The following itinerary describes a range of castles, country houses, museums and other sites which we plan to include. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & dinners indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Taunton, Somerset – 1 night
Day 1: Tuesday 11 June, Heathrow Airport – Shaftesbury – Taunton
- Shute House Gardens: guided visit with owners Sir John and Lady Suzy Lewis
- Shute House Gardens: light lunch in the gardens
- Welcome Dinner at the hotel
Meeting Point: Please meet your group leaders at the Hilton Garden Inn, Hatton Cross, at 10am.
We then transfer west to Shaftesbury, passing Stonehenge on the way, to reach Shute House Gardens. Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, one of England’s finest landscape architects, was commissioned in 1969 to create a water garden for Lady Anne and Captain Michael Tree. The result was Shute House Gardens; his favourite and some say, his finest work. The river Nadder rises at the top of the garden and is diverted into canals, waterfalls, rills and mysterious pools through a series of atmospheric rooms. There is a parterre of Box hedges containing six gardens, each with a different theme; a Camellia walk with over a hundred varieties; a canal of Arum Lilies overlooked by Chinese balconies; an amphitheatre in Box behind a double bridge swathed in Wisteria and Ivy; a ‘beastly’ garden full of menacing Arisaemae and Orthiopoga; and the world-famous Rill tumbling musically down to the beautiful Kashmiri bubble fountains. Shute House gardens have been restored and developed by the present owners, John and Suzy Lewis, who commissioned Sir Geoffrey to complete the gardens when they arrived in 1994. The work continues to this day.
Following our visit, we continue west to make our way to Taunton. After check in, there will be time at leisure before we convene for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Taunton) LD
Penzance, Cornwall – 3 nights
Day 2: Wednesday 12 June, Taunton – Bruton – Penzance
- Private art gallery and garden
- Lunch ‘At the Chapel’, Bruton
Today we visit a gallery which displays masterpieces from world-leading contemporary artists. The gallery architecture is a masterful combination of traditional vernacular elements and ultra-modern features, while the garden, designed by the legendary landscape architect Piet Oudolf, is a gently sloping meadow enclosed by hedges containing 25,000 herbaceous perennials in a variety of shapes, colours and textures.
After enjoying this extraordinary art centre, we shall lunch in ‘At the Chapel’ restaurant in Bruton which, as its name suggests, occupies a 17th-century chapel. After lunch there will be some time at leisure to explore the village before continuing our journey south to the port town of Penzance in Cornwall. (Overnight Penzance) BL
Day 3: Thursday 13 June, Penzance – St Michael’s Mount – Godolphin – Penzance
- St Michael’s Mount: medieval castle & coastal gardens
- Godolphin: historic house & medieval garden
This morning we make a short causeway walk or boat trip (depending on tides) to Saint Michael’s Mount. An early medieval monastery probably occupied this site. It became a dependent house of the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy and then passed to various monastic orders before becoming a possession of the St Aubyn family in 1650. An important site of pilgrimage, it has a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a chapel dedicated to St Michael. The island is dominated by the castle on its heights, which we shall tour. We also view the surrounding terraced gardens which cascade down from the castle in a riot of colour. Protected from frosts by the mild Gulf Stream, the gardens feature semi tropical plants, scented herbs and a wildflower meadow.
After lunch on Saint Michael’s Mount we return to the mainland to explore Godolphin House and its gardens. This Tudor/Stuart house is surrounded by a formal garden, established around 1500, one of the most important of its type in Europe. We return to Penzance for an evening at leisure. (Overnight Penzance) B
Day 4: Friday 14 June, Penzance – Botallack – Pendeen – St Ives – Porthcurno – Penzance
- Botallack Count House
- Levant Mine and Beam Engine, Pendeen
- Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives
- Performance at the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno (subject to performance schedule)
We head west from Penzance to explore Cornwall’s heritage of coastal tin mining, in an area that was popularised in the two Poldark series, that of the 1970s and the series beginning in 2015. Our first stop is the Botallack Count House. If you are feeling energetic you may participate in a walk to the West Wheal Owls, which became ‘Wheal Leisure’ in the most recent Poldark series. Botallack Count House itself, built in the 1860s, was the administrative centre for the mines. We also drive past Botallack Manor, a typical Cornish farmhouse that was used for many of the scenes of Ross Poldark’s house, ‘Nampara’, in the 1970s series.
