At the heart of the Cotswolds lies the beautiful market town of Chipping Campden. During the Middle Ages it was an important trading centre for wool and boasts over two hundred and fifty listed buildings – amazing for a town of its size. Make sure you wander down the High Street and look out for the Market Hall, St James’s Church, the Almshouses as well as the magnificent Jacobean gatehouse of Campden House which was destroyed by Royalists in 1645. The two Banqueting Houses also survived and are available to rent through the Landmark Trust.
National Trust | GL55 6LR
Hidcote Manor is twelve minutes by car from Chipping Campden. Described by Vita Sackville-West as ‘a jungle of beauty’, Hidcote is the National Trust’s flagship garden and is, as a result, very popular. There are lots of ‘rooms’ for you to explore, some hidden behind hedges and walls, with evocative names such as Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, the Bathing Pool Garden and the Pillar Garden as well as the famous Red Border. And as all the gardens are bursting with flowers, the waft of delicious smells are with you wherever you go.
HISTORY: Hidcote was owned by the priory of Bradenstoke until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The property then passed through several hands until 1907 when the house and the hamlet of Hidcote Bartrim were bought by Gertrude Winthrop for her son Lawrence Waterbury Johnston. Johnston helped finance several exploratory plant tours and visited China with the Scottish plant collector, George Forrest. Johnston opened the gardens two to three times a year for charity and in 1922 appointed Frank Adams, who had previously worked at Windsor Castle, as Head Gardener. H. Avray Tipping and Russell Page wrote enthusiastically about the Arts & Crafts garden in the early 1930s but with the Second World War and Adams’ dying in 1939, the gardens were soon neglected. Albert Hawkins took over from Adams but by April 1947, Johnston had decided to give the gardens to the National Trust although as he was unable to provide an endowment, the National Trust had to be persuaded to buy it. This was the first time that the Trust had bought a property specifically for its garden and after Johnston’s death in April 1958, Graham Stuart Thomas the National Trust Garden Advisor made several changes and most of the borders have been replanted since then.
The gardens are open most of the year but opening times change after October; check their website for details. Only about a third of the garden is accessible to wheelchair users and dogs are not allowed. There is a café on site.
Privately Owned | Historic Houses Association | GL55 6LN
Four miles from Chipping Campden and just across the road from Hidcote is Kiftsgate, an inspirational garden created by three generations of women gardeners. Still in private ownership, you will find the character of Kiftsgate very different from its neighbour as each generation of the family has added their own personal touch to the garden without losing the essence of the shole. The result is a diverse and special place and as you wander around the garden, expect to be surprised and enthralled. And make sure you leave enough time to sit and meditate in the water garden.
HISTORY: Kiftsgate is the home of the eponymous rose and was bought by the Muirs in 1918 and two years later, Mrs Muir started developing the garden exchanging ideas and plants with her neighbour Lawrence Johnston. The garden grew organically as Mrs Muir did not start with an overall plan. Mrs. Muir’s daughter Diany continued the garden in the mid-1950s, creating the semi-circular pool in the lower garden. She also redesigned the white sunk garden, adding a pool and well-head fountain. Diany also opened the garden to the public for the first time in 1971. Diany’s daughter Anne and her husband Johnny Chambers are now the guardians of Kiftsgate. They designed a water garden which ‘reflected our enjoyment of contemporary design and materials’, with a path through the Orchard leading past the Mound to a leaf sculpture by Pete Moorhouse. At the other end of the garden is a sculpture by Simon Verity; a mother holding her child’s head, protecting them from the world. Squeezing past this intimate portrayal of love, the path leads downwards to the Lower Garden with its D-shaped lawn mirrored by a black-painted swimming pool. It’s another bold move away from the expected, and with the ground dropping quickly away there are magnificent views over the Vale of Evesham and beyond to Bredon Hill and the Malverns.
Opening times at Kiftsgate are complex so please check out their website for details. Wheelchair users are encouraged to drive up to the entrance to the garden to unload their wheelchairs but with the many changes of levels and gravel surfaces, only about a third of the garden is accessible. A ramp is available for wheelchair access to the café but there are no disabled toilets on site, the nearest being those at Hidcote. Dogs are not allowed.
