Exploring Unique Compton Acres In The Year of the English Garden

Compton Acres is one of the UK’s most important ornamental gardens. Located in the upmarket area of Canford Cliffs near Poole, it’s a fantastic place for a day out. A gold winner in the ‘Best Small Tourist Attraction’ category at the South West Tourism Awards, it was also awarded Dorset Tourism Small Attraction of the Year’ at the Dorset Tourism Awards in November 2015. Owner Bernard Merna invited us to take a tour – what better place to visit in the Year of the English Garden. We were accompanied by my Aunt who’s a keen gardener and able to ask our guide all sorts of intelligent questions. Whilst I’m a fan of gardens and flower shows, my horticultural knowledge is rather more limited!

angela-compton-acresCreated in 1920 by Thomas William Simpson on a wild moorland site, it features over 3000 plant varieties spread over 10 acres. It’s a fantastic example of an Arts and Crafts style garden which took the idea of garden rooms and created a series of contrasting designs, resulting in five distinct gardens. Just after the entrance, the charming Roman Garden leads into an illuminated grotto popular for wedding photos.

Compton Acres has actually been voted best wedding venue in the world for the past two years in The Wedding Industry Experts Awards and they hold 150 weddings each year. The Italian Villa built in 2005 is the dedicated events space and has access to the stunning Italianate Gardens. These were created without the help of machines and include typical Italian features such as fountains, topiary and columns. These support swags of clematis, a stunning sight from late Spring onwards.

italiante-gardens-compton-acresThere are some interesting statues here including the Athletes of Herculaneum. Cast from bronze and named after the ruins of Herculaneum in Italy, they make an imposing feature. The statue of Bacchus, Roman God of wine, is made from Carrera marble and beautifully detailed. He is depicted here in his youth whilst at the opposite end of the garden there’s a mask portraying him in his later years. In Summertime the pond’s water lilies are a delight to behold.

The Wooded Valley is a shady area of mature Scots Pines interspersed with sunlit flower glades. At the time of our visit in Spring, the daffodils and narcissus were out in force, as was this wild beast 😉

It’s also a great place to see camellias and rhododendrons.

wooded-valley-flowers-compton-acresThe path curves round and up and down so I’d recommend wearing flat shoes, though it’s easily manageable. In fact, Compton Acres have thoughtfully noted both a path route and a steps and bridges route. I loved this contrast between the black grass and the white snowdrops.

There’s a lovely little waterfall cascading down through this area.

It leads on to the Rock and Water Garden, one of the largest privately owned rock gardens in England. Hundreds of tonnes of rock were used in its construction and there are some beautiful ornamental trees including a weeping beech and mature dwarf conifers as well as 300 types of rock plant.

Peeking through the bridge, you’ll spy the Solitaire statue of a dancer…

Created by former dancer and now sculptor Tom Merryfield, the arch of the feet is staggeringly lifelike.

Continuing our journey, one of my favourite areas is the Heather Garden. I’d first visited Compton Acres gardens many years ago and even then couldn’t resist posing with this dashing gentleman!

Originally the setting for Thomas Simpson’s cactus collection until their loss in World War II, this area was then remodelled as the heather garden. With over 100 different types of heather, it looks spectacular in early Spring, as I hope you’ll agree.

heathers-compton-acresFrom here you come to a Sculpture Trail which features an interesting array of African sculptures.

statue-trail-compton-acresRound the corner there’s a fantastic view towards Brownsea Island and it’s castle from the Harbour View Café.

brownsea-island-compton-acresThe Japanese Garden is another highlight and considered to be one of the best examples of its kind in Britain. The design and construction of the tea house, summer house and pathways were supervised by Japanese craftsmen.

The pool is filled with Japanese koi carp and the stone, bronze and copper artefacts were all imported from Japan. Most of the plants are Japanese in origin, including the azaleas, bamboo and maple trees.

Make time to visit the plant centre and gift store after visiting the gardens. There’s some really unusual jewellery, homeware and gifts.

compton-acres-gift-shopThe cosy tea room is popular for cream teas and there’s also outside seating for when it gets warmer.

