Saturday, July 21, 2012


Sunday June 25th
We don't have far to go on this Sunday morning and there is little traffic on the roads. Westbury Court Gardens is but a few miles away from our stop for the night. We leave not a single thing visible in the car, but then here the small parking lot is watched over by the lady attendant at the gardens. The small size of the car park leads you to believe that this might be a less visited place. Would that be because there is no grand house anymore?


These gardens are all that remain of what was once a vast estate created between 1696 and 1705 by Maynard Colchester 1. The engraving below done by Johannes Kip in 1712 shows the house and gardens in all its formal glory.

When visiting gardens in England one of the things that becomes apparent is the different style of gardening throughout the ages. Today we were to learn more and with subsequent visits to gardens we will have a very good time line of gardening through the ages. Westbury is important because it is a rare survival of a Dutch style garden.

So what was a late 17th and 18th century Anglo-Dutch garden. Remembering that William of Orange reigned in England from 1689-1702it is easy to see why the Dutch influence was prominent in gardens of the time. The long canal which is 449' long stretches from the Dutch style pavilion to the gates at the road.

Many compartments hedged with yews and box and separated by function. Narrow canals with statuary.

Parterres in which the most important thing were the annual plantings. They created a mound called a 'carp's back' on which three rows of annuals were planted each 1' apart. This way the individual plant could be admired.

The vegetable gardens were planted mainly with vegetables, soft fruits and herbs. Plants like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and scarlet runner beans were grown as ornamentals. These plants had only recently been introduced and still regarded with suspicion.

The summer house and the walled garden was probably added by Maynard Colchester 11. He also demolished the late Elizabethen house of his father and built a palladian mantion. Later still this was replaced by a 19century country house.

Views of the church steeple from the walled garden.

The 150 year old tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, which we were lucky to see in flower.

and this 400year old Holm oak or holly oak, Quercus ilex.

Westbury Court Gardens survived the major change in gardening which occurred during the Landscape
movement of the 18th century when the more natural approach to design was introduced by gardeners such as Capability Brown. In Victorian times water gardens came into favor once more and so the gardens survived.
When, in 1967 the site was under threat from the building of a housing estate, the National Trust were persuaded to take on a project they had never done before; the restoration of a garden. They were able to do so using the accounts of Maynard Colchester 1, the above engraving and remains of the planting scheme and hardscape.
Today we can all enjoy this slice of garden history.


On the way to our next destination we made a slight detour to visit the ruins of Chedworth Roman Villa. In order to reach the ruins the road took us deep into the English countryside along single track roads. David became very adept at finding places along the road into which to squeeze while the farming tractor passed by. There was no way the tractor was reversing back up the lane. At one point we thought we were lost. It seems we came in from an unusual direction where signage was at a minimum. We finally arrived at the very popular site and the sun was shining.
Chedworth was discovered by a game keeper in 1864 while out hunting for ferrets. He came across some loose pieces of mosaic, or tesserae as they are known. The owner, Lord Eldon, excavated the site protecting it from the elements by building timber shelters over the mosaic floors. When he sold the property in the 1920s it was purchased for the nation through public subscription.

The villa was a luxurious country house probably at its finest during the fourth century. You can see from the map that it was not far from the Roman town of Cirencester and the Fosse Way.

This year the site opened with new buildings to protect the wonderful mosaics. Imagine, all those years under dirt and rubble.

The underground heating system.

The natural spring close to the villa which probably resulted in their choosing this site. Still flowing hundreds of years later.

We now left to make our way towards Banbury in Oxfordshire. I had discovered a National Garden Scheme Open gardens for charity, that afternoon, in the village of Middleton Cheney and decided we should end our day with a visit to the 5 gardens on the tour. To this end I booked a B&B in the village of nearby Charlton with dinner in.


I'm sure all the participants in the garden tour were happy to have the sun shining on their beautiful gardens. there was a scent of roses on the air at the first two we visited. Two cottage back gardens side by side and sharing a common entrance.

The first with a beautifully designed water feature.

You know how much I want a head pot for my trailing Huernia but I could go for this one and a Mexican feather grass or mop of sedge for the hair.

Next door, with just enough room, this delightful summer house. A must in the temperamental English climate. We didn't have a summer house in our garden when I was growing up but I remember my mother used to like to sit in the greenhouse!

Various stone and brick walls around the house with these lovely stone tablets. I saw so many int he nurseries but they were just too heavy to bring home.

 This was to be a walking tour of gardens and using the map provided we walked to the next garden. I think we have to say that Margaret's garden was to become the favorite. She took the time to take us around, giving us a private tour. I dare say she was rather taken by the fact that folks from Texas had found their way to her garden.

Even in the small suburban garden there were so many nooks and crannies to explore.

Places to sit in the shade.

In the front garden the different varieties of flowers were a feast for the eyes.

And peaking though the arbor this lovely font planter.

Our walk brought us to the garden well suited to someone with mobility issues.

Nicely designed raised beds with wide gravel walkways in between.

As David talked with the lady of the garden about puffins and where to see them best, I took myself off to explore. I noticed two identical chairs on either side of the little pond. A perfect place to sit and enjoy the scene.

They were serving afternoon tea in the next garden and delightful as it was we couldn't have found a place to sit had we decided to stop for tea. Plus, we knew tea awaited us at our B&B!

Our final stop of the day and a large garden with a more typical expanse of lawn surrounded by plantings.

I did like the way they had tucked the little shed down the side and there was my favorite foxglove.

It had been a great day and tea awaited in the sitting room at Home Farm in Charlton.

Followed later by dinner.

And then bed!


  1. Now this is a trip...I could look over and over at these photos! Except the ones of your David, lifting all those rocks for years has him permanently smiling, probably mocking my temperamental back... Anyway, nice variety in gardens past the Westbury Court, which really shines to me. The canal facing the pavilion is what grabs me the most, as do the conical shrubs one side and rounded shrubs opposite. The other half lived well...

    That Quercus ilex is one impressive tree, rivaling even a...gasp...olive.

    Re-reading this in a few days!

  2. So green! And what a handsome hubby posing in those beautiful gardens.

  3. Such gorgeous gardens. What a perfect trip.
    I did think while looking at the photos of Westbury Court that that would be a LOT of hedge work. They must have really had a lot of help.......

  4. I only recently discovered your website, and it immediately became my home page. That way, as soon as I get on my computer I can see what wonderful offerings you have for us. I cannot thank you enough for the pictures you are providing from this trip. They are so very fine, they make me want to go running off to the airport to book a flight to England. I am in great admiration of you, and always in anticipation of what you have in store. Thank you, my friend. You are a delight to my heart. Bett in Kerrville

  5. Such beautiful gardens and pictures! It looks like a wonderful trip... I'll have to look for garden tours next time I go somewhere - what a great way to see something other than the standard tourist attractions (and meet people!) And the pictures of the roman villa were so interesting - can you image discovering something like that?

    Thanks for sharing these pictures!

  6. Jenny, I'm still sighing out loud over that arch covered with roses.

  7. What gorgeous gardens. While I was reading "Founding Gardeners", the book started talking about when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were in England together taking tours of all the famous gardens and I thought to myself, "just like Jenny and David!"

  8. Lovely tour of such different gardens through the ages. The rose arch seems perfect, it looks so casual and easy yet we know there is much work involved. Margaret's garden would fit right in here in Texas with all its charming pieces.

    Your B&B looks delightful as well. You certainly didn't let the incident spoil your vacation.

  9. Looks like you were in your glory..