Daffodil Day here we come – and a catch up on 2023!

Inquisitive peacock!
Maxine cobwebbing!
Kath deep cleaning Tea Room kitchen!
Filming Malory Towers June 2023
Filming at Blackpool Mill in awful weather July 23
Leighton and Andy making the stumpery Feb 2024
Jake picking apples Sept 23
Dear Becky and Snowdrop love meeting our visitors!
Dick painting the garden doors 'Venetian Green'
Phlox and crocosmia 'Lucifer' in the Rose Garden
The stunning coastline at St Catherine's Tor
The grill room at Hartland Quay has smart new tongue and groove on the walls!
Water Water everywhere Feb 24
Wild thrift at Blackpool Mill

We are so looking forward to welcoming our visitors for Daffodils and Mother’s Day on 10th March. Hopefully the daffodils, chionodoxa, hellebores, lots of camellias and much more will be looking wonderful along the walks and the Walled Garden will be springing into life.

We are all very busy trying to get ready – so much of the garden yet to tidy up, hundreds of hydrangeas to deadhead, springcleaning in the house to finish, the tearoom to prepare, painting still to be done and all the damage to clear up after the gales – it’s endless! We have a brilliant but very small team to do the work of twice as many people at least! We are hugely grateful to them all for their hard work. We are so lucky being next to the sea in many ways but it brings enormous problems with the Atlantic gales hitting us full on! We always dread what damage the next gale will bring. Easter is early this year so the season proper starts soon, on 24th March; we hope to see lots of Easter bunny hunters over the Easter weekend!

2023 flew by!  It started with a second hip replacement for Leighton who has worked for the family for over 50 years and is still a vital member of our team. Our past and regular guests at Blackpool Mill and the Bear will know Leighton well – he can mend anything including the roof at Blackpool after the storms! Being extremely fit for his age he was back to work very quickly to help out in the busy months. He is the only person who knows how everything works both inside and outside and is now passing on vital information to the next generation of Andy and Jake! Visitors will often see him and his little red tractor chugging along!

The 2023 season started with a successful Daffodil Day on Mothering Sunday thanks to lots of kind supporters. It is always a great opportunity to visit before the season proper starts and see so many lovely camellias and early spring flowers flowering. I feel sad that our visitors miss the mimosas flowering now and the chimonanthus  in the winter which fills the Kitchen garden with the most wonderful scent. 2024 Daffodil Day is a week earlier to coincide with Mother’s Day – let’s hope for a sunny day!

2023 was memorable for the Coronation. It was such a special weekend of celebrations with the extra bank holiday for people to enjoy. We send the King our very best wishes for a full recovery at this difficult time.

We had a visit from Kingsley School from Bideford in the summer. One of our granddaughters was in her last term and they all came for a walk and a picnic. It was a lovely day and they had the added bonus of watching ‘Malory Towers’ being filmed.

We were so lucky to have had the wonderful cast and crew of ‘Malory Towers’ back to film series 5 last June and are hoping we may see them again ….! (I am not putting up a better image as I mustn’t give away the plot!). They are such a wonderful team who we have got to know so well over the years. They were blessed with boiling hot weather in June but then the heavens opened and never stopped! We are eagerly awaiting the new series appearing on iPlayer and CBBC! Our grandaughter was an extra.  The film crew left behind some stepping ‘logs’ leading to the huge thuja in the Shrubbery – a popular natural playground loved by our young visitors! Lots of lovely fans came to see the location in the summer holidays, some dressed in Malory Towers school uniform looking just like Darrell, Gwendoline and their friends! We were lucky to have more filming as well – ‘Our Lady Jane’ for Amazon at Hartland Quay, ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn starring Gillian Anderson and Jason Isaacs on the coastal path and a psychological thriller ‘Speak No Evil’ filmed at Blackpool Mill starring James McAvoy. All to appear on screen this year.

In July Paul Higham, the ‘Country Life’ photographer came to take pictures of the Abbey for a future article. We are looking forward to seeing this in the future but as yet we don’t know when. Fern expert Martin Rickard, the author of many books on the subject, made a private visit in the summer. It was fun showing him the Fernery and all the self sown baby tree ferns.

We were inundated by our family in the summer holidays. It was enormous fun. The beaches at Hartland are such wonderful natural playgrounds for all generations. The surf can be amazing, the rock pools fascinating from an early age; summer picnics on the beach are legendary. It is a lovely time to be reunited as a family with every bedroom in the Abbey full!

