Longstock Water Garden / by Graham Dew

I have to admit that I’ve got a soft spot for John Lewis. Their focus on good customer service all seems to stem from the fact that they are one of those rare breeds of business, a partnership, run by and for its employees. So instead of focussing their energies in feared panic of institutional stockholders, their priorities seem to be on doing the right thing for the business and their relationship with their customers.

One of its non-core business activities is the Leckford Estate in the Test Valley, where it runs a farm that grows produce for it Waitrose food stores. Part of the estate is run for leisure facilities for its staff, and one part of this is the rather lovely Longstock Park Water Garden, which is opened up to the public twice every month during the spring and summer. These charity-run open days give us an opportunity to wander around this beautifully maintained and well stocked garden.

I visited there last Sunday with my family, and we spent a happy hour or two wandering around the place, looking at all the flowers and plants coming into bud. I’m no gardener, so I can’t tell you what is planted there, but it is all very carefully maintained and manicured. It's a very relaxed and calm place, with lots of water, lots of tall trees and lots of little islands to stroll around. There's no visitor centre, no cafe, no amusement park. Just the way it should be.

My daughter and I took a path less travelled and ended up by the compost heap. Even that was a visual feast, with red and yellow dogwood cuttings making a colourful pile.Well worth a visit if you are down in this 'neck of the woods'.