Following in the Footsteps…

IMG_3312…of 18th century visitors, we visited the grounds of Rousham House in Oxfordshire on the way down to see Elder Daughter and the Poppet a week ago. Apparently Rousham represents the first phase of English landscape design and remains almost as its designer, William Kent (1685-1748) left it, one of the few gardens of this date to have escaped alteration, with many features which delighted eighteenth century visitors. The house is still in the ownership of the same family but is only open by appointment so our visit was just took in the parkland and walled garden, which we had virtually to ourselves.

The features that would have delighted those visitors are the cascades, ponds, statues , follies and sham ruins, artfully placed in the woods or on the skyline:

IMG_3317IMG_3310IMG_3316IMG_3318 IMG_3319 IMG_3320 IMG_3321 IMG_3322Through an enticing gate to the walled garden brought us to a range of espalier apples, some probably dating from the original garden and some clearly later replacements:

IMG_3283IMG_3284IMG_3287Eighteenth century visitors would not have had the benefit of the double herbaceous borders that visitors to Rousham earlier this year would have had (but which we were too late for), nor the huge beds of dahlias and a further border full of dahlias that were full of statuesque colour, but no doubt they would have been delighted by whatever was the height of eighteenth century fashion in this more ornamental part of the garden. There was a parterre, with box hedges and roses and a dovecote, but unfortunately there was no information on the original contemporary planting although the walled garden was probably purely used to provide food for the house and its guests. Perhaps garden history archives of this or similar properties would give us some clues…



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20 Responses to Following in the Footsteps…

  1. Julie says:

    Hi Cathy, Rousham has been at the top of my list of gardens I really want to visit for some months now and we are yet to get there. Your trip looks wonderful, I can’t understand why its not more busy, but thats partly the attraction for me too. I expect its quite beautiful in winter too.

    • Cathy says:

      It was a pleasant interlude on our journey without much of a detour – but summer would make it more interesting with those borders and the roses in the parterre in flower. It is completely non-commercialised so no tea rooms or shop – just a ticket machine. It was good being there virtually on our own though – and people are not discouraged from spending all day there if they wish

  2. Kris P says:

    You don’t see mature gardens like that here, Cathy! The water features and the dahlias are wonderful.

    • Cathy says:

      We are indeed lucky in the UK to have so many gardens for the public to visit, some more well known than others. The rill in particular was a lovely feature and fed into different pools

  3. rickii says:

    Ah, the history…it adds a whole new (er, old) dimension to the garden tour.

    • Cathy says:

      We have membership of the National Trust Rickii and have certainly had more than our money’s worth visiting properties and gardens, although this one was a privately owned place. Being members of the NT means that even a flying visit is worthwhile if we are pushed for time

  4. Chloris says:

    This is a garden that I would love to visit. It sounds as if you had a lovely visit but it would be nice to see it in Summer.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, summer would be better – although you wouldn’t have the dahlias or the apples (and the trees were absolutely laden), and there would probably be more visitors, although I think lack of facilities might put some people off (there was a toilet though!)

  5. Laurin Lindsey says:

    Thank you for sharing your visit! I do miss the lovely gardens of UK and this is one I have not seen. I will add it to my list. There is a kind of beauty in the autumn that is so serene. Perhaps it is the angle of the light. Your pictures capture it well!

  6. Cathy says:

    I love to find out a bit of the garden history if I visit an old place, but information tends to concentrate on the buildings and not the planting. Still, looks lovely and we can use our imagination. I wonder if herbs were a feature originally too. Love those dahlias,

    • Cathy says:

      Although because of the complete non-commercialisation there was very little info whatsoever on house or garden, nor on the website either

  7. CathyT says:

    Superb garden, Cathy. Thanks for sharing – especially lovely to see those beautiful espaliers in the walled garden on the other side of that tempting gate!

  8. Anna says:

    Have read and seen much about Rousham over the years but impressions leave me cold. I think that it is an estate that you need to see with your own eyes so will have to do so one of these days. How fortunate you were that there were not many folk about. I imagine that it will be different this week. Fabulous apples and dahlias.

    • Cathy says:

      I guess 21st century visitors would like more borders, more colour, etc – but it was presumably quite avant garde in its time.

  9. The Dahlia garden is really special…Amazing job. The blooms are so lush.

  10. Really beautiful, atmospheric photos you’ve shown us there, Cathy. It all looks so peaceful and very autumnal. The array of dahlias you showed are spectacular. As you say, the statues and follies are very artistically positioned and the reflections and vistas are superb. You must have spent a most enjoyable day.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks – the most surreal thing was seeing a couple with a child and a dog walking through the woods then getting into a rowing boat, rowing across the river and getting out on the other side. The sort of thing we do every day, of course… We probably wandered for not much more than an hour or so – after all, we had ED and the P to see!

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