Coleton Fishacre is a National Trust property in south Devon situated between Brixham and Dartmouth and acquired by it in 1982 as part of its Enterprise Neptune campaign, chiefly to link up the south Devon coastal path.
The house was built for Rupert D’Oyly Carte in 1923-6 by the architect Oswald Milne and is very much in the Arts and Crafts style and is said to be his finest work.
Outside the property the radiating granite paving in the forecourt, set on a slope, is a striking feature. From the house to the garden the quality stone-walling includes a fine loggia.
Internally the effects are simple, the austerity relieved by Art Deco details. On the day of our visit to we enjoyed hearing a pianist playing the Bluthner grand piano situated in The Saloon.
The garden at Coleton Fishacre, like several in the South West, descends from open views around the house at the head of the narrow combe, through increasingly jungle- like vegetation, and follows the course of the stream down to the sea at Pudcombe Cove.The terraces and the walled Rill Garden provide a formal introduction to the wilder garden below.
Rupert D’Oyly Carte and his wife were both enthusiastic gardeners. Their first priority was to build a shelterbelt. They were then able to give free reign to their gardening skills and experiment with trees and shrubs from around the world.
The acidic soil, overlying Dartmouth shale, with water moving through the valley in many places, makes it suitable for the widest range of plants, including succulents and tree ferns.
We saw the garden in its spring mode filled with colours of rhododendrons, azaleas, Chilean Fire Trees( Embothrium coccineum)Snowdrop Tree ( Halesia ) and Handkerchief Tree(Davidia involucrate) plus the bluebells. This is a garden for all seasons with a large collection of hydrangeas in the summer followed by the autumn colours and berries. Winter would reveal the bare branches set against the backdrop of evergreens and conifers.