Author Archives: jwey

Tour 1. Nothamptonshire – Tuesday 11 June

The Manor House, Ashby St Ledgers
Mr and Mrs Henry Guest

The Manor HouseSir Edwin Lutyens worked for many years for Lord and Lady Wimborne and created a remarkably homogeneous collection of buildings which include two 17th century manor houses, one of which belonged to the Catesby family, of Gunpowder Plot fame. Lutyens, with characteristic flare, linked the two buildings and added extra wings, including, somewhat reluctantly, a wing formed of a 17th century timber framed house, formerly in Ipswich. Inside the house, Lutyens remodelled the Entrance Hall and added the double height Stone Hall in 1909 and in 1924 built the new dining room. The garden, which lies to the east of the house, is also Lutyens’ creation. A formal lawn, flanked by sturdy yew hedges, drops down to a canal, still enclosed by yew hedges, that leads the eye down towards the lake. A cross axis from the canal terrace leads to a curious bridge, also designed by Lutyens, which crosses what could be medieval stew ponds. By happy chance the house, which had been sold by the 3rd Lord Wimborne in 1976, was bought back by his son in 1996 and is now the home of his cousins, Henry and Nova Guest.

Cottesbrooke Hall, Cottesbrooke
Mr and Mrs Alastair Macdonald-Buchanan

Cottesbrooke HallCottesbrooke Hall, built between 1702 and 1713, is one of two houses which we will visit this summer (the other being Wotton), which were built at the same time, and in the same style, as Buckingham House, now Buckingham Palace. It may well have been the inspiration, one hundred years later, for Mansfield Park. The extensive park was laid out during the 18th century with a lake crossed by an elegant 1770s bridge. The formal gardens immediately around the house have been worked on by a roll-call of 20th century designers. The double borders of the Terrace Garden were originally planted in 1912 by the Scottish Arts and Crafts architect, Robert Weir Schultz and subsequently replanted to the designs of James Alexander-Sinclair. Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe transformed the former entrance forecourt in 1937 into a formal garden and Dame Sylvia Crowe designed the pool garden. Subsequently Angel Collins and Arne Maynard have been involved. Across the park is the Wild Garden, planted with Acers, cherries, bamboos and great swathes of Gunnera along a stream that meanders down to the lake.

Tour 2. Hertfordshire – Thursday 13 June

The Barn, Serge Hill, Bedmond
Mr and Mrs Mr and Mrs Tom Stuart-Smith

Not surprisingly, the garden at The Barn continues to develop and expand. The courtyard in front of the house has water tanks from a Chelsea Flower show garden, the mellow rust of the tanks complementing the colour of the roof tiles, and the surrounding rusty and purple flowers of Tom Stuart-Smith’s trademark perennials: Salvias, Euphorbia, Eryngiums and Sedums. Behind the house, the main part of the garden is divided by an imposing long vista of double borders punctuated by tall hornbeam hedges. Thick plantings of Maclayeas, Achilleas, white Epilobium and grasses are followed by refreshingly empty spaces contained within the hedges, drawing the eye out to the rolling hills beyond. On the other side of the house, a large space, through which grass paths meander, is densely filled with Asters, Rudbeckias, Dianthus, Eryngiums and a mass of other perennials flowering throughout the summer.

Serge Hill, Bedmond, Bedmond
Kate Stuart-Smith

Serge Hill is a charming white Regency building, with a glass-roofed veranda which gives it a distinctly maritime air. This is where two generations of Stuart-Smiths have gardened and where Kate Stuart-Smith is now in charge. Tom and his parents planted the old drive with rhododendrons for early summer and the lawn in front of the house gives a view of gently rolling parkland. Kate, Ed and a constantly changing team of Wwoofers, spend most of their time in the old walled garden, where the walls are festooned with climbers and arches covered in roses and clematis. The beautiful greenhouse bursts with seedlings, cuttings, tomatoes and peppers and looks over the orderly vegetables towards a chaos of perennials beyond. A final flourish of a long, mainly shrub, border outside the walled garden returns towards the house.

