NGS Sunday April 12 . . . a garden for every season

PUBLISHED: 12:55 07 April 2015

Bays Farm, Forward Green

Bays Farm, Forward Green


Bays Farm at Forward Green is a credit to the hard work and imagination of Richard and Stephanie Challinor

July country garden NGS 
Design: Xa Tollemache
Bays Farm, Suffolk
Marcus Harpurbays91 July country garden NGS Design: Xa Tollemache Bays Farm, Suffolk UK Marcus Harpur

Stephanie and Richard Challinor found Bays Farm, Forward Green near Stowupland 13 years ago.

The couple’s previous home was in Kent and their corporate careers had taken them abroad, but they had always enjoyed trips to Suffolk to stay with friends, and the chance to settle in the county was a long held ambition.

Stephanie and Richard run Bays Farm as a very comfortable B&B, although that wasn’t always the intention. When they moved into the 17th century farmhouse, with its Victorian additions, it was structurally sound but in need of some updating. Seven bedrooms and one bathroom became five bedrooms and four bathrooms, perfect for friends who loved to come and stay, sowing the seeds of the B&B idea.

The house sits in four acres of land, half of which is paddock. From the remainder, Stephanie and Richard have already created gardens that provide year-round interest.

Bays Farm, Forward GreenBays Farm, Forward Green

“The gardens had been quite well looked after by the previous owners and we spent the first few years doing the inside of the house,” says Richard. “We started on the gardens around 2007.”

The design and hard landscaping is his domain, while Stephanie designs and carries out the planting schemes.

“The vegetable garden was the first thing I laid out. I put the orchard in and it went from there. The big decision came in 2009 when we decided to remodel the front part of the garden.”

The couple called on the services of Xa Tollemache to design a semi-formal cottage garden. The work took them through to March 2010, then later that year they built a hay loft to provide more accommodation. As part of that project they also created a herb garden and a wild flower garden.

Bays Farm, Forward GreenBays Farm, Forward Green

In 2013 the back garden was remodelled and planted out the following year. It’s a fabulous place to relax on fine warm days, with a terrace, expansive lawn and views across the Gipping Valley.

Like any garden it’s an ongoing project and Richard is now looking forward to restoring the farm’s original moat.

The garden provides Richard and Stephanie with plenty of produce as well as a wonderful display of colour every year. As well as orchard fruits they have soft fruits, while the vegetable plot keeps them supplied with enough for their own needs as well as feeding the B&B guests. Breakfasts are part of the package, but Stephanie also offers a home cooked supper as an option. The couple took the step of obtaining an alcohol licence, so Bays Farm has all the advantages of a small country hotel.

Guests, of course, love the garden and several return year after year to Bays Farm to enjoy it at its best. Located in the heart of the county it’s the perfect base for exploring in every direction.

Like so many people and their gardens, Richard and Stephanie’s growing involvement in their own has been partly born out of necessity. Stephanie was always more into it, says Richard, while his was more passing interest.

There’s no doubt now though, that it’s an all consuming passion – and why not? Everything in their garden is lovely.


Richard and Stephanie open Bays Farm to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme on the second Sunday of the month, between April and September. The first open day is April 12.

Proceeds go to their local church as well as the NGS charities, Marie Curie and Macmillan Nurses.

Visitors (around 200-300 a year) get to see a working garden and many come to see the latest developments, as well as to admire the more mature aspects.

Bays Farm, Forward Green, Stowmarket IP14 5HU

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