We then take a walk (approx. 1 kilometre) along the cliff tops of the coast near Botallack to the famous Levant Mine, which doubles as Tressiders Rolling Mill in Poldark, part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining World Heritage Site. Copper and tin have been mined here for generations, and the mine workings of Levant extend over some two kilometres out under the seabed. In 1820, the Levant Mining Company was formed with a capital of £400. By 1836, 320 men, 44 women and 186 children were employed on the site. In Levant’s first 20 years of business, £170,000 was made from mining copper. New technology was introduced to streamline production, and in 1857 the now-infamous man engine was installed. This engine carried men many fathoms up and down the mine, to and from work each day. We shall view this engine, now restored to working order. It is the only Cornish beam engine that is still in steam on its original site.
Following lunch at the Geevor Mine Café, we drive to St Ives to visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth DBE (1903-1975) was one of England’s most important modernist sculptors and one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence. She first came to live in Cornwall with her husband, Ben Nicholson, and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939. She lived and worked in Trewyn Studio – now the Barbara Hepworth Museum – from 1949 until her death in 1975. “Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic”, she wrote. “Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.” Most of the bronzes are in the positions in which the artist herself placed them. The garden itself was laid out by Barbara Hepworth with help from a friend, the composer Priaulx Rainier.
Mid-afternoon we return to Penzance for some time at leisure. This evening (subject to performance schedules) we enjoy a performance at Cornwall’s world-famous open-air Minack theatre, set high on cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean. (Overnight Penzance) BL
Fowey, Cornwall - 3 nights
Day 5: Saturday 15 June, Penzance – Pool – Padstow – Fowey
- East Pool Mine & Beam Engine
- Lunch at Rick & Jill Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant, Padstow (to be confirmed for 2024)
- Prideaux Place: Elizabethan Manor & Gardens, Padstow (by special appointment)
Our first stop today is Pool where we visit the East Pool Mine. This mine worked from the early 18th century until 1945, first for copper and later tin. At the very heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site sits the great beam engine in Taylor’s engine house, originally powered by high-pressure steam boilers introduced by local engineer Richard Trevithick. Preserved in its towering engine house, the pumping engine is one of the largest surviving Cornish beam engines in the world and the last to be installed in Cornwall.
We next journey to Padstow, a charming fishing port located on the north coast of Cornwall. Here, we lunch at Rick and Jill Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant. Since 1975, this restaurant has established an international reputation for the very freshest fish and shellfish.
After lunch we visit Prideaux Place, an Elizabethan country house in Padstow. This was home to the Prideaux family, an ancient Cornish clan, for over 400 years. The house was built in 1592 by Sir Nicholas Prideaux (1550-1627), and has been enlarged and modified by successive generations, most notably by Sir Nicholas’ great-great-grandson Edmund Prideaux (1693-1745) and by Edmund’s grandson, Rev. Charles Prideaux-Brune (1760–1833). The present building, with 81 rooms, combines a traditional E-shape Elizabethan plan with the 18th-century exuberance of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill Gothic.
We shall view the house’s fine collection of works of art, including royal and family portraits, fine furniture and the Prideaux Porcelain Collection. The recently uncovered ceiling in the Great Chamber is a masterpiece of the art of the Elizabethan plasterer. We shall also stroll through the house’s extensive gardens. (Overnight Fowey) BL
Day 6: Sunday 16 June, Fowey – Eden Project – Lanhydrock – Fowey
- Eden Project
- Lanhydrock: Victorian Country House and Garden
This morning we visit the Eden Project, an extraordinary project which, as its organisers state, explores ‘how we can work towards a better future’. The centre nestles in a huge crater, once a vast china clay pit, with massive biomes (domes). The largest of the two biomes simulates a rainforest environment and the second, a Mediterranean environment. Outside these, a botanical garden is home to many plants and wildlife native to Cornwall and the UK.
