Where Will You Go? First Steps, Cotswolds Gardens

A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy. Rumer Godden
I’m not sure what will be the most appealing escape after Shelter in Place, Social Distancing – my first foray out to the real world again.

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Will we be cautious, will our first expedition be to throw ourselves in to a busy bellowing city oozing with activity or will crowds remind us of the dangers of the pandemic.

Perhaps a gentle ease into civilization at a countryside estate and gardens. The Cotswold’s are merely 50 minutes from London, so perhaps a mix of both and if the city unnerves you, mosey back to the verdant emerald estates. The Cotswold’s is renowned for its destination gardens including The Royal Garden at Highgrove, the garden of Prince Charles, open for tours by appointment. Perhaps begin with a private Champagne Tea Tour, so VV proper and British.

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Royal Gardens at Highgrove

Royal Gardens at Highgrove comprise a varied collection of landscapes, from the genteel environs of the Sundial Garden to the unstructured beauty of the Wildflower Meadow. There is much to discover in this extraordinary collection, a garden over 35 years in the making, created with passion, vision and dedication by HRH The Prince of Wales.

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Royal Gardens at Highgrove

The gardens encapsulate the unique ambience of Highgrove and showcase its rich variety of landscaping and flora and fauna. Separated into multiple area including The Sundial garden, The Stumpery, Thyme Walk, Wildflower Meadow and the Cottage Garden. The Stumpery is a tranquil corner of the garden, a rich habitat for a variety of wildlife, the Stumpery is an atmospheric garden that draws inspiration from the Victorian concept of growing ferns amongst upturned tree stumps. An enchanting space that highlights the sculptural qualities of wood, the Stumpery features a series of remarkable natural structures, including two classical temples crafted from green oak and cut to resemble stone, at the base of which sits David Wynne’s sculpture of the Goddess of the Wood.

Royal Gardens at Highgrove

Barnsley House, near Cirencester. Redesigned by Rosemary Verey in the 1950’s. Straight from a storybook, the magical country gardens feel like a fairytale. Time seems to stand still here and there’s something special and unique with each changing season. The famous Laburnum Walk has become iconic and there are surprises at every turn. Explore a kitchen garden and you’ll discover how fresh their produce really is. And you’ll no doubt come across our talented gardeners who lovingly nurture the flowers, plants and produce to keep everything looking lovely all year-round. Once the home of renowned garden designer Rosemary Verey, the gardens of this luxury hotel remain a highlight. Produce picked by the chefs take pride of place in dishes such as tangy Barnsley House pickled beetroot, creamy goat’s cheese curd and candied hazelnuts. Created by the revered garden designer Rosemary Verey, the gardens at Barnsley House are a classic example of an English country garden. With knot gardens, the Laburnum Walk, statues by Simon Verity and the bountiful kitchen garden growing much of the produce that you’ll find on our menus, these sublime and timeless gardens are sure to make a lasting impression. www.barnsleyhouse.com

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Barnsley House
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Barnsley House

Hidcote Manor, near Chipping Camden Hidcote Manor Garden is a garden in the United Kingdom, located at the village of Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. It is one of the best-known and most influential Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain, with its linked “rooms” of hedges, rare trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders. A collection of garden areas including The Bathing Pool Garden, The Pillar Garden, The Red Borders and Gazebos gardens. The Pillar Garden is something special, the vast yew pillars dominate this verdant space. The strong tall columns are so architectural it creates the effect of walking through classical ruins. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote

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Sezincote Gardens. Near Moreton in Marsh Sezincote is a Mughal Indian palace set in the Cotswold Hills, created by the nabob Charles Cockerell in 1805. The house is surmounted by a copper dome and minarets and set in a picturesque water garden with seven pools, waterfalls, a grotto and a temple to Surya, the Hindu Sun God. A curving Orangery frames the Persian Garden of Paradise. The house was the whim of Colonel John Cockerell, grandson of the diarist Samuel Pepys, who returned to England having amassed a fortune in the East India Company. John died in 1798, three years after his return, and the estate passed to his youngest brother Charles, who had also worked for the company. He commissioned his brother Samuel, an architect, to design and build an Indian house in the Mogul style of Rajasthan, complete with minarets, peacock-tail windows, jali-work railings and pavilions.

