A walk around Cliffe Garden

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It’s always interesting and inspiring to look around other people’s gardens – you can see tried and tested plant combinations, get ideas about garden landscaping and gain hints and tips from other keen gardeners. Visiting gardens is even better when that garden has beautiful views over the sea, the sun is out and you’re on holiday! Whilst staying in Lee, North Devon, we took a wander to visit Cliffe Garden, which was open as part of the National Gardens Scheme.

Originally a field on the steep hillside overlooking Lee Bay, the 5 acre Cliffe Garden was first created in the 1920s by the owners of the adjacent Cliffe House. During its history, the garden has seen many changes. During WWII, the garden was maintained by two gardeners, with part of the garden turned over to food production.

By the 1960s, eight gardeners were employed! Now, the garden is again tended by two gardeners, one of whom is Gill Heavens who very kindly shared some of the garden’s history with me. As you enter Cliffe garden through the wrought iron gates, you find yourself amid sloping paths and well stocked flower beds.  You are then led to the lawned area, beyond which are the more formally planted terraces, overlooked by the summerhouse. There is also a wooded area, a vegetable patch, a fruit garden and an Edwardian greenhouse. There’s a lot to see!

Cliffe Garden


The plants that populate Cliffe range from the traditional to the exotic. Pink tinged Cosmos wave gently in the sea breeze, providing wonderful colour contrast with the blue sea behind.  The orange Crocosmia look stunning when viewed from the lower terraces, with the late afternoon sun making them glow.

As this part of North Devon is often referred to as Fuchsia Valley, the garden also features many of these delicate blooms – the dark purple blousy fuchsias were the ones that caught my eye. I asked Gill how she chooses what to plant in the garden – she said as they are great lovers of plants, they tend to pick them up wherever and whenever they can. They also grow a lot from seed. To find out more about the huge variety of plants growing at Cliffe, visit Gill’s blog at ontheedgegardening.wordpress.com – it’s well worth a read.


It is clear that a lot of work goes in to keeping Cliffe Garden looking its best. The steep paths and steps mean everything has to be moved in wheelbarrows or carried by hand, and the garden gets no direct sunlight from mid November to mid February. Not to mention the strong wind that blows in off the sea! When we were there, Cliffe had also had a recurrent deer-shaped visitor who had chosen the terrace flowerbeds as a naptime nook. Not ideal! With all of that to contend with, I think Gill and her team have got their hands full!

Cliffe garden

I’d love to hear about gardens you’ve visited and loved. Where would you recommend?

Thanks for reading!