Furzey Gardens near Minstead is a relaxing, quirky sort of place. A maze of a garden with lots of intersecting paths connecting sudden open spaces, strange structures built from unfinished timber, a childrens' play area, a pond, an exhibition of thatching and the old Cobb Cottage, along with a coffee shop and gallery.
Scattered across the garden are a number of little fairy houses, and much fun can be had trying to spot them.
However Furzey is more than just a garden. In the middle of it all is a Christian Retreat House (not open to the public) and the gardens are, in part, maintained by students from its sister organisation, the Minstead Training Project which provides training and residential care for young people with learning difficulties.
In 2012 students and instructors from the project, along with designer Chris Beardshaw and volunteers from the gardens, formed the first team to enter the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that included people with learning difficulties. They won won a gold medal.
One can only hope that they do not have to scale back the excellent work they do due to the pressure on Local Authority budgets imposed by the current government.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the official site detailed below.
By the entrance to the gardens is Cobb Cottage which, despite the name, is brick built. It is believed to date back to 1560 and, as was common at the time, to incorporate timbers and decking from earlier ships.
It was modernised in the Regency period with the installation of a staircase and new windows in the parlour. The staircase leads to two bedrooms, in one of which thirteen children once slept.
In front of the is a productive cottage garden, a Chelsea Pensioner and, somewhat bizarrely, a giant rabbit.