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Sezincote Gardens. Near Moreton in Marsh

Once completed, Sezincote dazzled all who came. When the Prince Regent visited in 1807, an event commemorated in a Daniell painting owned by the family, he was so impressed that he went on to change his plans for the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Designed by John Nash, it echoed the exotic Indian style he’d admired at Sezincote. Samuel Pepys Cockerell, younger brother of the owner, was the architect, with the artist Thomas Daniell advising on classical Indian architecture. Repton consulted on landscaping the grounds. https://www.sezincote.co.uk/

Batsford Park Arboretum, near Moreton Marsh In 1886 the estate was inherited, indirectly, by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, later to become the 1st Lord Redesdale in 1905. During the 1860s he worked for the foreign office in Russia, Japan and China. An accomplished linguist and recognised authority on Chinese and Japanese culture and politics, Mitford fell in love with the oriental landscape – a passion which directly influenced his design for the arboretum. On inheriting the estate, Mitford moved permanently to the Cotswolds and between 1886 and the early 1890’s, he knocked down the old Georgian mansion which stood in the grounds and built the neo-Tudor house you see today, designed by Earnest George (possibly with Harold Peto) and now privately owned. Mitford’s influence on the gardens was equally radical. He all but erased any trace of the old layout and created a wild garden of naturalistic planting derived from his observations in China and Japan. By now an accomplished plants man and authority on bamboos, he created one of the foremost collections of the time – some of which remain to this day. Following his death in 1916, Batsford Park was inherited by David Mitford – who moved into the house with his infamous family. Their time at Batsford was short though. The huge costs associated with running such a large house meant they were forced to sell it after World War I.

Batsford Park Arboretum, near Moreton Marsh

The estate was bought by Gilbert Alan Hamilton Wills, later the 1st Lord Dulverton who, along with his wife, Lady Victoria took a great interest in the gardens, particularly the more formal areas and the walled garden. Best in spring to enjoy the 50-magnolia species in flower or in autumn for fiery fall colors. There is also Cotswold Archery experiences for all abilities 8 years and up. The Cotswold Falconry Centre is right next to Batsford Arboretum and home to around 150 Birds of Prey – many of which can be seen in free-flying demonstrations each day. http://www.batsarb.co.uk/

Kiftsgate Court, Near Chiping Camden Kiftsgate Court Gardens is situated above the village of Mickleton in the county of Gloucestershire, England, in the far north of the county close to the county border with both Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The gardens, famed for its roses, are the creation of three generations of women gardeners. The gardens, famed for its roses, are the creation of three generations of women gardeners. Started by Heather Muir in the 1920s, continued by Diany Binny from 1950 and now looked after by Anne Chambers and her husband. Kiftsgate Court is now the home of the Chambers family. http://www.kiftsgate.co.uk/

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Kiftsgate Court, Near Chiping Camden

Gorgeous Gardens – Tours run from April to mid-October with all profits benefitting the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation.https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/

Luxury Manor House we can recommend: Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa.
Set in rolling Cotswold countryside two hours from London (one and a half hours from Heathrow), Whatley Manor & Spa is a beautifully restored 19th-century honey-colored manor house with 15 large rooms and eight spacious suites.  Most of the rooms have views across the stunning 12-acre gardens. This is luxury and service on a very special level. In the two Michelin-starred restaurant, head chef Niall Keating’s 10-course tasting menu might include combinations such as delicate cod with subtly fermented cauliflower, and mackerel with preserved raspberry. The extensive spa offers a hydrotherapy pool, aromatic thermal suites, sauna and more. A range of innovative treatments includes facials that take place in an oxygen tent. Chef Niall Keating gained his Michelin star in less than a year at Whatley’s restaurant, The Dining Room, and he just received a second Michelin star in October 2019.  His cooking is light and fresh with some Asian influence.  He also oversees the more casual Grey’s Brasserie and The Green Room offering expertly crafted small plates. The large, luxurious spa was the first hotel spa in the UK to offer treatments in a Natura Bissé Air Bubble Suite — very good for jetlag! 

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Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa

Barnsley House as mentioned in gardens also offers rooms. With its golden stone, gables and mullion windows this is a dreamily romantic house. It’s a place you immediately relax into ‒ with casual-chic furnishings and cozy log fires. The building, though, is magnificently upstaged by its garden. There are four acres of formal gardens including a laburnum avenue and a potager. Beyond is a terrific vegetable garden along with outlying meadows that back on to a dairy farm. The Arcadian space was the near-legendary creation of Rosemary Verey who owned the house from 1952 until her death in 2001. Thereafter Barnsley House became a hotel, and is now part of the Calcot Collection of elegant, luxury accommodation.

Gardens and flowers have a way of bringing people together, drawing them from their homes.
― Clare Ansberry, The Women of Troy Hill: The Back-Fence Virtues of Faith and Friendship

Autochrome Gardens you might enjoy this link of early English Gardens, photographed in the early 20th Century using the pioneering Autochrome Lumière process.
From the terraced house to country estates, from domestic gardens to public parks, our homes and gardens hold a wealth of history that help tell the story of England. Drawn from a remarkable collection of colour images at the Historic England Archive, https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/autochrome-gardens/TALCI4lCWUfkKA