Pie Corner, Bedmond
Sir Jeremy and Lady Stuart-Smith

The garden around this remarkable modern house was created by Bella Stuart-Smith, who is a garden designer and plantswoman. The house sits in a shallow valley looking out across a terrace and lawn into the parkland beyond. On one side of the house Bella has created a series of hedge-enclosed formal spaces with mixed perennial and shrub planting, cleverly merging into the boundary of trees on the bank above. Clouds of box conceal the swimming pool and the eye is drawn towards topiary-flanked steps that lead up the bank. On the other side of the house this formality is matched, but softened, in anticipation of the informal planting of the woodland garden beyond. An arch covered with the long-flowering rose ‘Blush Noisette’ leads into a vegetable garden which balances, across the main lawn, an enclosure for chickens shaded by cherry trees.

Tour 3. Gloucestershire and Warwickshire – Monday 17 June

The Court House, Stretton-on-Fosse
Mr and Mrs Christopher White

The Court House presents two aspects; a stone front on the drive and a very smart late-Georgian brick façade overlooking the four-acre garden. Throughout the garden Penny White’s stylish plant combinations catch the eye. The front door is flanked by pots with banana plants rising out of a froth of pelargoniums. A great curving border, planted for autumn-flowering, leads round the house to a terrace with sentinel yew spirals and box puddings in front of a ha-ha. Across a further lawn eye-catching, cinnamon-barked Scots Pines rise over beech and yew hedging. The walled garden has a long central avenue of standard wisteria and Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ rising from box beds filled with the greys and purples of Sage, Santolina, Geraniums and Allium sphaerocephalon which screen the very productive spaces behind.

Upton Wold, Nr Moreton-in-Marsh
Mr and Mrs Ian Bond

Upton Wold is one of the great Cotswold gardens. Designed originally by Hal Moggridge, it has been developed and cared for with huge passion ever since by Ian and Caroline Bond. Three vital elements are fused in this garden; a magnificent location looking over the north Cotswolds, a very firm structure of hedges and walls and hugely skilled and knowledgeable plantsmanship. Clipped yews and hornbeam hedges are softened by the abundance of perennials. A long border, concealed from the main lawn by a yew hedge, is brim-full with Phlox, Geraniums, Heucheras and Hostas. A pond, with lovely marginal planting is approached through a wild-flower garden. The kitchen garden, separated from Ian Bond’s National Collection of Walnuts by a tall and windowed hornbeam hedge, is awash with Irises.

Greenfields, Little Rissington
Mr and Mrs Mark MacKenzie-Charrington

Diana and Mark MacKenzie-Charrington have created, almost from scratch, the lovely two-acre garden around their Georgian Cotswold-stone house over the last 19 years. The house sits in the Windrush valley and looks out towards the river Dickler. Beyond the drive the lawn steps down in a series of terraces with, to one side, a hedge-enclosed rose garden. The main part of the garden, whose walls are covered with Ceanothus, a white Wisteria and selection of climbing roses unknown to owner, lies immediately behind the house. From a paved terrace, originally destined to be a herb garden, steps lead up to lawns fringed with borders filled with roses and summer-flowering perennials, punctuated by mounds of Hebe. A walk leads between clipped Portuguese Laurel umbrellas under-planted with mounds of lavender. Outside the walled garden chickens wander at will through the vegetable garden and an informal woodland garden.

