Overbeck’s Garden and House has been on our radar for a long time since we are regular visitors to Salcombe. All I knew of it was that it was a beautiful garden beknighted by, allegedly, slightly troublesome car parking arrangements.
We spent last week in Kingsbridge and, on visiting Salcombe as we always do, we finally made the time to visit Overbeck’s garden. And I have to tell you, you MUST visit this beautiful place.
Overbeck’s was the seaside home of scientist and inventor Otto Overbeck. It is tucked away on the cliffs high above Salcombe and the house sits amidst a subtropical garden with exotic and rare plants, statuary and, these days, hard to find peace and tranquillity.
Although Otto Christoph Joseph Gerhardt Ludwig Overbeck was born in England, he was descended from a distinguished Dutch family. A research chemist by profession, he was also an accomplished linguist, artist and inventor.
Photography lovers will adore the views from the garden over the estuary and coast and inside you’ll find Otto’s eclectic collections, true glimpses of a bygone age, including his ‘Rejuvenator’, patented in the 1920s and once believed to cure all ills, and the melodious giant music box called a polyphon, the forerunner of the record player.
The Rejuvenator looks like a cross between electric shock therapy and something Gwyneth Paltrow would happily feature on her ‘Goop’ lifestyle website. Not something I would have fancied trying, that’s for sure.
On arrival at Overbeck’s garden, Caitlin and Ieuan were given a sheet of things in the garden to find on a secret spy mission, such as beetles, butterflies and particular parts of the garden – they have a banana garden!
There is a car park but it is a small one so you are better off parking some way off up the hilly ascent to the house to ensure that you don’t have to walk a long distance if you have elderly, infirm or very young family members with you.
We parked by South Sands Beach, tucked away about 3/4 of a mile from the house. At least Google Maps said it was 3/4 of a mile. Anyone familiar with this particular app will know that it is not adverse to a bit of creative accounting when it comes to reporting distances.
We arrived at Overbeck’s garden somewhat hot and sweaty but there is a marvellously cool tearoom and also tables outside in the shade. Every time I see a National Trust tearoom it just hardens my resolve never to emigrate. What would I do without a decent cuppa and a scone abroad? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Anyway, after cooling bottles of water and steering the kids temporarily away from the gift shop, we explored the quirky, eclectic and downright odd contents of Otto’s house which was also a convalescent hospital during the Great War but just for “Tommies”, ordinary soldiers rather than officers.
As well as the polyphone (which you can hear played at set times during the day), there is a display of memorabilia from the Great War and a collection of stuffed and mounted animals, fish and insects which, to be honest, I found vaguely unsettling. How times have changed.
Then it was out into the wonderful gardens to explore and a chance for the kids to complete the spy mission.
As with our local National Trust site, Dyffryn Gardens, I can only stand back and marvel at the talents of the gardeners and the incredible beauty they nurture and maintain. Speaking as someone who struggles to keep Spider Plants alive, there is nothing more special to me than a beautiful garden and if you are a gardener then you must take a look at what has been achieved here.
Overbeck’s is open daily from 10 February to 28 October 2018 from 11 am to 5 pm and entry is free for National Trust members. Otherwise, a family ticket is £26.20 (gift aided). You can find prices here.
Please note, however, that only assistance dogs are allowed into Overbeck’s and although there are 3 disabled car parking spaces, the gardens are not wheelchair friendly.
There are toilets which are not accessible by wheelchair, however, they were clean and, from Caitlin’s point of view, did not have the dreaded remote flush. (Does anyone else have kids who are terrified of these?!).
We will definitely be returning to Overbeck’s – or at least I may leave the Hubby and kids down in the town and spend a happy afternoon lingering over a cream tea with a book for some well-earned peace and quiet!