaftesbury Dorset - see more photos on   Garden designer Salisbury Wiltshire on Houzz

Large Country Garden, Dorset

Large Country Garden Design Dorset Summary: Re-landscaping of entire ⅔ acre site, following house extension and swimming pool construction
Location: Blackmoor Vale
Scope of work: Conceptual Plan, Construction Details, Hard and Soft Landscape Specifications, Planting Plan, Construction Monitoring


Large Country Garden Design Dorset 2the site

The circa ⅔ acre site is set on the edge of the Dorset vale - a gently undulating patchwork of fields, hedges, woods, and trees. The garden comprised principally lawn, with a more naturalistic area of mature trees and uncut grass beyond the stream that crosses the property. A substantial timber-clad extension had recently been added to the original brick and render cottage, and stables and a swimming pool also recently constructed.

the brief

The overriding objective was to bring the disparate elements within the site together into a cohesive whole. Rumbold-Ayers were awarded the design after two previous garden designers had declined the commission due to the perceived difficulty of the task.

The considerable investment in swimming pool, stables and house extension had been undertaken without the benefit of an overall masterplan, with somewhat unsatisfactory results. Key challenges included:

  • the swimming pool location and alignment;
  • linear features that emphasised the isolation of the house from the garden;
  • the stable block design and location, which undermined the sense of arrival.

the design

We completely re-landscaped the swimming pool area, with wide steps leading from the kitchen/diner up to a poolside dining terrace, and a more discrete poolside lawn area for sunbathing. The pool is now the principal outside entertainment space, with carefully planned planting to provide a sense of seclusion and privacy.

From the dining terrace the main route of flow continues past ornamental planting out onto a sweeping lawn, with uncut grass and landscape trees towards, eventually arriving at a small pavilion - an ideal spot to sit and enjoy the summer sun. Continuing around the lawn brings one back to the house passing under the pergola beside the terraced kitchen and herb garden and down the steps to the sunken courtyard.

The steps leading up from the sunken courtyard are aligned with the French doors from the study, and lead to a pergola that takes you out to the lawn beyond, creating a strong link with the garden beyond. The pergola also provides a visual backdrop (and enhanced privacy) for views from the dining terrace and pool. The kitchen garden is subtly integrated into the terracing, in a sunny spot conveniently close to the house. This sweeps away the linear retaining walls and hedge that ran parallel to the house and effectively isolated the garden beyond.

The arrival experience has been enhanced by painting the timber stables to match the house, giving a more domestic rather than agricultural feel, and by clipped box, pleached trees and iron “estate” rails”, to create a crisp and tidy appearance. Carefully placed “Versailles” planters further enhance the formality.

- construction scheduled to start Q2/Q3 2014.

Heroes Haven Swanage, Dorset

Dorset Garden Design for Disabled Servicemen Summary: Garden design for holiday home for disabled ex-servicemen
Location: South Dorset AONB
Scope of work: Landscape Plans, Landscape & Visual Impact Assessment and Design & Access Statement, Hard and Soft Landscape Specifications, Planting Plan, Maintenance Specifications


Dorset garden Design for Disabled Servicemen 2introduction

We were approached by Heroes Haven Swanage, a registered charity established to provide holiday accommodation for severely disabled ex-servicemen, who had been offered a plot of semi-derelict agricultural land within the South Dorset AONB. To secure planning permission we would have to demonstrate the project would enhance the AONB landscape.

the brief

The design brief was to plan the use of the site to accommodate a 2-bedroom chalet (caravan), with parking, access and associated garden and landscaping. Full planning documents, including a Visual Impact Assessment, were prepared.

design process

The first step was to evaluate the plot and its surroundings, and to identify the best location for the cabin, access ramp and deck, and parking. Suitable access around the site was required for all kinds of disabilities, including multiple amputees and the visually impaired. Since the cabin is considered to be a caravan, for planning purposes, we would need to obtain planning permission for all landscaping aspects (which otherwise fall within permitted development rights normally associated with a dwelling).

The recessive setting, avoiding the skyline when viewed from nearby rights of way, and the specification of native hedging and tree species appropriate to the AONB, were key to securing the support of the local planning authority.

The garden was laid out with almost imperceptible gradients, which nevertheless climb from the arrival area up to the main deck that gives access to the front door. A substantial retaining wall around the central sunken garden, set into the sloping ground, gives a reassuring sense of security – an aspect many PTSD sufferers find to be essential to a relaxing environment.

The central part of the garden comprises a gravel “sensory” garden, with scented plants such as lavender and Nepeta (catmint), and a lawn area where children can play. The outer parts will be planted with a mix of herbaceous perennials and shrubs chosen to enhance the sense of enclosure and seclusion.

Heroes Haven Swanage opened in April 2012. Fund raising continues, to enable planting to be completed as soon as possible.

- hard landscaping completed spring 2012

Designing a Dorset Garden

If you're looking for further garden design inspiration, Dorset has some great gardens that are really worth a visit, including:
  • Knoll Gardens near Wimborne, is owned by Neil Lucas, a leading proponent of ornamental grasses – lots of contemporary as well as traditional planting ideas, and an on-site nursery shop.
  • Mapperton, near Beaminster – terraced sunken gardens in a formal, Italianate style.
  • Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens near Weymouth – exactly what it says on the tin, plus camellia groves and magnolias, and a noted rhododendron and hydrangea collection.
Dorset has a remarkably complex mix of landscapes, and consequently there is perhaps no such thing as a "typical Dorset garden". Steep chalk downs extend from Cranborne Chase in the east to the Blackmoor Vale in the west. South of the downs lies a huge area of sandy, acid heathland (much of it now under Bournemouth and Poole). Limestone and chalk ridges characterise the Purbeck coast, also with oil-bearing shale, and there are areas of clay vale in between. Hence, whichever part of Dorset, the garden designer must pay careful attention to the site conditions and its immediate surroundings.

So, if you're wondering what to do next, why not call us for an informal chat on (01722) 714443.

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