May has been a busy month for me but the highlights have been two visits to different gardens near to home. The first to Great Chalfield Manor, a 15 century manor house with Art and Craft gardens plus a church, the second to Iford Manor, with a Grade I listed Italianate Garden. I hope I can create a feeling of the tranquillity I experienced in both.
Great Chalfield Manor is about 5 miles from my house but despite living here for 38 years I have never visited it before. The tour of the house took 45 minutes but was well worth the time although the day was hot. I have shared a link below which will explain the history of the house better than I can but some rooms felt as if time has stopped as the furnishings and decor seemed so well preserved. Much of this is a result of intense renovation but many of the original details have been preserved including four poster beds! The National Trust own the property but members of the family still live in the house. Roundheads and Cavaliers fought over the site in the Civil War as it was a strategic vantage point, one of the statues had the head shot off by a badly aimed blunderbuss and some of the battlements remain forming an ideal background now for herbaceous borders.
The gardens are the centrepiece of the property, some left as wild with other areas beautifully planted with paths to wander through. The church doesn’t belong to the Trust but was well worth visiting for the stained glass window alone. I cannot do the house justice in the short space but hope the photos will help you picture it.
The visit to Iford Manor was very different as the gardens are the focus here, set on a steep hillside. From 1899-1933 Harold Peto, an Edwardian garden designer and architectect, combined his love of nature with formal structure of design to transform the gardens. The Italianate Garden is the highlight but throughout the garden there are hidden delights, especially for keen gardeners. It’s hard to resist taking a few small cuttings but that is frowned upon! Part of the original cloisters remain and provide a venue for concerts and opera productions. We were treated to the rehearsal by the musicians for the forthcoming season as we wandered the paths, I sadly cannot afford a ticket but one of the operas this month is Madame Butterfly. Some Sunday afternoons Iford Arts hold concerts by local amateur musicians, cream teas are also available so one day I plan to go. Music and food in a beautiful setting cannot be missed.
Perhaps I should have tried to do two individual blogs on these beautiful properties but I hope I have given you a small idea of two special English Country Gardens.