Anyone planning to visit some of the finest gardens in England who has a week to spare should focus on Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds. The west of England is home to several arts and crafts style gardens, the type that epitomise all things that people expect from an English garden; plants, borders and cream teas.
Hampton Court, Herefordshire
Hampton Court is a modern garden created in the grounds of a traditional country estate. It has a contemporary Arts and Crafts feel, lovingly detailed, with tunnels and hidden gardens, mazes and caves to explore. Discover the acres of stunning formal gardens and a kitchen/edible ornamental garden that is a feature worth a visit in its own right. The estate has a manor house that looks out upon a parkland setting in the curve of a river. Afternoon teas are served here and picnics in the grounds are recommended as well as pleasant strolls along the riverside.
Kiftsgate Court, Gloucestershire
A true arts and crafts garden created in the 1920s, Kifstgate feels very romantic. There are several parts to the garden, the most stunning of which is the courtyard garden that has abundant roses, fountains and arbours. A contemporary garden with a reflective pool and sculptural fountain was added recently and this provides a welcome contrast to the richness of the rest of the garden. Beautiful views from a terraced woodland garden make this a pretty stroll for an afternoon. There is a teashop here too…Hidcote is literally a short stroll from Kiftsgate.
One of the most famous gardens in England was actually designed by a reclusive American, Major Lawrence Johnston. He put all his energy and passion into creating a vast and magnificent garden from a bleak hilltop during the first half of the 20th century. He adored plants and every spare inch is cultivated. The detailing is exceptional and the number of garden rooms becomes numbing after a while, space after space reveals new and interesting plant combinations, views and features. There are deliberate breathing spaces within the gardens to allow the eyes to rest a while, simple, green open spaces and a cathedral of trees. Without them, the senses would be overwhelmed. Allow plenty of time here and book in advance if possible as it can become extremely busy during the summer months.
Of course there’s a teashop at Hidcote and all the associated National Trustiness too.
If all the quaint, blousy arts and crafts planting is beginning to bring on nausea and something purer and more classical is required, head for Rousham or Painswick, both examples of English landscape gardens.
A Rococo garden; with a calm English landscape park on one side, high Baroque hedonism on the other. Pretty and interesting, this garden is difficult to define. It has many follies, an exedra, avenues and vistas, all recently restored to their full frivolity.
Rousham House and Gardens, Oxfordshire
Rousham is William Kent’s masterpiece; an understated piece of landscape craft where every view is designed and every move has been orchestrated. Italianate follies adorn the landscape, gothic follies beckon the eye into the distance and the trickle of a rill glistens through the trees. It is a balanced example of the English landscape style and has remained unaltered since Kent designed it in the early 18th century.
No teashop here – Rousham is a private house and it is worth checking opening times and restrictions.
Attractions in the West of England
Visit the Malvern Show, one of the best horticultural events of the year. Hay-on-Wye has an international literary festival – plan a visit to the area that avoids this extremely busy time if the festival does not allure. Pretty towns to visit include Leominster, Ludlow (famous for geology), Ross-on-Wye and many places such as Painswick in the Cotswolds. Warwick is a larger town with many historic and cultural attractions including Warwick Castle. Close to Rousham, the city Oxford makes a fascinating short break with plenty of historic and cultural interest. The gardens of the colleges and their surrounding landscape are also beautiful.
With so much to see and do in this area, a return trip will be needed.
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