Tour 5. Buckinghamshire – Thursday 20 June

Wotton House

Wotton House, Wotton Underwood
David Gladstone Esq

Wotton, built by the Grenville family and closely associated with nearby Stowe, was nearly destroyed twice in its history. The house which was built between 1704 and 1714, was ravaged by fire in 1821, which destroyed most of the interior including the staircase murals by Sir James Thornhill. It was at once rebuilt by Sir John Soane and then, in the 1920s, remodelled when much of Soane’s interior was replaced. In the 1950s the house was almost demolished, but was rescued by Elaine Brunner, who was determined to restore the house and also the landscape which was probably designed by Lancelot Brown. Perhaps the most remarkable phase of Wotton’s history has taken place since 1998 under the eye of Mr and Mrs David Gladstone, Mrs Brunner’s daughter and son-in-law, who have restored the tribune with almost all the work being done by the estate manager Michael Harrison who, with his encyclopaedic knowledge, will show us around. The whole of this space, part staircase, part three-storey hall rising to a dome, has been restored since 2013 and is an astonishing example of Soane’s architectural genius. Much has been done since the 1950s with the landscape; farmland has been bought back, avenues planted, temples rebuilt, bridges thrown across the huge lake which is on a scale quite equal to any water at Stowe. One can understand how, in spite of the glories of Stowe, the Grenvilles never lost their love of Wotton.

Tythrop Park, Kingsey, Nr Thame
Mr and Mrs Nicholas Wheeler

The ten-acre garden at Tythrop Park seems even bigger as there is much to see and everything is first-rate. The approach to the late 17th century house, originally built for the Herbert family of Wilton, gives a hint of the delights to come, with wide borders visible around the outside of the walled garden. On the entrance front is a formal space of clipped box, yew pyramids and white roses, while on the garden side lies a wide and generous terrace, thickly planted with lavender and beyond, a formal box parterre in keeping with the date of the house. Behind the delightful pre-1680s stable block, the walled garden is the climax of the garden. This is a perfect mixture of functional vegetable garden and very good contemporary planting by head gardener Phil Kusmishko in 2013. The hard landscaping was designed by Robert Myers.

Tour 4. Berkshire – Wednesday 19 June

Hatch House Farm, West Woodhay
Pierre Lagrange Esq

It is remarkable how many very good gardens have been created in the patch of ground between Newbury and Hungerford, sheltered by the North Wessex Downs and watered by the River Kennet. Hatch House Farm, designed in the last few years by Tom Stuart-Smith, is not the least of these. The garden around the brick 18th century farmhouse was almost non-existent and the brief was to create a garden that looked good in winter and related to the surrounding landscape. The main focus is the old farmyard and here a rectangular garden was created to link the house and outbuildings. New walls, box hedges and cobbled paths give structure to the dense planting of perennials and grasses. On the south side of the house a stone terrace surrounded by, amongst much else, Rosa chinensis ‘Mutablis’, Perovskia, rosemary and Phlomis, gives on to an orchard of crab apples.

Mount Prosperous, Hungerford
Mr and Mrs Roderick Kent

Mount Prosperous, once the home of Jethro Tull, the agriculturalist who invented the seed drill in 1701, has been, for the last 20 years, the home of Rod and Bindy Kent, who have in that time entirely redesigned the garden. The setting, amidst the downs, is superb and the views are enhanced by eye-catchers, an obelisk and a pagoda. The glory of the garden is Bindy’s walled rose garden where box-hedged beds are filled with David Austin roses, which also cover the walls and festoon arches. There is a stylish Italianate swimming pool garden aligned on two Lebanon Cedars, with a pool house inspired by Stourhead. Closer to the house, a pond has been carefully enlarged to reflect very beautiful Japanese maples.

The Old Rectory, Farnborough
Mr and Mrs Michael Todhunter

Caroline Todhunter has been gardening at the Old Rectory for over 50 years. This is one of the prettiest houses in England and was once the home of John Betjeman. The setting on the top of the Berkshire Downs is spectacular and challenging. The mid-18th century house looks south over a wide tree-fringed lawn. To one side of this lawn, yew hedges back generous double borders, leading to a Chinese-style bench designed by Caroline. Paths lead invitingly through the trees to a bouledrome, created out of a redundant tennis court, and an enclosed swimming pool, home to tender shrubs grown against the walls and pots of lilies in profusion. An arboretum, started some 30 years ago, is now impressively mature and includes some wonderful trees. Behind the house, a path from an enclosed garden leads through Abutilons, roses and Philadelphus under-planted with Geraniums.

