Beautiful Cotswold gardens to visit this spring
Posted on February 20, 2018 by Paula
Covering over 800 square miles and running through five counties, the Cotswolds are one of the biggest delights of the English countryside. There are many things to see in the Cotswolds, from the quintessential villages crafted from local golden stone to the rolling hills, every part of the area is picture perfect. No part more than the vast collection of public gardens, especially when spring rolls around and the blossoms come out-you really could believe you are living inside of a postcard.
We spoke to Sally Graff of the Cotswold Tourism Board about why you should want to visit the opulent Cotswolds gardens this spring: “The Cotswolds has some of the best snowdrop displays in the country and from as early as January these little flowers bring hope for the new-year. As the days begin to warm the bright yellow daffodils make a welcome appearance before the trees become awash with glorious blossom so make sure you visit the arboreta at Batsford and Westonbirt.”
With Sally’s recommendation in mind we will explore some of the most stunning Cotswolds gardens this spring, and help you plan your perfect last minute getaway.
Sezincote Estate is a unique and extraordinary Indian house set amidst the Cotswold Hills. It’s a classic example of picturesque garden design, contrasted against bright, Asian architecture built with local golden brick. Situated within the rolling hills of the North Cotswolds, Sezincote is a 200-year-old Mogul Indian palace, surrounded by land laced with canals, waterfalls and temples that is reminiscent of the Taj Mahal.
The house and grounds breathe undeniable history, and Dr Edward Peake, in charge of Sezincote House & Garden, told us a bit more about its outstanding history: “The name Sezincote is derived from Cheisnecote – ’the home of the oaks‘ – ’la chêne‘ being the French for an oak tree and ’cot‘ meaning a dwelling or shelter in Old English. This name is recorded in the Domesday Book and the description happily still applies.
“It was in 1795 that Colonel John Cockerell returned from Bengal and bought the estate from the third Earl of Guildford. John had sailed to India as a young man and made a fortune in the East India Company army as a colonel, and Quartermaster-General. John Cockerell died in 1798, leaving as his heir his youngest brother Charles, who had been with him in India, in the service of the East India Company. Charles employed another brother, Samuel Pepys Cockerell, to build him a house in the Indian manner.”
Now, over 200 years later Sezincote still stands proud today. It is thought that Sezincote is the only Mogul building surviving in Western Europe. The gardens are the perfect place to experience cultural fusion, and something truly unique.
Kiftsgate Court Gardens
Kiftsgate Court Gardens is a family-run estate that has been passed down from generation to generation for almost 100 years. Constantly in the process of being updated and renewed, a trip to Kiftsgate will never be the same experience twice, and the family tradition of seeking out new and interesting plants to compliment the original colour schemes has continued to this day.
Anne Chambers, granddaughter of Heather Muir who created the gardens at Kiftsgate, spoke to us about what makes her gardens so unique: “We have our 100 year anniversary in 2019 when three generations will have lived and gardened at Kiftsgate, started by my grandmother then my mother and now my husband and I. Kiftsgate is unique as it is one family’s home and garden and has a stunning position overlooking the Evesham vale towards Wales.”
More than this Kiftsgate has another unique quality, it is the home of the Kiftsgate Rose. Anne explained: “The Kiftsgate Rose was originally discovered here and is one of the largest climbing roses in England.” You can even take Kiftsgate home with you, as well as hosting a modest gift shop, Kiftsgate also sells a charming selection of the plants you can find around the gardens, including the famed Kiftsgate Rose.
Rousham House and Gardens, also known as Rousham Park, is a country estate in the East Cotswolds. Rousham is one of the few gardens that has escaped alteration, with many of its original features still in situ. The house was built in 1635 by Sir Robert Dormer and is still in the same family today. A great place to take a picnic and a blanket and take it slow, there will be no crowds here.
Chris Jackson of Cotswold & West Oxfordshire District Council spoke to us about the history of Rousham: “Rousham represents the first phase of English landscape design and remains almost as its designer William Kent left it. Many of the features that delighted its 18th century visitors are still there for 21st century visitors to enjoy.”
The gardens stay to their roots, and are not commercialised at all, Chris tells us: “Not only is this one of England’s finest gardens – Monty Don’s favourite! – but it’s got great appeal for all types of garden lovers: for landscape lovers there are follies, statuary and vistas but for flower lovers there’s the walled garden, box hedges, old scented roses and abundant herbaceous borders – with one of the most spectacular dahlia displays you’ll see. Above all though the garden is completely and utterly uncommercialised – there’s no shop, no restaurant (but there are loos!).” So, grabbing a picnic and heading to Rousham is the perfect way to have a tranquil, interrupted day out.
