4. Bedfordshire – Thursday 11 June

Woburn Abbey, Woburn
The Duke and Duchess of Bedford

The Cistercian abbey at Woburn was granted to the 1st Earl of Bedford in 1547. A fragment of the existing house dates from the 1630s, but the bulk is the work, first of Henry Flitcroft in the 1740s and then of Henry Holland in the 1780s. Humphry Repton provided the 6th Duke with a Red Book in 1805 and it is his proposals for the garden, largely carried out, that the current duchess is gradually restoring. Behind the house is Holland’s Chinese Dairy, beside which Repton planned another Chinese temple in front of the Children’s Garden, which was, in the event, placed in his Arboretum. The open space, now the focal point for the annual Woburn Garden Show was originally Repton’s terraced winter garden, which lead down to the Menagerie, forerunner of today’s Safari Park, of which the Aviary and Pine Cone Pavilion have been restored. Repton’s flower garden in front of his spectacular Camelia House has also been restored.

Woburn Abbey is closed to the public until April 2021, so this very special tour of the gardens will be entirely private.

Bedford House, Woburn
Henrietta, Duchess of Bedford

In 2002 Jessica Duncan advised on the layout of the garden at Bedford House and her brief was to create an open informal space between the house and the wall which separates the garden from the park around Woburn Abbey. Around the house, terraces generously planted with standard Wisteria and a spreading sea of Russian daisy, are given an exotic twist with Fejoia sellowiana. A wide, open lawn is planted with clumps of trees, among the groves of white -trunked Himalayan Birch. A picturesque, thatched summer house conceals a door in the perimeter wall which gives, Alice-like, onto the woodland walk around the extensive lake on the edge of the park. There has been much restoration and replanting over the years, particularly under the care of Peter Crann, the head gardener, who has lifted the canopies of trees and opened vistas across the lake. The ultimate object of this garden was to create an area where everything looked natural, thus creating the feeling of peace.