After lunch we visit a grand Victorian country house, Lanhydrock, and its extensive garden. Most of an original 17th-century house burned in 1881, leaving only the north wing, the grand gallery of which is adorned with some of England’s finest plasterwork. The architect Richard Coad built a huge house here in the style of the original for the second Lord Robartes (later the 6th Viscount Clifden). We shall visit various parts of the house, including the service rooms, nurseries and some servants’ bedrooms, as well as the main reception rooms and family bedrooms. We also take a tour through parts of the house’s present 160-hectare gardens which include topiary, box-edged beds and a picturesque woodland. (Overnight Fowey) B
Day 7: Monday 17 June, Fowey – Polperro –Fowey
- Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing
- Afternoon at leisure
This morning we drive to the historic small port of Polperro to visit the Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing. All along the south coast of England, people responded to high taxes in the second half of the 18th century by smuggling goods through fishing villages like Polperro. This museum, housed in an old pilchard factory, has a fascinating collection of objects from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as fine ship models and an excellent collection of 19th-century photographs that show vividly what life was once like in the village. After our museum visit, there will be time at leisure to eat lunch and explore this beautiful small port.
We then travel back to Fowey where the rest of the day will be at leisure. (Overnight Fowey) B
Taunton, Somerset - 2 nights
Day 8: Tuesday 18 June, Fowey – Dartmoor National Park – Haytor – Castle Drogo – Taunton
- Merrivale Prehistoric Settlement, Dartmoor National Park
- Haytor Rocks and Quarry, Dartmoor National Park
- Castle Drogo: Castle & Lutyens-designed terraced garden
Today we leave Cornwall and journey through Dartmoor National Park. Spanning over 950 square kilometres, Dartmoor is famous for its rugged granite tors, vast open moorland and picturesque valleys. The park is home to an array of wildlife and boasts a rich history with ancient stone circles, prehistoric settlements and medieval ruins scattered throughout.
Our first visit today is the prehistoric settlement of Merrivale. The monuments from the late Neolithic (3000–2300 BC) comprise two double stone rows, a single row, a small stone circle, two standing stones nearby and several cairns associated with burials. Nearer to the road is a large cluster of roundhouses, a typical settlement from the Bronze Age (2300–800 BC). Such a vast array of monuments indicates that the site was of great spiritual importance to the people who lived in the area.
Next we stop at Haytor Rocks and quarry. Haytor Rocks is a striking granite outcrop (a Tor, word deriving from the Old Welsh word tẁrr or twr, meaning a cluster or heap) that stands tall amidst the moorland landscape and has been shaped by the forces of nature over millions of years. Haytor Quarry, located nearby, was once a bustling granite extraction site. Operating from the early 19th century until the early 20th century, the quarry played a significant role in shaping the local landscape and economy. Today, the quarry stands as a reminder of Dartmoor’s industrial past, and remnants of the Granite Tramway, quarrymen’s huts and machinery are still visible.
This afternoon we visit Castle Drogo, the grandest house designed by the master who is arguably England’s greatest late 19th-/early 20th-century architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), architect of New Delhi. Lutyens’ design, which was only partially constructed, borrowed elements from medieval and Tudor castle construction, melding these with a minimalist contemporary style and innovative modernist features. The castle’s formal garden, designed by Lutyens with the assistance of Gertrude Jekyll, contrasts with its setting on the edge of Dartmoor. The garden is noted for its rhododendrons and magnolias, herbaceous borders, rose garden, shrub garden and circular grass tennis court now used for croquet. (Overnight Taunton) BL
Day 9: Wednesday 19 June, Taunton – Barrington Court – Montacute House – Taunton
- Barrington Court: Tudor Manor House & Gardens influenced by Gertrude Jekyll
- Montacute House: Elizabethan Manor with a collection from the National Portrait Gallery
Today we visit two grand houses, Tudor Barrington Court (1538-1550s) and Elizabethan Montacute House. Like many Elizabethan mansions, Barrington has an ‘E’-shaped plan with large projecting wings. The profile of its gabled south front is enlivened with twisted finials and English crockets. Its central entry porch leads into a screens passage with the hall on the left. A service passage leads to the kitchen, which occupies the right wing. A long gallery stretches the entire length of the house on the upper floor. The house fell into disrepair in the 18th century but was restored in the 1920s. It is surrounded by substantial gardens influenced by Gertrude Jekyll.