Blenheim Palace is a place of British history. The palace itself, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The astute palace is surrounded by over 2,000 acres of landscaped parklands and formal gardens inspired by the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
As you walk around the gardens you walk in Churchill’s footsteps, and you can feel the history swelling around you, you can even visit the Churchill Memorial Garden and see the site where Churchill proposed to his future wife, Clementine Hozier. The formal gardens encompass water terraces, the Duke’s private Italian garden, a delicate rose garden and many more hidden treasures. If you are interested history, you can join a free guided walking tour of the formal gardens or take a buggy tour to enjoy the main sights on the land. Get lost in the Marlborough maze, or get closer to nature in the butterfly house if you wish, but all you really need to enjoy Blenheim Palace is a picnic and some time.
Bourton House Garden
Bourton House Garden first opened for a single Sunday in 1987 in aid of the national garden scheme, only four years after the owners began the task of turning the once wild estate into the picturesque garden it became. At the same speed it has continued to evolve and now boasts some imaginative and dramatic topiary. In 2010 Bourton House came under new ownership but the same, avant-garde approach is still on show to visitors.
Bourton plays host to an exotic range of rare and unusual plants and that’s what makes it so unique. The colours and displays in this modest sized garden are just two of the things that set it apart from the crowd. Paul Nicholls has been the head gardener at Bourton House since 1999 and his dedication shows in the garden guides he writes to ensure all visitors can see his masterpiece through his eyes.
Miserden is a family-run garden and estate in the ‘Golden Valley’ area of the Cotswolds. The estate covers 850 acres and is a tranquil sanctuary for wildlife and people alike. The grounds are covered with woodland, farmland and gardens, there is also a café, nursery and much more. Miserden Estate is much more than just a garden, but the timeless garden isn’t lost to the estate.
Dubbed one of the worlds most romantic gardens by Gardens Illustrated’s Anna Pavord, you can see the appeal of Miserden. Anna describes her reasoning for putting Miserden on the list in the article: “When I let myself into the garden at Miserden, it was so still, so enclosed in its own bubble of tranquillity, I thought I might have tripped into a golden afternoon of the Edwardian era. Generous herbaceous borders run down either side of a central lawn: echinops, plume poppy, inula, stately spires of delphinium. A pergola of roses and a wide yew hedge shield a kitchen garden. Timeless. Gorgeous.”
Alison Henderson from Miserden’s Estate Office spoke to us about what makes Miserden so unique: “The Garden at Miserden dates back to 17th Century when Miserden Park was first built, and the East Wing and Loggia added in 1923 designed by Edwin Lutyens. From early spring, visitors to this Cotswold country garden can enjoy beautiful flowering herbaceous borders, full of tulips, alliums, and shrubs. The topiary hedges planted in the 1920s and scented garden add to the character and uniqueness of Miserden.
“A perfect day can be spent at Miserden enjoying the garden and many walks around the estate finishing the day with a delicious cream tea or light lunch in our Garden Café.”
Painswick Rococo Garden
Painswick Rococo Garden was originally designed in the 1740s by Benjamin Hyett in order to entertain his guests. Rococo was a period of art popular in Europe in the 1700s and is particularly identifiable thanks to its architecture and furniture. Painswick is the only surviving garden of the Rococo period which is still open to the public, so you won’t be able to see anything like this anywhere else in the world. The design is a country gentlemen’s eccentric idea and not a horticultural project, which means the unique displays are just that, entirely unique. Painswick is full of interested theatrical design, architecture and art, and very turn gives visitors a new surprise.
Rococo Garden is also famed for having one of the largest natural plantings of snowdrops in the country, and the display comes to life in early spring. The plants bloom to white and the gardens are overcome with the beautiful sight of fresh snow drops. This is probably Painswick’s busiest time of year, and they even have a guide to helping you make the most of snowdrop season at the gardens.
With all the gardens available in the Cotswolds the Cotswold Tourism Board has created this great Cotswold Gardens Route that you can view online or download, which features all of the gardens we have spoken about and more and allows you to plan your ultimate garden route. So, when you find yourself looking for a weekend away this spring, think no further than the Cotswolds, and enjoy the opulent gardens and fresh blooms for yourself.
Image Credit: Julien Civiero, Harpur Garden Images, Shella Sund, Pjposullivan1, HandsLive, Miserden Estate Office, Rictor Norton & David Allen, Amanda Slater.