Arriving along the sweep of the tree-lined carriage drive, across the bridge of the Little Lake with fishermen on its banks, a visitor to Buscot Park, one of the great gardens of the county, can look forward to many surprising pleasures. Approaching through the original stable block with its attractive clock tower, the visitor first enters the Four Seasons Walled Garden, transformed by the present Lord Faringdon, Charles Michael, third Lord Faringdon, from an eighteenth century kitchen garden to an ornamental showpiece.
Divided into quadrants by gravel paths, with vistas focusing on the central balustraded round pool, with its fountain and bronze statue of a naked man squeezing a single jet from a bag, this is the first of several fine water features at Buscot. The paths are box edged and lined with pleached hornbeams. Pink judas trees trained over a tunnel arbour frame one axis. Statues of the Four Seasons by Frank Forster stand at each corner overlooking the garden, planted with spring bulbs, roses and herbaceous perennials which provide a variety of colour throughout the seasons. The seasonal theme is continued in the tree planting which includes winter flowering cherries, laurels and hollies for winter, viburnum for spring, lilacs for summer and hydrangeas for autumn.
The gardens at Buscot are extensive, and there are many possible routes for the visitor. The best is probably to climb the steps from the Walled Garden which lead up to the lawn in front of the house. Built between 1780 and 1783 possibly by the architect James Darley for Edward Loveden Loveden, this Palladian country house remains a family home and displays the Faringdon collection. When the second Lord Faringdon inherited Buscot in 1934, he remodelled the house removing an earlier porch and west wing and commissioned his architect Geddes Hyslop to design the two beautiful balancing pavilions with Tuscan pedimented porticos that now stand east and west of the house.
The eastern pavilion encloses a swimming pool adorned with frescoes. Walking around the house, the garden at the rear has another fountain and pool added by the present Lord Faringdon, with a bronze statue of Mercury standing at the head of an avenue of trees leading away from the house. Next to the house are the steps leading to the pleasure grounds, and turning left here takes the visitor to the steps leading down to the Peto Water Garden. When Alexander Henderson, later First Lord Faringdon, aquired Buscot Park in 1889, he employed the landscape architect, Harold Peto, to improve the link between the house and the lake. The result is an inspired, poetic watercourse, running down in steps, with ponds planted with reeds and water lilies. A white rotunda across the lake ties in the vista. Peto was a leading exponent of the revived principles of formal Renaissance garden design, and at Buscot he uses yew hedges and a series of unconventional statues to define the path. These include sphinxes, children mimicking Roman Gods and satyr herms. Most striking is a bronze fountain where a naked youth grapples with a dolphin. Towards the bottom of the garden is a small bridge, focusing the eye down towards the lake.
The twenty acre lake, fed by an existing stream was a particular feature of the original eighteenth century park, creating views across the water from the house to the bridge at the end of the lake. The pleasure grounds provide a series of crossing paths offering an eclectic mix of interesting features. There is at one point a statue of Antinous, at another a tumulus with a whale's jawbone. Returning towards the house via the Citrus Bowl, a circular sunken garden, guarded by a pair of Coade Stone pharaohs, one is reminded of the vagaries of the English climate, for the citrus pots cannot be put out until the risk of frost is truly past, and this garden remained empty in mid May. A good excuse for another visit later in the year which would be well worthwhile.