Being avid readers of Gardens World, my wife and i decided to make the 100 mile round trip from our home in Torbay via the beauty of Dartmoor to visit Stone Lane gardens. The drive was wonderful and due to the good weather we saw Dartmoor at its majestic best. Upon finding Stone Lane gardens things got progressively weirder by the minute..
Firstly we found a car park notice which (confusingly) appeared to direct us into a farm yard within which a farmer appeared to be busily engaged in shearing his flock of sheep.
As the yard gate was securely closed, I asked if this was indeed the car park for the gardens. He stopped his shearing and opened the gate, directing us through the farmyard to a field behind the farm outhouses.
I would think you would easily miss the car park if you thought the sign misleading as we first did.
Having parked the car there was another sign directing us back into the narrow lane system and saying that we should walk "200 yards further down the lane and find the garden entrance there". Again, if the weather had been less kind, you could get pretty wet during the walk to the entrance. At the 200 yard point we found another sign telling us to pay our admission at the fram house before crossing the road and entering the gardens proper....I wonder how many people actually just walk straight into the gardens?
We duly entered the farmhouse yard and found another sign directing us to the farmhouse door and an 'honesty box' within which we were asked (by yet more signs) to leave our entrance fee. For those with just notes, there was a ceramic bowl containing several pounds worth of coins as change!
At no time did we see another living soul,,,things seemed really weird and there was an aura of hippydom about the place.
My wife said it was like something out of Alice Through the Looking glass, especially when we saw yet another sign directing us to the toilets. The stipulated door leading into what appeared to be a scullery building complete with someones klitchen table and kitchen sink, alongside of which was a (working?) shower (presumably for customers use if they got too hot during the garden walk or 200 yard walk to the entrance!
Having completed our experience of abject honesty, we crossed the road and entered the garden complete with map kindly provided on loan from the farmhouse outbuilding adjacent to the 'Honesty box'.
Not sure why a map was needed as the 'garden' path system is essentialy so easy to follow you are able to complete a full circumference of the 'garden' in about 45 minutes (and that includes a 15 minute stop for a picnic lunch). The 'garden' is not much more than a large field which has at some time had several dozen birch trees planted randomly within its confines.
To give some contrast, there are 3 or 4 'ponds' half of which are so overgrown you can barely recognise them as ponds at all..
Unless you have a fetish about birch trees and pretty second rate pieces of moss encrusted 'scupltures' you won't find very much to inspire you at Stoney Lane.
Was the trip worth the effort?
Only in that we had a good day out driving through Dartmoor to visit the place.
The entrance fee is only £5, but in all honestly, it's barely worth that.
Only consider this a visit if you are very close by and are bored out of your mind for something to do....go and visit one of the other more noteworthy gardens that abound in Devon and Cornwall.
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