As promised, we have had another night away in the campervan, disguised on this blog by advance scheduling of posts, and with a bit of juggling put together an itinerary of three gardens on the first day, and a more formal garden on the second. As on previous visits, many properties are only open on certain days so could not be included. Having travelled north to Cheshire , west (north west really) to Shropshire, this time we went south to Northamptonshire, still only 50 or 60 miles from home, and began our trip at Kelmarsh Hall, a Grade I listed house surrounded by gardens and parkland.
The garden itself is classed as Grade II*, ‘a garden of national significance and known for their relaxed charm and ‘haphazard luxuriance’. Much of the immediate landscape was brought to life during the late 1920s and again in the 1940s, with the help of garden designer Norah Lindsay and landscape architect Geoffrey Jellicoe. Despite their grand canvas, the gardens are said to have an intimate, feminine feel, occasionally broken by wide pastoral views over a lost medieval village or the 18th century Lake. Visiting mid September, the acclaimed borders were past their best and I seem to have taken few photographs, but I could see how things would have been different even just a month ago.
Whilst there, I came across this plant which I was unable to identify until I saw it another garden later in the day, learning that it was Chelone obliqua:
Moving on to Holdenby Hall, once the biggest house in Elizabethan England, subsequently becoming the palace of James I and Charles I, before becoming Charles’ prison after his defeat in the Civil War. The garden includes an Elizabethan garden designed by Rosemary Verey, including only species available at the time. There is a falconry centre on site too and we enjoyed a demonstration of the art of falconry; there were also a number of stainless steel art installations when we visited.
It was time to move on to Coton Manor, a garden I have visited before and enjoyed greatly for its borders, exuberant pots and use of water – and its wide range of plants for sale! I certainly enjoyed it as much as before, even though the plant sales area was a little shabby and needed attention; I think it would have been August when we visited last time, and it would be interesting to see it again during other seasons, with spring blooms, bluebell woods and annual meadow all on offer.
Our second day took us to Stowe, where inn the eighteenth century, the powerful Temple-Grenville family chose to create an idyllic landscape filled with temples. Amidst these large gardens, they built the most lavish temple of all, Stowe House. This temple was so grand that even Queen Victoria was bewildered by its interiors, but excessive spending eventually led to bankruptcy and the house was saved only by its use from the 1920s by the independent Stowe School. The gardens and estate are managed by the National Trust. Very much of its time, the gardens are full of hidden meanings with the various temples and artifacts place at strategic points within the landscape on the separate Paths of Vice, Virtue and Liberty. It may not be a garden for the 21st century, but we all know the benefits of a striking focal point and borrowed landscapes in our own gardens, and one had to admire the skills of those early designers. Here are just some examples of the grandeur of the place:
We were well walked out after treading all these Paths and grateful that Stowe was the only place on our itinerary that day, heading home after another intensive mini break. Did I head home with some more plants? Of course I did!