A special tour highlight is today’s visit to the grand English Renaissance Montacute House, built by Sir Edward Phelps, Master of the Rolls. Phelps, who held many key positions in James I’s government, built this magnificent ‘prodigy house’, a fascinating mix of Dutch, English Gothic and Italian Renaissance motifs, in 1598. It remained in his family, its architecture largely unchanged, until the first years of the 20th century. Prodigy Houses were vast Elizabethan and Jacobean residences which evolved in part through the need to house Elizabeth I and her court; Elizabeth often visited such places. Montacute, with its wonderful large windows and its rich profile dominated by Dutch gables, boasts the longest great gallery in England, in which London’s National Portrait Gallery displays some of its collection. (Overnight Taunton) B
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales - 5 nights
Day 10: Thursday 20 June, Taunton – Dunster – Usk – Abergavenny
- Dunster Working Watermill
- Dunster Castle
- Medieval village of Dunster
- Allt-y-bela, Usk
This morning we travel to the sweeping hills of Exmoor National Park where we spend the day visiting Dunster Castle and the medieval village that grew up around it. The village has a number of fascinating buildings, such as a restored, 18th-century working watermill, which we visit, a nunnery, packhorse bridge, a 14th-century tithe barn, a 16th-century dovecote and a picturesque folly, Conygar Tower. Since the decline of the woollen industry in the eighteenth century the village has been locked in a time warp.
Dunster Castle, a motte and bailey, now a country house, sits atop a steep hill called The Tor (hence the castle’s name). An Anglo-Saxon foundation, it was rebuilt by the Norman William de Mohun in order to subdue Somerset after 1066. A stone keep replaced this original wood structure in the 12th century. At the end of the 14th century the de Mohuns sold the castle to the Luttrell family, who continued to occupy the property until the late 20th century. In the 17th century it was converted to a mansion that was added to in the 18th century. Of the original castle, the most important remnant is the great gatehouse with its original 13th-century gate. The gardens surrounding the castle cover approximately 6 hectares and include the National Plant Collection of Strawberry Trees; the wider parkland beyond totals 277 hectares.
After lunch we travel north to the town of Usk in Monmouthshire, Wales, to visit Allt-y-bela, the garden of designer Arne Maynard. Allt-y-bela is a romantic medieval cruck-framed farmhouse built between 1420 and 1599, with the addition of a Renaissance tower created in the 17th century. Nestled amongst the rolling hills of the Welsh countryside, this terracotta coloured farmhouse sits majestically against a stunning backdrop of green. It was lovingly restored by the Spitalfields Trust and has subsequently won several conservation awards. Since moving here in 2007, Arne Maynard and William Collinson have been creating a new garden, introducing some of Arne’s signature garden design elements and achieving a garden that has a true sense of place. From formal clipped topiary to native meadow planting, blurring the lines between the garden and its surrounding landscape, Arne’s design principles are nowhere better illustrated than here.
We continue our journey north, to the ‘gateway to Wales’, the town of Abergavenny, which will act as our base for the next four days. (Overnight Abergavenny) B
Day 11: Friday 21 June, Abergavenny – Cardiff – Abergavenny
- National Museum Cardiff
- St Fagans National Museum of History
Today we drive to Cardiff to visit its National Museum and St Fagans National Museum of History. The National Museum in Cardiff, unbeknownst to many, has one of Europe’s finest painting collections, from medieval Italian works right through to important Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections. We take a tour of the Museum’s highlights and then have time to explore the collection further.
St Fagans National Museum of History, named after the village in which it is located, is an open-air museum that chronicles the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of the Welsh people. It consists of more than 50 re-erected buildings from various locations in Wales. It is set in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, a Grade I listed Elizabethan manor house. (Overnight Abergavenny) B
Day 12: Saturday 22 June, Abergavenny – Tintern – Chepstow – Abergavenny
- Tintern Abbey
- Chepstow Castle; Chepstow Museum (time permitting)
- Afternoon at leisure in Abergavenny
We begin today by visiting one of England’s greatest historical landmarks, Tintern Abbey. The abbey was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131. Situated adjacent to the village of Tintern on the Welsh bank of the river Wye, it was the second Cistercian foundation in Britain. The abbey fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, but its ‘picturesque’ ruins later became a favourite of the Romantics, its remains celebrated by poets and painters such as Thomas Gainsborough (1782), Thomas Girtin (1793), and J.M.W. Turner (1794–95).
