This seaside site was once a derelict mussel purification station but now it's been transformed into glorious coastal paradise
It's an idyllic scenario that many of us dream of. A garden next to the sea, with gorgeous outlooks and bracing walks nearby. Somewhere to sit, relax and look out across the ocean. The reality of such a garden, however, is a little different. Coastal gardens look beautiful on still days, but are often a scene of destruction when strong winds blow in from the sea. The salty, sand-laden air mean that plants have to be chosen carefully and need to be as tough as old boots to survive the conditions.
These were some of the trails and tribulations of Jackie Michelmore and her husband, Will, when they first moved to The Lookout, a former industrial site which perches on the east bank of the Exe estuary. It hunkers down behind a belt of thorn and tamarisk that protect it from the worst of the prevailing south westerly winds. Jackie and Will work with the undulating typography of the garden and it's indigenous coastal trees and shrubs.
Jackie says, "The Garden is somewhere that looks like Mother Nature definitely has the upper hand, and the wide range of soil types was an added challenge to planting the garden."
The design of the garden embraces the elements that challenge this exposed location. It's very much a wildlife-friendly garden, with native plants, lots of ornamental grasses and meadow style perennials. The hundreds of plants in situ have been selected and 'sea trialed' for their ability to withstand wind, salt and drought. And, to make life as easy as possible for Jackie, are low maintenance.
The circular walk around the garden takes you from an area of 'jungle planting', through banks of grasses, a wildflower meadow and wildlife pond, into a ferny copse and back through wilder shoreline planting to a Mediterranean courtyard garden. There are lots of vantage points where you can enjoy the views, both inside and outside the garden. GN's own Carol Klein, called it 'truly inspirational'.