Glorious Autumn Colour at Hidcote Manor Gardens – Video

We visited Hidcote Manor Gardens just as August turned to September, on a weekend where the warm sunshine was tempered by a slight autumn chill to the air and the surrounding countryside was brown with recently harvested stubble.

This Cotswold garden was created by an American, Lawrence Johnston who came to Hidcote when the estate was purchased by his wealthy mother. Here he was able to indulge his passion for gardening and plant collecting in the garden that he developed between 1907 and 1930 as a series of garden rooms, contained by hedges and surrounded by avenues of trees and woodland. The garden was acquired by the National Trust in 1948 and was one of the first properties to be taken on just for its gardens.

Autumn colour at Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels

Autumn colour at Hidcote Manor Gardens

Once you’ve passed briefly through the house and the study, the view as you step down into the garden is over a low wall and down a long avenue of trees. But from here on, it’s a case of meandering through one enclosed garden after another, through the maple garden with the thatched cottage peeping over the wall to complete the English scene and then into the white garden with clipped box birds at the four corners and white roses reliving a little of their summer glory.

Dahlias at Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dahlias at Hidcote Manor Gardens

Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Is that a thistle? at Hidcote Manor Gardens

We skirted around the lawn with old Cedar of Lebanon that is the focus point beside the house and into The Old Garden with herbaceous borders in soft colours with pink dahlias and purple Michaelmas daisies, and a bunches of orange lilies, perfectly set off by the old brick garden wall.

Autumn border at Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Autumn border at Hidcote Manor Gardens

Soon we come to the magnificent Red border – with the perfect colour scheme for an early autumn day. Crimson dahlias are flying like flags, backed by chocolate foliage and scarlet geraniums in pots on the steps where ferns and clematis scramble through the beds and grasses rustle in the breeze. We look back along the vista towards the Cedar of Lebanon and then climb the steps to admire the miniature summer houses on either side, one with pretty painted tiles and the other that frames the view down the steps towards the fields and countryside beyond. Next there’s a Stilt garden where the trees are bare trunked on gravel, with a dense canopy that’s clipped into straight lines, very French looking.

I hope you enjoy the video below from our visit to Hidcote Manor Gardens

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On the terrace below we find the Pillar garden of clipped yews twined with ivy, yellow oregano and lavender. The terraced stone walls and pine trees, give a Mediterranean feel, a reminder of Lawrence Johnstone’s other garden, Serre de la Madone, in the South of France. A meander along the stream bed, dried out for the summer and a glimpse of the ha-ha that keeps the sheep in picture, but out of the garden and then we come upon an arched Billy-Goat-Gruff bridge that’s the start of a grassy avenue.

Lily Garden at Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lily Garden at Hidcote Manor Gardens

Lilies at Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lilies at Hidcote Manor Gardens

Here are children running races and collecting pine cones, and a perfect picnic spot in the wilderness on the other side of the hedge, where a pair of metal wart-hog sculptures are standing guard in the damp grass with, a little way off, another pair of giraffes have a view of the fields. We return to the house and stop for a coffee and cake in the tea shop before exploring the garden on the other side of the house. There’s a rectangular lily pond through the gate, with a purple and yellow theme of nicotiana, siberian wallflower and daisies, with the Plant House beyond. In the summer the side is open and you can sink into wicker chairs under the glass roof and make yourself at home as if you owned the place, while you contemplate tender greenhouse plants punctuated by spiky foliage. Although the Plant House is made from dark wood, I notice that all the other gates and garden doors are painted Hidcote blue, a shade that’s somewhere between green and peacock blue washed over with grey.

The Bathing Pool Garden at Hidcote Manor Gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Bathing Pool Garden at Hidcote Manor Gardens

Around the lily pond are succulents in old stone troughs covered with lichen, and the bees buzz around through the clouds of waist high stems with delicate purple flowers and a few more pines for a hint of the exotic. We walk on through the orchard where there are another pair of animals released from the Ark, this time two solemn emu. The Rose border is past it’s best but the occasional striped, scented old-rose is still blooming. On the other side of the border from the orchard is the kitchen garden where a couple of pigs look up hopefully but then decide we have nothing to offer them. The pumpkins are swelling nicely and turning golden ready for harvest festivals and Halloween celebrations.

