AN eight-acre garden in Kingsbridge is set to open its doors for the fifth time in aid of St Luke’s Hospice this weekend.

Lower Coombe Royal will be inviting people once again to explored the historic gardens developed by John Luscombe in 1840 on Sunday May 7 from 12.30pm to 4.30pm.

Visitors can take a peaceful stroll around the hidden sanctuary, relax in the water gardens and enjoying watching the birds and ducks to the sound of the stream running by, or sit on the wooden benches dotted around the valley admiring the beautiful views, seasonal colour and magnificent specimens of cameillias, magnolias, rhodendendrens and specimen trees.

The Coombe Royal estate used to supply oranges and lemons from the citrus arches to Buckingham Palace hence its royal connection.

A smaller house was built on the estate and the estate separated up in the early 1900s and Julie Grove-White and her husband Paul Williams now own Lower Coombe Royal where they have glamping and self catering accommodation.

Julie, who is also a busy doctor, said the garden openings had raised between £8,000 and £10,000 since they began.

“We have loved opening the garden for St Luke’s,’ she said. ‘It’s a great charity. We have lived here for six years and feel bad that it is such a lovely place and so close to everybody and yet nobody gets to see it.

“A lot of the garden was planted in the late 1800s and we have some very very old camillias and rhodedendrens. It’s been added to over the years by different owners and we are now making our mark on it.

“There is a formal garden with yew hedges, flower beds and a woodland area and an allotment on the paddock and a pond. The bottom of the garden is mainly rhodedendrens and camillias and tree ferns and we have all sorts of trees, some native and some not, on a four acre slope, it’s like an arboretum.”

Julie added that part of the garden was left to nature, with long grass and wild flowers and lots of bulbs.

“There is a lot of history to the garden,” she said. “We have letters that John Luscombe used to write to Kew Gardens asking for seeds from plant explorers and collectors.

“It’s an honour to live here and be looking after the garden. We are also in touch with the son of a previous owner from the 1960s who has been in to help me with the garden.”

John Luscombe was awarded the RHS Banksian Medal for his famous citrus fruits at Coombe Royal. On his death in 1831 the estate passed to his son, another John, who like his father was a keen horticulturalist.

In an historic piece written by Susi Batty ‘A Valley of Delight’ she wrote: ‘Under his guardianship many new, rare and tender trees and shrubs were planted in the garden, where they flourished in the climate of the sheltered valley.”

The site was 300 feet above sea level, sitting above the town of Kingsbridge at the head of the Salcombe estuary, but protected from the prevailing south-westerly winds and blessed with spring fed streams and ponds and well suited to the growth of exotic plants.

“John Luscombe was especially interested in hybridising hebes and rhodedendrens and began his own hybridisation programme.

“By 1881 he had hundreds of seedlings waiting to bloom. Although few of his plants are still in cultivation his contribution to both species cannot be underestimated.”

Julie said her favourite areas of the garden were the tree ferns down by the pond and six massive beech trees which gave a huge and beautiful canopy over part of the garden.

She was also particularly proud of a large flower bed which was “totally overgrown” when they came to live there and had taken six years of hard work to get it looking good and it was now full of bright coloured flowers.”

For more on St Luke’s Open Gardens go to