Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The 'other' Hampton Court

A brilliant day out today with friend Lesley to Hampton Court in Herefordshire - about an hour's drive from here. The purpose of our visit - the gardens. The castle itself is not open to the public but the gardens were so stunning that missing the stuff indoors wasn't a problem.

We're not talking here of gardens with the breadth and scope of Villas d'Este and Lante or those at Versailles. Here we find that particular blend of past and present - elements of both drawn together in the landscape - which make this particular garden so successful and so English. Parkland of ancient and venerable trees, close-cropped meadows grazed by dreamy cows slip down towards a trickling watercourse. The back-drop; a crenellated pile. Close by its walls, the pleasure gardens, blowsy borders, an extensive potager, a maze and orangery.

The Hampton Court estate was extensive before the 15th century - it was believed to have extended to over 60,000 acres, and was granted by Henry IV to Sir Rowland Lenthall in recognition for his bravery at Agincourt. The estate and the manor house built on the site remained in the hands of a succession of notable families who, over the centuries remodeled both house and gardens. The 20th century, two world wars and economic depression saw a decline in the garden's fortunes and a renaissance has only come lately with the Van Kampen restoration of house and garden.

In the garden of today we see ghosts of the past and promise for the future. The reworking of the walled gardens are particularly exciting - and the bold 'water feature' perhaps the best known. With regret I realised my camera was battery-less (damn and double-damn), as there was so much I would have liked to record.

Planting: - colour (a harmonious and repetitious palette), texture, form and structure - full marks. Hard landscaping ditto. So much to excite and delight, something around every corner. Loved it.

How brave do I have to be (see above) to be granted something like this?

Would certainly like to make a return visit - perhaps earlier in the year to see if the spring garden is as rewarding as this bountiful one of late summer.

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