Consulting the garden plan, we realise the only bit we’ve missed is the Bathing Pool garden, with green water and an ornamental fountain in the middle. Yet look closer and you’ll see that the knee high water is deeper to one side, where one could have a cooling dip on a hot summer day and then run into the painted arbour to one side where bright young things from the 20s are playing croquet on the lawn. Our parting view of Hidcote is of families play ball on the grass and a gentleman in his 80s quietly enjoying a Magnum ice cream. It’s a place for all generations and all seasons.

Information for visiting Hidcote Manor Gardens

  • Hidcote Manor Garden, Hidcote Bartrum, Near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6LR
  • Hidcote Manor Garden is run by the National Trust and is open March to December – you can find more details on their website here 
  • Entrance prices at the time of writing are Adults £9.05 and Children £4.54, family tickets £22.72
  • We visited Hidcote Manor Gardens while staying nearby at the lovely country house hotel, Ettington Park Hotel, booked through Secret Escapes who offer special rates at Luxury hotels.
  • For a pub lunch or evening meal nearby we recommend the Howard Arms at Ilmington

 More things to enjoy in the area

Naked? not me! at the Abbey House Gardens in Malmsbury
The Tower and Other transformations at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford
A day out in Tetbury – Gloucestershire

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Naked? not me! – at the Abbey House Gardens in Malmsbury

I might describe the Abbey House Gardens in Malmsbury as a gorgeous Cotswold garden that typifies the English country style, but the name doesn’t always ring a bell – until I mention the Naked Gardener and there’s an Ahhh moment  ”Oh yes, I saw it on Gardener’s World!”

Heather at the Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather at the Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury

The Naked Gardeners are Ian and Barbara Pollard and they love to garden – well, naked. If you see their publicity material you find a couple of naked Adam and Eve style figures to remind you what you might expect when you visit and there are even postcards on sale with them lingering naked amongst the flowers and foliage with a leaf here or flower there tastefully covering the naughty bits.

Faces in the Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Faces in the Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury

I love the tradition of mildly eccentric English men and women who follow their fancy and do just as they please – why shouldn’t you wander around with no clothes on in your own garden? If you like the idea of enjoying this garden with the freedom of no clothes then check the Abbey House Gardens website for the dates of the Clothes Optional Days, although personally it never quite gets hot enough in the English summer for me to be tempted.

As we walked around the garden we came across the Naked Gardener, not quite starkers as it wasn’t the hottest day but wearing a loose shirt, that just about covered him up as he went to work on deadheading the roses. I thought it would be a little rude to point the camera (we English are so polite) so you’ll have to content yourself with lovely floral photos instead.

Sculpture in the Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sculpture in the Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury

There are plenty of statues of naked statues around the garden, from the two masculine figures locked in a wrestling match at the entrance to the perfectly toned torsoes with a lizard running over their privates and ivy creeeping over them on the river terrace.

But don’t let me distract you from the general gorgeousness of the garden which is truly a labour of love. We took the suggested route through the knot garden with an Alice in Wonderland feel of yew and box hedges, clipped into shapes and a giant face staring out at you from one end. The ruined arch of the Abbey loomed just outside the garden and once extended right along the borders of the garden.

We moved on to the lawned area where the hedging traces the shape of the walls of the Lady Chapel that once stood on this spot and in the flowerbed you can see a medieval coffin that once housed the body of a monk who lived here. He was featured on the BBC TV programme, Meet the Ancestors, and apparently his skeleton offered clues that he was brought up near the sea and suffered from periods of food shortage throughout his childhood.

There are many more connections in the garden with the Abbey next door and the current Abbey House was built in the 16th century on the site of an older 13th century Abbot’s house, while just beyond the river are the Monastic fish ponds that enabled the monks to have fresh fish on Fridays. Under the apple tree you’ll find a statue of the Cistercian monk, a mysterious figure with his face hidden by his cowl.

