Saturday, May 9, 2015


As a child, growing up in England, I would walk along the roads peering through small gaps in the hedges that surrounded gardens. Sometimes there was a high wall with a wooden gate right on the street. What lay behind that gate? The wall was too tall to peer over and the gate was always locked. Since those youthful times I have had the opportunity to pass through many gaps in hedges and through many gates as I visited gardens in England. Always it is the tantalizing view from outside the gate or hedge. The promise of yet another secret garden room beyond.
Any book that was going to take me through more garden gates would be hard to resist, so when I was offered a review copy of the Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds, by Victoria Summerley I jumped at the chance. Was it possible that there were more gardens to visit in the Cotswolds? I thought I had been to most of them.

How wrong I was. What I was to find when I opened the book was just how many more beautiful gardens there are in the Cotswolds. Victoria takes us on a somewhat unusual visit to these gardens.  Given access to the gardens, some of which have limited access or are completely private, she met with owners, garden makers and gardeners for a personal view of these impressive gardens. And they are  brought to life by Victoria's delightful prose and the superb photography of Hugo Rittson-Thomas.
Make no mistake, these are not small Cotswold cottage gardens. They are large houses with ample grounds and landscaping and one can only imagine the hours that must go into maintaining such beautiful gardens.
At the back of the book there is a map with locations of the gardens and on the opposite page opening times of the gardens. It is disappointing to see that many are only open through the National Gardens Scheme, one day a year and at least five are private. Unless you live close by it would appear that the gardens will likely remain secret to many. This book maybe your only chance to visit. But I suppose that is the idea behind a garden being secret. You'll have to visit the gardens through Victoria's words and Hugo's photographs. I can tell you, you won't be disappointed.
I'm sure the Cotswolds abounds with many more secret gardens and my only disappointment in the book was that it did not cover some of the smaller gardener-made gardens. Maybe they are really that secret.

Victoria Summerly lives in the village of Bibury. Victoria a former executive director of the Independent newspaper and an award winning garden journalist who writes about her own garden at Tales of Awkward Hill.

Hugo Rittson-Thomas, besides being a leading portrait photographer has filmed many other Cotswold gardens.

The book is published by Frances Lincoln


  1. I imagine that book would be heavenly to peruse on a lousy winter's night!

  2. It would seem that "secret" is not idly descriptive, but rather aptly denotes the rarity of opportunities to view these spaces for most of the world. It is probably a good thing that after reading this book, you were interested in seeing more! Indicating a job well done and perhaps eventually a sequel will be managed to reveal some of the smaller gardener made spaces in the area? Though when you say "small" in comparison to these larger estate spaces, I'm betting you aren't meaning particularly "modest". Thanks for pointing the way to what looks like a lovely armchair adventure.

  3. Just looking at the cover whets my appetite. English gardens always tug at my heartstrings, despite the fact that I have no personal links to the country.