Tour 6. Somerset – Monday 24 June

Batcombe House, Batcombe
Mr and Mrs Alexander Russell

Batcombe HouseLibby Russell is not only a garden designer, but also a serious plantswoman, whose depth of knowledge is worn lightly, but is very evident in her own garden. A semi-formal family garden beside the elegant Georgian house, has soft perennial planting punctuated by yew pyramids at either end of a rectangular lawn. Above this lies the kitchen and cutting garden, which explodes in a mass of Dahlias as summer progresses and, higher again, a swimming pool garden whose pool house is swagged with a highly productive Vitis fragola. The tour de force of this remarkable garden is the amphitheatre behind the house. Here Libby has deliberately echoed the sheep paths on the other side of the valley in the curved grass terraces which descend from wide borders, past an ancient cedar tree to a topiary–filled lawn below.

Yews Farm, Martock
Mr and Mrs Fergus Dowding

Yews Farm is an ancient hall house which Louise and Fergus Dowding bought twenty-five years ago. The garden mirrors their own particular passions: Louise for flowering plants and Fergus for vegetables and fruit, both for topiary. The restrained garden in front of the house is no preparation for the luxuriant planting inside the walls of the garden. Box and yew hedges focus on an ancient pear tree, from which four grass paths radiate across the garden. The structure is softened, not only by Louise’s generous planting of perennials and roses, but also by Fergus’ vegetables, one merging happily with the other. Behind the far wall of the garden is the domain of hens and pigs, living among greenhouses filled with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Fergus is a passionate cider maker and the last section of the garden is a large apple orchard, from which cider, apple juice and vinegar is made each year.

Westbrook House, West Bradley
Keith Anderson Esq and David Mendel Esq

Westbrook House

© Carol Drake

Keith is a garden designer and David a painter of both interiors and furniture, so the four-acre garden they have created since 2004 reflects their combined artistic and gardening visions. The garden immediately around the elegant Victorian house is appropriately formal, softened with plants spilling exuberantly over the drive. An almost central vista across the main lawn into the meadow is marked by Pyrus nivalis, rising out of clipped box squares. Borders on either side of the central lawn are similarly generously filled with perennials and summer-flowering shrubs, structured with Osmanthus, Sarcococca and box. Here the mood is very different, wilder and reaching into the surrounding landscape. Mown grass paths focus on established trees, particularly a Copper Beech and Scarlet Oak, spring bulbs in the longer grass are followed by species roses.

Tour 7 Dorset – Tuesday 25 June

Cranborne Manor - Tour 7Cranborne Manor
The Viscount Cranborne

In the reign of King John, Cranborne was a royal hunting lodge which, in a ruinous state, was given to Robert Cecil by a grateful James I. In the 1610s Cecil rebuilt the house, adding loggias to the north and south fronts, though the handsome library wing is slightly later. He employed John Tradescant and Mountain Jennings to design a formal garden around the house. The Cecils then abandoned Cranborne until the 1860s when Lord Salisbury took the house back in hand from two tenant farmers and restored the house. Since then successive generations have lavished affection on both house and garden; in the 1960s Lady Salisbury, a great gardener, planted box parterres, a white garden and extensive borders filled with perennials. The garden has been simplified and updated by the current Lady Salisbury and is now in the charge of her daughter, Georgiana Campbell, who will take us on a private tour of the garden, giving us the history of the manor and explaining the changes that she is making to this enchanting and very personal family garden.

St Giles House
The Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury

St Giles House
The origin of St Giles House was a medieval manor which was acquired by the Ashley family in the mid 15th century. A Tudor building was extensively rebuilt by the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury in the 1650s and modified in the 1740s by Henry Flitcroft. The house suffered in the 20th century, but has been rescued and magnificently restored by the current Lord Shaftesbury who inherited in 2005. What Lord Shaftesbury has achieved in a short space of time is nothing short of remarkable. Most of the 18th century rooms have been fully restored, a contemporary entrance has been added to the north front of the house, a garden, part formal, part wildflower meadows has been created and, in the park, the main avenue replanted, the lake dredged and the wonderful shell grotto restored. Probably the most astonishing room in the house is the Great Dining Room, where we will have lunch. Here a startling approach has been taken to the restoration, which has resulted in a visually thrilling space. Most importantly, the house is once again lived in by Lord and Lady Shaftesbury.

