What better way to celebrate my 100th post than by featuring other peoples beautiful gardens. We have just returned from a wonderful day at the 25th Barnsley Village Garden Festival near Cirencester and what an absolute treat it was. Remarkable value at just £6 to visit 11 superb private gardens including Barnsley House, home of the late Rosemary Verey, the famous garden designer and author. A boutique hotel and spa for the last ten years, the gardens are maintained by head gardener Richard Gatenby who gave us a wonderful conducted tour. Richard clearly loves Barnsley House and is passionate about the gardens and their history. He is about to embark on significant changes to the famous Laburnum Avenue which needs some attention and serious money spent on it.
All the gardens were beautiful and extremely well tended. They had obviously been closely scrutinised by the organising committee to ensure their suitability! They were all quintessential Cotswold village gardens both large and small but, apart from Barnsley House itself, our favourite garden was The Little House. It’s name belies what lurks behind the tall beech hedge on the main road next to the village hall. It may have been little once upon a time but it has been significantly extended to the side and rear over the years and is now a substantial and very beautiful family house. The gardens are simply extraordinary and probably extend to over an acre rising gently from the main road to fields at the rear. The owners, I suspect both past and present, have created something really special using the natural lie of the land and surrounding treescape to great effect.
It was not obvious whether the owners managed this garden alone or with help and if so, how much help. We met the owner and he looked more like a banker than a gardener which left us with the impression that he probably had the resources to pay for a team of experts on a regular basis.
The attention to detail was simply astonishing and demonstrated that a “rigorous” approach, as Mary Keen calls it, is very worthwhile and produces a superb result which is worth paying money to see. I would have gladly paid the £6 to visit this garden alone. There was interest and beauty at every turn, gorgeous topiary, wonderful statuary, themed and layered planting exactly right for it’s setting.
Although the formal areas were beautifully maintained, there were also wilder areas where grass had been left to allow daffodils to die down, the daisies to grow and camassias to flower which reflected the countryside beyond where curious calves were stretching over the fence to see what all the fuss was about.
There was so much to see and do at this garden festival. The village hall teas were delicious, the plant sales were good and well priced and we bought some herbs from Rosemary Verey’s daughter, Davina Wynne-Jones who runs Herbs for Healing next to Barnsley House.
Phil Vickery (the chef not the rugby player) presented the prizes and his lovely wife, Fern Britten, was there to support him and enjoy the day. We will most definitely be back next year.