Roses in the Abbey House Gardens, Malsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Roses in the Abbey House Gardens, Malsbury

In every direction you look as you pass through the garden you’ll glimpse vistas created by hedged walkways and arches and punctuated by statues and water features. There are the classical English herbaceous borders and when we visited the roses were still in full bloom, planted according to a rainbow of colour with just the odd misfit to keep things interesting. The gardens are a photographer’s dream and it is really quite difficult to take a bad shot, so beautifully has the garden been planted for form and colour with a  painter’s eye.

Abbey House Gardens in Malmsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Abbey House Gardens in Malmsbury

Past the Serpentine rose bed and through the old orchard with fruit trees dotted around that are used to make fresh juices and you”ll come to the sunken herb garden. It’s surrounded by a pergola planted with climbing roses and clematis and the raised beds are full of herbs that might have been used by the monks for their medicinal properties as well as their perfume, making a waist high mass of green. gold and purple.

Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury

Having worked our way around the gardens on the south side of the house we stopped in the small cafe for a light lunch of quiche and salad, waiting our turn while a very patient young man helped a German lady count out all her pennies of unfamiliar currency. There were tables around a pond with huge goldfish or you could eat your lunch inside a conservatory room with views over the back of the house.

Finally we made our way through the river garden behind the house where the ground drops steeply away to the river at the bottom of the hill.This part of the garden was completely overgrown when the owners arrived and it has now been planted with water loving plants and iris that flower in spring with a wooden bridge to take you across the river for a view back towards the house from the mound.

The monk at Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The monk at Abbey House Gardens, Malmsbury

We visited the Abbey House Gardens in July when it was a riot of summer colour but I believe that it would be beautiful at any time of year with frost tracing out the knot garden in winter, tulips and colourful bulbs in the spring and golden foliage and berries in the autumn. And of course if you have Naturist tendancies, you can also enjoy the garden naked during the Clothes Optional open days –  although with the English summer being somewhat illusive I’ll prefer to enjoy the garden with my clothes on!

The Abbey House, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 9AS - open daily March-October

Find the Naked Gardeners on Social media

Twitter: @nakedgardeners
Abbey House Garden – Videos on Youtube
Abbey House Gardens – Photos on Flickr

More lovely gardens to visit

Spring flowers and romance in the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg
A gardens open day at Emmaus House in Bristol
The botanical travels of Marianne North at Kew Gardens

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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The Tower and other Transformations at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

This weekend I spent a couple of hours nosing round the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, recently reopened following a 4 year reconstruction project that cost an eye-watering £112 million to complete. For those of you not blessed with an education in the English theatre, Stratford is of course the birthplace of the bard himself, William Shakespeare, and a popular destination for visitors coming to find out more about his life and works. The highlight for many visitors, along with admiring the picturesque black and white timber houses and visiting the different houses and farms with connections to Shakespeare, will be to see a Shakespeare play at the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

One of the aims of the project was to create a theatre that would look outwards towards the town and welcome visitors in, by creating spaces that would provide more than just theatre performances. The success of this aim was borne out by the fact that I was able to spend a couple of enjoyable hours looking around at the different exhibitions, the shop and exploring the interesting spaces and hidden corners of the theatre building.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is bordered on one side by the river and the path runs along the building with outdoor bench seating allowing the ground floor cafe to spill out onto the tow-path, where you might have a coffee or a snack while watching the swans on the river. I approached from the opposite side however, through the remaining entrance of the Victorian Memorial theatre and on ascending the wooden stairs, found a room devoted to the Transformations Exhibition.

Transformations exhibition at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Transformations exhibition at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

A time lapse film was playing on the screen on the wall showing the progress of the construction project over many days, months and years, both inside and outside the building.  In this exhibition you can study the blueprint design plans, finger the velvet fabric for the new seating and muse over which shade of burgundy, wine or rust leather you might have chosen. There was even an array of the different bricks used. Those ingenious architects and designers had managed to create 7m deep basement below the stage to swallow up actors as if disappearing into hell, and a 7m flying space above to take them into heaven. I learned how the redevelopment has reshaped the main auditorium with seating in a horseshoe shape that brings audience much closer to the action on stage, in a same way that plays were performed ‘in the round’ in Shakespeare’s day.