We then drive to Chepstow to visit its castle and, time permitting, its museum. Chepstow is one of the earliest stone castles in Britain; its design heavily influenced later castles. The first castle at Chepstow was erected in 1067 by William FitzOsbern, whom William the Conqueror had rewarded after the Battle of Hastings with the earldom of Hereford. He built a citadel here to control the main river crossing over the Wye, on the main route into Wales. The site, a narrow promontory overlooking the river, meant that Chepstow developed into a very long, narrow castle. In 1189, Chepstow passed to the great knight William Marshall, later Earl of Pembroke, who created what we see today by extending and strengthening the Norman castle and enclosing it within strong stone walls protected by towers, and adding the Marshall tower. The castle now resembled castles in the Holy Land, where William had been on crusade. It later passed to the Earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod II, who further strengthened its defenses, but also created comfortable domestic apartments, turning the military fortress into a lavish mansion. The castle eventually fell into decay, but its impressive ruins, like those of Tintern, attracted Romantic artists.
Adjacent, the Chepstow Museum is housed in an elegant 18th-century house. It explores the town’s rich, varied past as an important port and market centre. Exhibits deal with the wine trade, shipbuilding and salmon fishing. Photographs, posters, and 18th- and 19th-century paintings and prints illustrate the history of Chepstow; they represent the appeal of the town and the Wye Valley to ‘picturesque’ artists. Of particular note is the View on the River Wye, Looking towards Chepstow Castle, Monmouthshire (1844), by influential Romantic artist John Martin (1789-1854).
After lunch in Chepstow, we make our way back to Abergavenny by driving through the scenic Wye valley, following the course of the river. (Overnight Abergavenny) B
Day 13: Sunday 23 June, Abergavenny – Westbury Court Gardens – Ledbury – Malvern – Abergavenny
- Westbury Court Gardens: Dutch Water Garden
- Market town of Ledbury
- Perrycroft: Arts & Craft house and garden
This morning we visit Westbury Court Gardens, which hold a unique place in British garden history and culture. In the 18th century, European formal gardens were replaced by the ‘natural’ landscape gardens of masters like Capability Brown. In England, ‘Dutch gardens’ denoted a particular type of rectangular garden space, often enclosed within hedges or walls, laid out in a highly cultivated and geometrical, often symmetrical, fashion. Dutch gardens were shaped by dense plantings of brightly coloured flowers and edged with box or other dense and clipped shrubs, or low walls. These gardens featured areas of artificial water, with fountains and water butts, which were also laid out in symmetrical arrangements. Few of these formal gardens survived; the garden of Westbury Court is one of these survivals. Such gardens, like Dutch architectural motifs on British Jacobean houses, were extremely popular.
After Westbury we travel to Ledbury, passing the village associated with the Dymock poets. This group, which includes Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Wilfred Wilson Gibson, and John Drinkwater, made the village of Dymock its home from 1911 to 1914. The market town of Ledbury sits in the landscape that inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This pretty town has a large number of timber framed buildings. Outstanding among its monuments are the Market House, built in 1617, and the parish church of St Michael and All Angels, where Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s mother and sister Mary are buried. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) spent her formative years at nearby Hope End House; the poet laureate John Masefield (1878-1967) grew up in the town.
