FEATURE: Couple reveal labour of love to restore historic mill and gardens in Bures
Nick Temple had not anticipated stumbling across his future home at the dentist.
While flicking through an old edition of a County Life magazine, an advertisement for a property on the River Stour caught his eye.
Convinced that the historic site would no longer be available, Mr Temple was pleasantly surprised to find it was still for sale.
Keen to embark on an ambitious project with his wife, Elizabeth, the couple became the proud, new owners of Bures Mill in 1994.
“When we arrived at the site, there were a lot of modern outbuildings, so we had to be determined to tackle the demolition,” says Mr Temple, whose previous project had involved the restoration of a 15th century thatched cottage.
According to records, there has been a mill on the site for 1,000 years.
In 1140, a large mill was built, which, over the centuries, has undergone extensive renovation, with industrial work having ceased in 1990.
A charming house was built beside the mill in 1640, along with more than two acres of garden to mirror its grandeur, which has since become a labour of love for Mr and Mrs Temple, who have four grown-up children.
Encroached by the River Stour, the conditions have enabled both plants and wildlife to thrive.
“The garden is entirely surrounded by water, so it is, in effect, an island,” says Mr Temple, who will be welcoming visitors on tours around the site during this year’s Bures Open Gardens weekend on May 25 and 26.
Over the past quarter of a century, the couple, who run a private psychiatry practice in London, have developed the extensive green space, while ensuring the additional features remain in keeping with its original design and rich heritage.
“We have extended the theme of box hedges by developing an elaborate knot garden, which is based on a 16th century French design from the cover of a poetry book,” explains Mr Temple, whose knowledge as a keen sailer has proved invaluable with mastering the meticulous technique of knots.
Box hedging is a prominent feature in the garden, which also serves as a barrier against flooding in the winter months, when the garden has been known to become saturated in 18 inches of water.
“Fortunately, the box hedges seem to cope well with the flood,” says Mr Temple.
Having replaced some of the original hedging, yew hedges have been planted, which provides borders between the various sections within the garden.
A concoction of fish bone and blood fertilizer is administered regularly to ensure the hedging thrives and remains healthy, while they continue to become more established.
Peonies, snowdrops and daffodils are just some of the flowers which have flourished in the garden.
“The roses planted 80 years ago have reached the end of their life, but have since been replaced,” says Mr Temple.
Some of the older varieties have been reinstated, along with David Austin’s English roses, while climbing roses have become well established among the trees, with a variety of species including Paul’s Himalayan musk and kiftsgate.
“We get a lot of pleasure from the rose gardens,” says Mr Temple.
Raised beds containing lavender – a flower which the couple are very fond of – along with irises, have been cultivated in the garden.
Being members of the Royal Horticultural Society, the couple are regular visitors at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show in London, where they have gained a vast amount of knowledge and advice from professional gardeners.
“We naturally absorb information and tend to get a lot of help there,” says Mr Temple.
With home-grown produce in abundance, the garden provides a rich supply of fruit and vegetables.
The orchard contains an extensive variety of apples, including Norfolk biffin, D’Arcy spice, discovery and George Cave.
The asparagus bed, which was established 70 years ago, continues to thrive, while fruit from the medlar and quince trees are turned into preserves.
“It’s a very tasty jelly for putting on meat,” says Mr Temple.
Maintaining and developing the garden has proven a constant learning process for the couple, who have discovered that using sticky bands is good as preventing woodlouse from eating the berries which grow on mistletoe.
The river provides a thriving habitat for wildlife, including watermoles, herons, reed warblers and cuckoos.
“The river is very active and is also used by otters, but we don’t tend to see them much as they’re nocturnal,” says Mr Temple.
The summer houses provide a good viewing platform for spotting kingfishers.
One of the houses was transported from their previous home in London, while the other dates back to the 1850s.
Two statues have been showcased in the garden, one of Venus, the Roman goddess, while the other portrays Thomas Gainsborough, the Sudbury painter, as a young boy.
“Venus is more classic, whereas the statue of Gainsborough reminds me of the one on Market Hill in Sudbury,” adds the 74-year-old.