It is now possible to stay in the recently restored and converted 17th century Riding House at St Giles House. If you would like to book, please do so via the website.

Tour 8. Dorset – Wednesday 26 June

The Old Rectory, Litton Cheney
Mr & Mrs Richard Cave

The village of Litton Cheney lies on the north side of the Bride Valley, tantalisingly close to the sea. The late 18th century Old Rectory stands by the church at the top of a south-facing slope, which is covered by part natural and part ornamental woodland. Since 2009 Richard and Emily Cave have, with the assistance of Arne Maynard, breathed exciting new life into an already lovely garden. The drive curls around a semi-circle of pleached crab apples that screen the circular lawn and borders in front of the house. A thatched summer house stands sentinel to one side. The bank drops away, through the woodland garden, to the gin-clear springs which cascade out of the bank and feed the lake and the new natural swimming pool. Behind the house, a rather secret enclosed garden is dominated by an old quince tree, beyond this lies an elegantly compact vegetable garden and borders containing the mass of roses that are the heart of Emily’s cut rose business.

Melbury House, Melbury Sampford
Mr James and the Hon. Mrs Townshend

Melbury has been owned and lived in by descendants of Henry Strangways since 1500. The tower was built by Giles Strangways in 1540 and succeeding generations have added mightily to his work. The position of the house is superb, surrounded by an ancient deer park, with long views towards Alfred’s Tower to the north. On one side of the house, the land falls into a steep valley, once flooded with a lake. It has, since the 19th century, been planted as an arboretum, whose trees are under-planted with great stands of Gunnera. The lake was moved to a more visible position in front of the house in 1726 and is now overhung by a magnificent and venerable plane tree. Nearer the house, double shrub and perennial borders, punctuated by yew arches, run parallel to the walled garden, within which lies an enclosed garden planted with advice from Georgia Langton.

Upper Sydling House, Up Sydling
Mr and Mrs Alastair Cooper

Upper Sydling House sits in the heart of the wonderful rolling chalk downland that runs across the centre of Dorset. In 2002 Alastair and Susanne Cooper acquired the house and set about creating the garden, subsequently with the help of Julian and Isabel Bannerman. A stone terrace on the west side of the house gives on to a lawn flanked by two gardens enclosed with rose-covered obelisks and ingenious box and oak benches. One contains a rill and gravel planting of Euphorbia wulfenii, Iris, Eryngium and substantial yew domes. The garden opens onto a wide lawn with perimeter borders generously filled with roses and a profusion of summer-flowering perennials. One oak gate opens onto the rising ground behind the house, balanced by a second which leads down into an ornamental walled garden, part flower garden with roses under-planted with Astrantia, Phlox, Geraniums and Salvias and part vegetable garden with chive-edged paths.

Tour 9. Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire – Thursday 27 June

Eastleach House, Eastleach Martin
Mrs David Richards

Eastleach HouseStephanie Richards has a wonderful garden. From the terrace on the south side of the house the eye is drawn across a lawn, enclosed by borders and hedges, through lovely wrought-iron gates towards a statue of a stag in the middle of the arboretum silhouetted against the sky and the distant prospect of the Lambourn Downs. To the side of the house, the ground drops away into the valley giving partial views, among the trees, of the twin villages of Eastleach Martin and Eastleach Turville. In the foreground a rill runs amidst colour-themed perennials to a pool contained within a semi-circle of clipped whitebeams.  Perhaps the triumph of Eastleach House is the irregularly-shaped walled garden, which has been divided up into beautifully planted spaces with topiary yew hedges, providing tempting views beyond a rose and clematis-covered pergola and a summer house where lesser gardeners than Stephanie would want to linger all day.

