Hidden in a valley nestled below high beech woods, this secret garden leads its visitors into a world of creativity and imagination, and entices them from the natural landscape into a stimulating place of carefully interwoven shape and colour. Intentionally provocative, it plays like a symphony, repeating themes in different places and different forms.
This is without doubt one of the best gardens in the country. It is a Grade I garden inspired by Italy and the gardens of ancient Rome. Built on a hillside overlooking the river Frome, Iford Manor is an Elizabethan manor house, with a classical front which was added in the eighteenth century, when its woodland walks, planted with drifts of snowdrops and martagon lilies, were renowned for their beauty. The house had become dilapidated by 1899, when it was bought by the architect and designer Harold Peto, who made it his home for more than thirty years. Peto had become increasingly interested in garden design, and at Iford he found the country house he had been looking for. Here he created a unique and romantic hillside landscape, with terraces, sculpture and magnificent rural views.
The romantic ruins of Witley Court stand with the imposing Worcestershire Hills of Woodbury and Abberley in the background, while to the east distant views extend beyond the formal gardens and deer park across the countryside towards Worcester. This once magnificent house, destroyed by fire, retains a haunting atmosphere of its former grandeur, the Perseus and Andromeda fountain a spectacular Italianate centrepiece, sending water 100 feet into the air, celebrating a lost Victorian heyday.
In the centre of the historic town of Malmesbury, on top of the hill, next to the old Abbey, is a garden recently created, but easily good enough to compare with any historic garden. Overlooked by the ruined arch of the Abbey, the garden evokes a sense of history, introducing new planting to an ancient site, using a combination of formal design and modern sculpture in a fascinating mix of colour, and texture.
Spetchley Park is located in the small village of Spetchley, about three miles to the east of the City of Worcester and the River Severn. The wonderful gardens there date back only to the early nineteenth century, when the present Palladian mansion was built, but there was a moated Tudor manor house on the site when it was purchased in 1605 by Rowland Berkeley, a direct ancestor of the current owner, in whose family it has remained for over 400 years. The present owner, John Berkeley, also owns Berkeley Castle, which you can read about on this site. Unfortunately, the Tudor house was destroyed in 1651, when it was deliberately burnt down to prevent it being used as Oliver Cromwell's headquarters before the Battle of Worcester. Nothing remains of the Tudor and Stuart gardens, but the original deer park remains, still populated with herds of red and fallow deer. Still standing in the park, too, are several very old Cedars of Lebanon, which are thought to have been grown from seeds collected by the writer and antiquarian John Evelyn, a family friend, when he visited Lebanon in the latter part of the seventeenth century. If so, then these must have been amongst the earliest specimens of this magnificent tree grown in England.