We begin today with a visit to the award-winning three-acre gardens of Bourton House. The gardens had become overgrown and neglected when Richard and Monique Paice acquired them in 1983. Over the past 25 years, the ornamental garden with its 18th-century raised walk overlooking the rolling Cotswold Hills, the original kitchen garden, and Bourton’s orchard, have been transformed. The Paices’ achievement was recognised when Bourton House Garden was honoured with the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year’ award in 2006.
In the afternoon we continue to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, which tell the story of three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920s. From the mid-fifties Diany Binny added the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigned the white sunk garden. One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new water garden whose composition is ‘abstract modern’.
Our day concludes with a drive through the picturesque Cotswolds, including a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow-on-the-Wold was an important medieval market town and is now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Today we drive into the Cotswolds to visit a magnificent garden located near the village of Moreton-in-Marsh. Our first visit is to Sezincote Manor, where an exotic oriental garden was created to complement the architect S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating 19th-century Regency house, which he designed in an Indian, Moghul style; Sezincote served as the inspiration for George IV’s Brighton Pavilion. Sezincote’s extraordinary eccentricities include a temple, not to any Grecian deity, but to the Hindu goddess Souriya; garden sculptures include a bronze serpent and Brahmin bulls, whilst minarets top the conservatory.
Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh, where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the high street, which has many elegant 18th-century inns and houses, including the Redesdale Market Hall.
After lunch, we explore the innovative Pettifers Gardens, where head gardener Polly Stevens will provide us with a guided tour. The tour will describe not only the interesting and surprising plant combinations, but also how this garden has undergone changes made by the owner and designer, the Honourable Mrs. Gina Price, since the early 1990s, when she began to design the garden. Combined with friendship and advice from Diany Binney at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Pettifers has today developed a reputation as one of the must-see English country gardens. RHS judge and media personality James Alexander-Sinclair described the garden in Gardens Illustrated magazine as “undoubtedly one of the most exciting and delightful gardens in the country.”(Overnight Oxford) B
Day 4: Friday 17 May, Oxford – Througham Court – Highgrove – Oxford
- Througham Court Gardens: Private guided tour with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman
- Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens (subject to confirmation in 2024)
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77 kilometres south to the county of Gloucestershire, where Througham Court, a 17th-century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal/informal landscape overlooks a peaceful Cotswold valley. Christine Facer Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal ‘laboratory’ to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930s Arts and Crafts masterpiece, which features magnificent yew topiary and dry stone wall terracing. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. They recently featured in the RHS publication The Garden magazine and in Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets on BBC 2.
Mid-morning we make the short drive to Doughton village, where Highgrove House, the private residence of Their Majesties The King Charles III and The Queen Consort, is located. The King purchased Highgrove in 1980, and has spent 30 years transforming its grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most brilliant and inventive gardens in the United Kingdom. “A series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the garden, with the house always visible in the distance. For the last 25 years the gardens and surrounding land have been managed to the organic and sustainable principles that His Royal Highness has for so long championed.” After lunch and our 2-hour guided tour of the gardens, we return to Oxford, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Day 5: Saturday 18 May, The Cotswolds
- Hidcote Manor
- Village of Broadway
- Snowshill Manor and Garden
- Village of Bibury
Today we travel first to Chipping Campden and the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is significant for its influential garden, designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of rooms of different character and theme, separated from each other by walls and hedges.
Following some time at leisure for lunch in the village of Broadway we visit Snowshill Manor and Garden. The 16th-century country manor house was the home of Charles Paget Wade, an architect, artist-craftsman and poet who is best remembered for the eclectic collection he amassed during his life. The collection includes 26 suits of Japanese samurai armour dating from the 17th and 19th centuries, toys and musical instruments. The garden was laid out by Wade between 1920-23 in collaboration with Arts and Crafts architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott. Snowshill has garden rooms planted to the brim and full of interest and boldly planted pots. The 2 acre gardens are organically grown with colourful borders, terraces and ponds, ancient dovecote, kitchen garden and orchards.
Our day concludes with another drive through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Day 6: Sunday 19 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton
- Rousham House and Gardens
- University of Oxford Botanic Gardens: Guided tour
- Magdalen College and its award-winning gardens
This morning we drive north of Oxford to Steeple Ashton to visit another stately home of very different aspect. Rousham House has remained the property of the Dormer family since its construction in 1635. The house retains much of its original panelling, staircases, furniture and art works. Several alterations were made in 1876 when the north side of the house was added, but for the most part Rousham remains a stunning example of 17th-century architecture and decoration. The gardens are of particular importance as they represent the first phase of English landscape design and have undergone few changes since being laid out by William Kent.
Following some time at leisure for lunch, we shall enjoy a walking tour of the magnificent University of Oxford Botanic Gardens. Finally, we shall visit the award-winning gardens of 15th-century Magdalen College. Magdalen’s extensive grounds include its own deer park, wildflower meadow and a riverside walk. For Oscar Wilde, who matriculated at Magdalen in October 1874, ‘The Magdalen walks and cloisters’ were the ideal backdrop for reading Romantic poetry! (Overnight Oxford) B