Oxleaze Farm, Filkins
Mr and Mrs Charles Mann

Oxleaze Farm is one of those enviable places where gardening seems effortless – at least Chipps Mann manages to give that impression. The burgeoning borders have just the right balance of early and late-flowering shrubs, summer perennials, and box for structure. A series of informal garden rooms leading from the central lawn combine formality and informality and, with a vegetable and cut flower potager, decorative fruit cage, bees in the wildflower meadow, pond and bog garden, results in what Chipps calls a ‘manageable microcosm’. Oxleaze is a wonderfully mellow place with stone walls and stone-roofed farm buildings, one of which, the newly-restored Barn, will be our destination for lunch.

Ablington Manor, Ablington
Mr and Mrs Robert Cooper

Ablington ManorThe garden at Ablington Manor is exactly what an English garden in June should be. The Elizabethan house stands with its back to the village, guarded by high stone walls and ancient yews. On the garden side, a wide stone terrace planted with Helianthemums gives views across the gin-clear River Coln to an impressive stone pavilion, backed by the hanging woods which enclose the valley. Great puddings of golden yew lead down to the lawn, on one side of which a wide perennial border riots against the wall which conceals an enclosed and sunken rose garden. A bridge across the river and a pergola awash with Paul’s Himalayan Musk lead to the pavilion, from where there is a lovely view back across the river towards the house. The woodland garden on the far side of the drive is a spectacular recent development.

Tour 10. Norfolk – Tuesday 2 July

Heydon Hall

Heydon Hall, Heydon
Mrs Benjamin Bulwer-Long

The approach to Heydon Hall lies through the estate village, in which nothing has been built since 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, passing the splendid Perpendicular church and on into the park. The 16th century brick house, which stands at the end of a long avenue running south across the park, gazes over an expansive lawn framed by trees. Inside the house, the hall has a fine 17th century fireplace and other rooms were remodelled in the 1740s by Matthew Brettingham the Elder, who also worked at Holkham. Inside the remains of a former conservatory, at the west end of the house, is a rose garden, whose box-hedged beds are echoed on the north side of the house. The formal gardens merge into woodland gardens and beyond lies the large walled kitchen garden, which is now still partly functional with an avenue of ancient apples trees, fruit cages and vegetable beds and partly ornamental with perennial beds which peak in a late summer burst of Dahlias.

Salle Park, Salle
Sir John White

Salle ParkSalle Park is a 1763 house in the Palladian tradition. The wings, one of which contains the Orangery, recently renovated and replanted with exotics, were added in 1910. A formal parterre planted with yew hedges and roses lies to the south of the house. An avenue of yew cones runs across the lawns between banks of Rhododendrons towards the sheltering belt of trees behind which lies the 1780s walled garden, which is the glory of Salle. Inside the garden, the south-facing wall still retains a row of glass houses, including a very productive vine house. A central box-hedged walk is planted with colour co-ordinated perennials. On either side lies a traditional kitchen garden with an astonishing array of organically-grown vegetables, fruit and cut-flowers triumphantly reminiscent of the 19th century under the enthusiastic direction of Salle’s head gardener, Tom Barwick.

Elsing Hall, Dereham
Patrick Lines Esq and Han Yang Yap Esq

Elsing Hall used to be known for the roses that Shirley Cargill grew so profusely. She was a hard act to follow, but over the last few years the garden has been given new life by Patrick Lines and Han Yap. A wide moat surrounds the Wisteria and rose-covered 15th century house. Generous, mainly perennial, borders separate the terrace outside the house from the lawn that stretches to the moat. From the densely planted Moat Walk and the new spiral mound, there are wonderful views across the water back to the house. To the west of the house, the walled garden, complete with a new greenhouse, slopes down to the medieval stew pond. The Gingko avenue can be glimpsed through a stone archway and, in contrast to the rest of the garden, the formal Osprey garden has a simple, but very effective, arrangement of beautifully clipped obelisks of yew.