Shop at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Shop at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Next I wandered through the glass sided concourse that runs along the side of the building and connects the Swan Theatre with to the main Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium, where you can pick up leaflets such as a family treasure trail around the building. I dallied in the shop long enough to buy my daughter a Manga Shakespeare version of Romeo and Juliet as she’s studying it at school this summer, in the hope that even a poet who’ll be 447 years old this year might speak to the teenager of today, through the comic book prose. I feel sure that if Shakespeare were born today he’d be on Facebook.

Tower at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Tower at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Soon it was time for a tour of the Tower that I’d booked earlier at a cost of £2.50, taking the lift to the 32 metre high viewing platform.  The original tower was part of the Victorian Memorial theatre and served  both as a water tower and a viewing platform but when the auditorium caught fire in 1926 the tower collapsed before it could serve its purpose in  putting out the flames. As part of the reconstruction of the theatre, a new tower was conceived to echo the original, to provide a viewing point over the town and to draw people into the new building as part of the Stratford experience.

From the top there’s a 360 degree view over the town of Stratford, the river banks and pretty park areas opposite the theatre on the other side of the river. It was getting dark at the time of my tour, but I could just pick out the Courtyard Theatre not far away that was constructed as a temporary home for the Royal Shakespeare Company while the new theatre was being built as well as the old black and white half timber buildings that remain in the town from Shakespeare’s day. I took the lift back down again but afterwards wished I had taken the stairs as I missed out on the exhibition installed into alcoves in the walls of the stairway.

There are also hour-long tours of the new theatre building taking place every couple of hours, although I unfortunately arrived too late for the last one of the day – the cost is £6.50.  Both the Tower and Theatre tour are bookable online which is advisable if you visit at weekends or other popular times in the summer season. If you miss the tour, you can either download a free MP3 audio tour of the building before you come or pay £3.50 to hire headphones to listen, from the shop.

Exhibition at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Exhibition at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

My final stop for the afternoon was to a  surreal exhibition by Squidsoup of a word sculpture with flowing patterns of words and sentences. Whatever you typed on the screen would become part of the word sculpture for the next 5 days. You are invited to ponder the question Why Shakespeare? In other words, why has Shakespeare remained so popular with audiences today? After long and careful consideration of this weighty question I wrote the the first words that came into my head on the screen; love, emotion, and speaks to the heart. I’m sure some would be tempted to go off topic and write some random and inappropriate  words, although the latest things written were projected on a different screen for all to see, so you couldn’t be too naughty. What words would you have chosen about Shakespeare?

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon- Avon

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon- Avon

Afterwards I went up to the third floor to take a look at the new Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, which wraps around the sides of the building with views over towards the river and gardens. It serves meals from lunchtime, through the pre-performance dinners and into the evening. On the way down I spotted the Ghosts in the walls installation with images and words from past productions projected onto the brick walls above the cafe.

Rooftop restaurant at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Rooftop restaurant at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

The new Royal Shakespeare Theatre opened it’s doors in autumn 2010 with some small scale events but the first major productions of the Shakespeare classics will begin in February 2011 with productions of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet. I’m looking forward to bringing my daughter back to see Romeo and Juliet in the hope that live theatre will do more for her exam results than flat words on a page. Even if you’re not coming for one of the theatre performances, I’d say a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is well worth an hour or so of your time, to soak up the atmosphere of the theatre and explore all it has to offer.

Visitor information about the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Royal Shakespeare Company website – for all the information you need on booking tickets and visiting the theatre.
Information on exhibitions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Self Guided MP3 tours of the theatre are available free to download or can be listened through headphones to rent in the shop for £3.50
Guided theatre tours last an hour and take place around every 2 hours – they han be booked online or at the box office – cost £6.50 or £3 concessions.
Tower tours are by timed ticket from the box office or bookable online and cost £2.50 or £1.25 for concessions. There’s also a separate free MP3 tour that covers the tower

More things to enjoy in the area

Seasonal and Wild – The Waterside Brasserie at the Arden Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
A winter walk on Edge Hill near Banbury
Country House classic at the Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon

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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscibe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

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