Next, we drive to the Malvern Hills where we visit Perrycroft. It was designed by the architect Charles Voysey and built for John W. Wilson, a Birmingham industrialist and Member of Parliament. Charles Voysey became arguably the most famous British architect since Christopher Wren. Hugely respected by younger contemporaries, such as Edwin Lutyens, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh – each of whom is perhaps better known than Voysey today – he was equally celebrated internationally. Completed in 1895, the house and garden in their hillside setting encapsulate the romantic ideals of late Victorian and Edwardian country life. Perrycroft is very much in the Arts and Crafts tradition of harmony with nature. Following the movement’s aim of combining usefulness with beauty, Voysey designed everything from the doorknobs to the rainwater hoppers, the joinery, the fireplaces, and even the ventilation and drainage systems. More than 80 of Voysey’s detailed drawings for Perrycroft are housed in the RIBA collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and these have proved invaluable in restoring the house to his original vision. The focus of the whole estate is the spectacular Herefordshire Beacon, otherwise known as British Camp, an Iron Age hill fort and striking local landmark. Although Voysey took inspiration from nature in his designs, he was not known as a designer of gardens. Nor was he known to work with a particular gardener, although Gertrude Jekyll did later provide planting for his garden in Haslemere. However, it was very important that the house harmonised with its surroundings, and his houses were designed to blend seamlessly with the garden. (Overnight Abergavenny) B
Day 14: Monday 24 June, Abergavenny – Monmouth – High Glanau Manor – Veddw House Garden – Abergavenny
- Nelson Museum & Local History Centre, Monmouth
- High Glanau Manor: Lecture on the life and work of H. Avray Tipping, by the manor’s owner, Mrs Helena Gerrish, and guided tour of the gardens & private lunch (by special appointment)
- Veddw House Garden (by special appointment)
We begin our day with a drive to the historic Welsh town of Monmouth, which lies at the confluence of the Monnow and Wye rivers. Monmouth throve in the Roman period and the Middle Ages; it has a magnificent towered bridge that was constructed around 1272. In the 19th century the town became particularly important in connection with the Wye River Tour, undertaken by such Romantic luminaries as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Robert Southey and J.M.W. Turner. We shall visit the Nelson Museum and Local History Centre. One of Monmouth’s most famous visitors was Admiral Lord Nelson, who travelled through the Wye Valley with Sir William and his wife Lady Hamilton (Nelson’s mistress) on their way to visit Hamilton’s large estates in Pembrokeshire. Nelson had been given the ‘freedom of Monmouth’; a pavilion with magnificent views had been constructed by public subscription to commemorate famous British naval victories, including Nelson’s triumph at the Battle of the Nile. The Nelson Museum was founded in 1924, when Lady Llangattock donated her collection of material relating to the famous admiral to Monmouth.
Today we visit two special properties by private appointment. High Glanau Manor was built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1922-23 by the architect Eric Francis of Chepstow, for Henry Avray Tipping. We begin at High Glanau with a talk on H. Avray Tipping, who was an architectural writer, the editor of Country Life magazine, and a garden designer who numbered among his friends Gertrude Jekyll and Harold Peto. The talk will be delivered by Mrs Helena Gerrish, owner of High Glanau Manor. Mrs Gerrish holds a Masters Degree in Garden History from Bristol University; she is the author of ‘Edwardian Country Life – the Story of H. Avray Tipping’. The main façade of the house is of two storeys, with three slate-hung gables between two chimneystacks. On the upper entrance side, there is a broad slate roof with a pair of gabled turrets. The house, which is privately owned, is set above formal gardens, with stone-walled terraces and an octagonal pond. We shall explore the gardens, which were created by Tipping between 1922 and 1929. They incorporate a pergola, herbaceous borders, Edwardian glasshouse, rhododendrons, azaleas, tulips, an orchard with wild flowers and woodland walks. We also enjoy a specially prepared private lunch at the manor house.
This afternoon we visit Veddw House Garden, the creation of prolific garden writer Anne Wareham. Anne has written many articles and three books: The Bad-Tempered Gardener; Outwitting Squirrels and The Deckchair Gardener. Her garden is set in the wonderful countryside above Tintern Abbey. It comprises a hectare of ornamental garden and a hectare of woodland. The surrounding landscape of rolling hills is echoed in the sinuous hedges that lead to a dramatic reflecting pool. These hedges provide a perfect backdrop for other planting schemes. Anne has a great interest in the history of the local landscape and has incorporated this into her garden design. This is evident particularly in a large parterre of grasses which follow a pattern of box hedges based on the local Tithe Map of 1842. (Overnight Abergavenny) BL
Bristol - 2 nights
Day 15: Tuesday 25 June, Abergavenny – Hereford – Laskett Gardens – Bristol
- Award-winning gardens of Hereford Cathedral
- Hereford Cathedral
- Mappa Mundi & Chained Library
- The Laskett Gardens: the creation of Sir Roy Strong CH and his late wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman
- Clifton Suspension Bridge
We devote this morning to the cathedral city of Hereford. By the beginning of the 8th century, Hereford had become the Saxon capital of West Mercia. In the following centuries, the town was involved repeatedly in struggles between the Saxons, the Welsh and the Vikings. Its strategic location on the Welsh Marches led to the construction of a huge castle by the Earls of Hereford (dismantled in the 18th century).