We had an end of season party for our staff and seasonal house stewards in October, just after we closed. It is a lovely time to catch up and have a good chat as there is never time while we are open. They do so much, led by Theresa, our indefatigable administrator, to help our visitors and try to ensure they have an enjoyable time and get the best out of their visit. It was lovely to see Carol and Dave again. They had looked after the Abbey for almost thirty years before well earned retirement in 2022. Normally we have a tea party but this time it was lasagne and apple crumble which seemed to be very popular – apples from the orchard! We had the most amazing crop of apples in 2023 and it seemed as though we spent all September picking! We replanted the Abbey orchard some years ago with old varieties – Cornish Gilliflower, Poltimore Seedling, Pitmaston Pineapple, Oaken Pin, Don’s Delight, Bramley Seedling, Lord Derby, Woolbrook Pippin, Tidicombe Seedling and George Cave amongst others. Andy and Jake being taller and younger than us did sterling work picking all the higher ones! Then we had to wash them all before taking them off to be made into the most delicious juice which we will hopefully sell in the shop. We need one of our granddaughters to design an attractive label but we are still waiting…!

The donkeys have had a lovely winter being pampered back at the farm and eating their way through the most delicious hay, made by our neighbour in June when it was so hot. The result is the best hay, sweet smelling and green which they love!

Nigel, Sam, Andy, Jake and Leighton have been working hard to get the gardens and grounds ready for the season. The tulips were planted back in November. We are hoping for a vibrant display but everything small with four legs has done its best to eat them or dig them up! Gardening is never easy….Dick has done an amazing job mending the green garden doors which were mostly rotten and painting them a lovely Venetian green. Then the loos were given new coats of paint – much needed! Hopefully everyone will be happy! He is now mending the Conservatory which has almost been blown away and is thoroughly rotten! It was put up many years ago by Sir Hugh’s mother as a refuge when the house was open – in those days the garden was closed. Now thankfully it is used by everyone caught in the rain as somewhere to shelter.

Maxine, our housekeeper, is polishing and polishing anything in her sight – hopefully our visitors will notice the results of her work! She has many talents including running the Gift Shop – she is very good at displaying things in an attractive way! Max wears about ten layers of clothes in the winter as the house is so cold for working in…She is amazingly cheerful through the darkest days of winter. She has help from Anne during the season for a couple of hours a day, who, like Max is a brilliant cleaner! The Abbey is such a difficult house to look after especially when it is muddy outside. That is why we ask our visitors to put on blue overshoes when it is wet as otherwise it is impossible to get the mud off our lovely red carpet.

The gardens were so pretty in 2023 and we are hoping for more stunning displays this year! Nigel is a brilliant gardener and does his best to keep the Walled Gardens really looking good with regular deadheading and staking.  The weather makes such a difference, particularly to our displays of annuals which don’t much like rain and are much happier basking in the sun. So let’s hope! Unfortunately we can’t do a thing about the wind when it comes and we just hope it will leave us alone in the summer. We have definitely noticed a difference lately with so much more rain and wind though Hartland never had much in the way of frost being so close to the sea. At the moment the ground is completely saturated but Andy has done a great job keeping all the gullies running freely. We always used to have Snowdrop Sundays until the changing climate made it impossible for cars to park on the grass.

The holiday cottages are looking good and are booking up. They are all very different. We do still have some weeks available. all their details are on our website under Cottages. They are a great base for exploring our amazing coastline.

We have just ‘done up’ the rather ageing ‘Grill Room’ at Hartland Quay. For years it had had old ‘bumpy’ wallpaper, a hangover from the 1960s! But now, thanks to Dick’s excellent carpentry, it has tongue and grooved walls in ‘Whimsey’ green and is looking very welcoming! The bar has been painted the same colour, much improved too! Donal and Sarah Stafford do a wonderful job welcoming visitors along with their fantastic local staff. We have also created a new website for Hartland Quay with the help of Inventive Print at Bishop’s Tawton, a brilliant local design business who help us with our Hartland Abbey leaflet and website too. We try to use everything local that we possibly can as there is a wealth of talent in North Devon.

And finally, Andy and Jake have had a big clear up in the Shrubbery and the lovely old dogs’ graves are once again easy to see. Particularly poignant is the grave of ‘Bruce, a good spaniel’ who died in 1910. He belonged to my husband’s great uncle and Aunt who lived at the Abbey at the time and were responsible for much of the design of the gardens and walks for which we are so grateful today.

Please do look at our Events calendar and you can now download our 2024 leaflet at the bottom of our Home page for information. We wish you a happy 2024 and hope we may see you one day at Hartland Abbey! Dogs are really welcome too….Thank you if you have visited us before and hope to see you again, Angela Stucley February 2024





Mimosa in the Bog Garden
Leighton moving stumps with his v modern tractor - Feb 24!
Jo and Theresa sanding the Tea Room tables
Some lovely stepping logs thanks to Malory Towers..!
New stumps found in the parkland
Our Staff and Stewards party in October
Pitmaston Pineapple really tastes of pineapple!
Nigel dwarfed by the echiums in the summer!
Tulips in the Rose Garden April 2023
Vibrant Rudbeckias and Nicotiana in the Veg garden autumn 2023
The grave of 'Bruce, a good spaniel' who died in 1910
Hartland Abbey with the autumn sun on the Boston Ivy