Thursday, July 26, 2012


Just north of Banbury, near the village of Warmington, is the National Herb Center. It was our first stop on Monday morning. The sun is shining!

And on the air the wonderful smell of all those herbs. They are organized by family and there are so many. So many different thymes, rosemaries and sages.

As well as the plants for sale there are several demonstration gardens and nature trails. When someone identified this large shrub as a rock rose then I certainly needed to have my photograph taken with it.

The herb center has a commanding view over 3 counties. More than just a shop and garden center the trails lead down through countryside where, if lucky, you might catch sight of badgers, foxes and partridge. A maze, still in its infancy, will delight children in future years. For me a visit to the shop and a small garden purchase completed the visit.

Our next stop was to be Stowe Landscape Gardens. A strange name for an estate, and although I knew that this was the site of the famous Stowe School, I knew nothing about the gardens.


 The estate has a long history from its beginnings as a modest walled garden in the village of Stowe to the present day. Various people have owned Stowe and left their mark on the gardens, but it was Lord Cobham, reputed to be wealthier than the king of England who made a statement in the gardens.

That statement clearly shouted out 'wealth'. This was once the main entrance to the property, and we stop to take a photograph of a scene meant to impress. That was what the wealthy liked to do and what better way to do it than creating a magnificent estate with incredible vistas, lakes and temples. At the time the estate came into the hands of Lord Cobham the head gardener was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

Although often credited with having started the so called 'Landskip' style, it was well under way by the time Brown came to Stowe although he did develop and popularize the movement. He was considered to be a great gardener but was also an astute business man. "It has great capabilities" was his favorite phrase, and so he became known as Capability Brown.

Suddenly everyone was tearing out their formal features, an example of which can still be seen today at Westbury Court Garden, and replacing them with man-made countryside; irregular lakes, low hills, clumps of trees and streams which had their course altered to bring them into view.

There were to be no more fences, no straight lines. Pathways must wind through the estate, kitchen gardens set miles away from the house. Nothing must interrupt the view of his artificial countryside.

The Temple of British Worthies.

The Queen's Temple, where a music student, from the school, appeared to be sitting a practical, piano exam.
There were many notable foreign and British dignitaries, and famous men of their time who came ot Stowe. Among them in 1786 John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who wrote that they didn't think ' the embellishments to the landscape, made by the owners of this great country, would suit the more rugged American countryside' I think he was right.
We now had quite a drive to reach our next destination.


Gardens of Anglesey Abbey were created by Lord Fairhaven. They are a mixture of formal design and open parkland. He chose the more common plants that would grow easily in the alkaline soils of the area. If we were expecting to find a ruined abbey we were in for a surprise. Although originally there was an Augustinian priory, the priory was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. From then on subsequent occupants built, rebuilt and renovated until the building as it is today. Unfortunately the house was closed so we headed straight out into the gardens.

Our walk took us along the winding pathway though the winter garden.

A beautiful sculptural stand of silver birch.

And a seating area planted with Festuca.

The rose gardens.

The semicircular lawn with herbaceous border.

The formal garden with its planting of young dahlias, probably delayed by the cold summer.

And evidence of the rainy summer the whole of England was having.

Time to move on to our B&B for the night, West Stowe Hall. We were in for a wonderful surprise. Let me take you there tomorrow!


  1. What a wonderful tour and history lesson. Thank you for sharing your photos.

  2. Though because of the British Worthies at Stowe, Jefferson created his American Worthies at Monticello (at least I think it was Jefferson and not Adams...I'll have to double check)

  3. I would have LOVED to see the herb place! What a great trip. But, how do you get something home from there?

  4. A Rock Rose - of course you must have your photo taken there! Rock roses grow and flower very well here. They LOVE poor, dry soil and being treated mean. I would've thought they'd do well in your garden!
    Looking forward to the next instalment...

  5. Takes me back to my days in Landscape Architecture History.