The garden is continually being improved and soon the planting of Spring flowers near the Japanese garden will commence. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Compton Acres and do try and visit if you can to admire it yourself.

Are you a fan of gardens and do you have a favourite one that you recommend?

Compton Acres, 164 Canford Cliffs Road, Poole, Dorset BH13 7ES


  • What a beautiful destination for a day out. I can see why the Heather Garden is one of your favourite areas – love your red coat!

  • So pretty! I didn’t know this garden existed, I love the view of the castle.

  • This garden is absolutely gorgeous! I love the sculpture of the dancer!


  • As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Compton Acres! You’ve covered it beautifully and it’s wonderful to see the gardens during a different season to those I’ve visited.

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

    • I’m glad you enjoyed reading it, Gabrielle, it’s true that the gardens are lovely in all seasons

  • Your aunt looks #LikeABoss! I love her already, and I think she’d get on with my mum who’s a bit of a garden enthusiast herself. Myself, my idea of nature is ‘wood floors in my new apartment’ who even so these gardens are gorgeous! I’m going to Kew Gardens on Monday to see their new Spring exhibits 🙂

    Jasiminne: Posh, Broke, & Bored

  • You’ve captured each area so beautifully Suze. I love the Japanese Gardens. Compton Acres seems to be one of the most marvellous destinations, especially the time you went. <3
    St. Patty’s Day

  • This garden looks absolutely amazing! Gorgeous photos!


  • What a wonderful place and photos. I love nature and flowers so really enjoyed this one. Gemma x

  • The Reader’s Tales

    Hi Suze! I’m a huge fan of gardens! I didn’t know this garden. Have a beautiful day 😉

  • Wow, this looks like a magnificent place! I am sure that in reality it must be even more impressive. Yes, I would really enjoy a visit to this garden.

    I can’t believe that Sunday is almost here! See you very soon!


    • I think in Summertime when all the flowers are out it must be amazing. Looking forward to meeting you both on Sunday!

  • Beautiful garden I love all the vibrant colours!

  • Paola

    Such a wonderful garden, so colorful!
    Happy Friday bellissima!
    Kisses, Paola.


    My Facebook

  • Wow, such beautiful grounds and landscaping! This will definitely have to be a place I visit when I travel to England some day, I love nature and all of its splendor. Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!



    • It’s really worth a visit, Jalisa! Hope you have some beautiful gardens near you – have a lovely weekend!

  • Wow, what a beautiful garden! I’d love to visit some day.

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  • Compton Acres reminds me a lot of the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, California. They are so similar, you won’t believe it. Like Compton Acres, at Huntington you also have several areas that feature plants from around the world: like Japan, Australia, etc.

    • I’d love to visit California so will definitely make a note to see Huntington Cardens if I’m in the area!

  • It’s been a while since I’ve seen a garden as beautiful and stunning as this one. Nice!

  • Beautiful pictures. This place looks lovely!

    xo, mikéla / simplydavelyn.com

  • These pretty gardens definitely look to be worth visiting in the U.K.! We have some beautiful gardens here in our province of British Columbia, especially in Victoria, dubbed the “City of Gardens.” The Butchart Gardens are the most well-known and, like Comptomn Acres, also have Italian and Japanese gardens, as well as a show-stopping rose garden. Your Aunt would love visiting the gardens in B.C. :-).

    • I didn’t know that Victoria was known as the City of Gardens, sounds like somewhere I’d love to visit too

  • Lucy

    I love Poole and Dorset. What stunning gardens, nothing beats walking around a stunning garden getting fresh air. Stunning pics. One of my favourite gardens is Hever castle Lucy x

  • What a beautiful garden – looks like the weather was good to you too! I plan to make themost of the Year of the English Garden

    • Yes I’m going to get a few more garden visits in when the weather perks up – it was sunny that day but cold!

  • Laura

    What a stunning place to visit! I can see why it’s popular!

  • How beautiful! I could easily spend my days wandering through gardens. I’ve only recently discovered snow drops (not enough time spent in the UK). So pretty and so special that they only bloom for a short time.