We begin our day with a tour of Hereford Cathedral’s gardens. These RHS award-winning gardens, on 6 acres, have been featured in Country Life magazine and on BBC TV. A cloister garden, enclosed by 15th-century buildings, features interesting borders and small trees, and is planted for colour through all seasons. The College Garden hosts roses and plants which have an ecclesiastical connection, and enjoys beautiful views of the Wye Valley and a medieval bridge. The Bishop’s Garden’s ancient trees shade spring bulbs and lawns, and its outdoor chapel is perfect for quiet contemplation.
Next, we visit Hereford Cathedral itself. The cathedral dates from the 12th century and the adjacent Bishop’s Palace was constructed in 1204. The cathedral has a grand Romanesque nave and a fine Gothic ceiling and tracery windows in the aisles. It has a lustrously decorated Lady Chapel. Hereford Cathedral School is also one of the oldest schools in England.
A highlight of our morning is a viewing of Hereford Cathedral’s greatest treasure. The magnificent Mappa Mundi (1300) is the largest medieval map in existence. Parts of Europe and Africa are identifiable in this map, which has as its centre Jerusalem. Its representation of the world is more symbolic than geographically accurate. Its real importance lies in its portrayal of the medieval spiritual worldview, which includes Paradise. We also view the cathedral’s magnificent library books. In the Middle Ages, such valuable items were chained for security; the use of chains endured until the 18th century. Hereford has the most complete example of these chains. The library’s oldest manuscript, one of 229 in the collection, is the extraordinary 8th-century Hereford Gospels.
After time for lunch at leisure in Hereford, we drive to the Laskett Gardens, which were created by Sir Roy Strong, an art historian, landscape gardener and retired director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. His wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman, was a set designer for television, theatre, ballet and opera. Together they developed the gardens over a period of 40 years. Covering nearly two hectares, the garden is an elaborate assemblage of hedged garden rooms with surprises around every corner: follies, urns and fripperies mark a sequence of contrasting spaces, which range from formal to informal, light to dark, open to enclosed. The ‘formal’ garden is influenced by the great gardens of both the Italian Renaissance and Tudor England.
In the late afternoon we journey south to Bristol stopping en route to admire the Clifton suspension bridge. (Overnight Bristol) B
Day 16: Wednesday 26 June, Bristol
- SS Great Britain
- Free time to further explore Brunel Institute, Dry Dock, and Dockyard Museum
- Farewell Dinner at MUSE Brasserie
Today we explore the work of England’s great 19th-century engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), who revolutionised English bridge- and tunnel-building, ship-building, railway construction and public transport in general. Arguably, he is best known for his SS Great Britain, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge in Bristol. It was the longest suspension bridge of its time.
We visit both the bridge and the SS Great Britain. Brunel, having completed the Great Western Railway, wanted to continue its ‘westward expansion’ by linking Britain to New York. His first ship, the Great Western, was a paddle steamer, but soon Brunel became convinced of the superiority of propeller-driven ships over paddle wheels. He incorporated a large six-bladed propeller into his design for the 98-metre SS Great Britain, which was launched in 1843. It is considered the first modern ship, having been built of metal rather than wood, powered by an engine rather than wind or oars, and driven by a propeller rather than paddle wheels. She was the first iron-hulled, propeller-driven ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean; her maiden voyage was made in August and September 1845, from Liverpool to New York. She was later employed in the Australian service.
After touring the SS Great Britain, you will have time at leisure to explore the Brunel Institute, the Dry Dock and the Dockyard Museum. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at a MUSE Brasserie. (Overnight Bristol) BD
Day 17: Thursday 27 June, Depart Bristol
- Tour concludes in the morning
- At leisure/Check out
Our tour ends in Bristol after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to the Bristol airport. B