National Trust | WR12 7JU
Under six miles from Chipping Campden is Snowshill, home of the English eccentric, Charles Paget Wade. Wade, was a poet, artist-craftsman and architect who personified his family’s motto ‘Let Nothing Perish’. A proponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he filled his house with over twenty-two thousand objects and described his garden at Snowshill as ‘man’s rest, children’s fairyland, bird’s orchestra, butterfly’s bouquet’. The National Trust has done an excellent job in keeping Wade’s spirit living throughout the garden; everything wooden in the garden is painted Wade’s favourite colour blue while the 400-metre walk from the car park to the house is littered with Wade’s poetry and quotes from the current gardeners.
HISTORY: Winchcombe Abbey sold the Manor to John and Thomas Warren in 1572. The estate then passed through several hands until it was bought by Charles Paget Wade in 1919. Wade was a believer in good design, colour and workmanship and spent the next three years restoring Snowshill with up to twenty-eight craftsmen working and living in the house. Unlike the Muirs at Kiftsgate, Wade concentrated on the form of the garden asking the advice of M. H. Baillie-Scott who held similar views to his own on garden design: ‘But it should always be borne in mind that the flowers are for the garden, not the garden for the flowers’. [Our Homes and Gardens, December 1920]. Wade lived in the Priest’s House using the Manor to entertain his numerous visitors including Queen Mary who allegedly said that Wade himself was the most remarkable part of the collection. Wade gave the property to the National Trust in 1951.
The gardens are open for most of the year although they close in December until March with only weekend-opening in November. The garden is not wheelchair friendly as there are undulating paths, steep slopes and part of the garden is terraced with steps. Dogs are not allowed.
Privately Owned | Historic Houses Association | GL56 9AW
Eighteen minutes by car from Chipping Campden lies a magnificent Mogul Indian Palace set in the Cotswold Hills. It is thought to be the only surviving mogul building in western Europe even though it was designed by an architect who had never been to India! It is still a family home and visiting times are restricted but you won’t be disappointed by the magnificent onion dome and minarets or the stunning picturesque landscape filled with waterfalls, statues, grottoes, Hindu Bridge, Persian Garden and Temple of Surya.
HISTORY: John Cockerell spent many years in the East India Company’s Army and in 1795, a year after his return from India, Cockerell bought Sezincote from the Earl of Guildford. Cockerell asked his brother, Samuel Pepys Cockerell to design a house using the engravings of William Hodges and the paintings by Thomas and William Daniell for reference; it is likely that Cockerell commissioned Humphry Repton to advise on the garden. John Cockerell died in 1798 and left the house to his brothers and sister and not to his Indo-Portuguese mistress or his four illegitimate children. It took another twelve years before the house was finished by which time Charles Cockerell had sole ownership of Sezincote, having bought his siblings out. In 1844, the estate was bought by James Dugdale whose son was at Oxford with John Betjeman. Betjeman was a frequent visitor to Sezincote and mentions the estate in Summoned by Bells. During the Second World War, Sezincote fell into disrepair until it was saved in 1944 by Sir Cyril and Lady Kleinwort. Their family still live in the house and run the estate.
The gardens are only open on a Thursday and Friday from 2.00pm until 6.00pm (or dusk if earlier) from January to November. No credit or debit cards are accepted and although much of the garden is on a slope with steep banks, gravel paths and irregular stone bridges, enough of the garden can be accessed ‘to make a satisfactory visit’. Dogs are not allowed. There is a café in the Orangery.
Earl of Wemyss | Historic Houses Association | GL54 5PQ
Twenty-one minutes by car from Chipping Campden is Stanway House, a beautiful Jacobean Manor house situated near the village of Stanway. The gardens are only open during the summer months and have undergone restoration work by the present owner, the 13th Earl of Weymss and March. Make sure you visit when the magnificent Stanway Fountain plays which at over three hundred feet, makes it the tallest single-jet fountain in Britain. If you are a fan of the Jeeves and Wooster TV series, you might recognise the interiors of Stanway House.
HISTORY: The manor of Stanway was owned by Tewkesbury Abbey for over eight hundred years and in 1533 was leased to Richard Tracy. It is probable that the present house was built around 1580 by Richard’s son, Paul Tracy. The triple gabled gateway was added in 1630 while the water garden was probably designed by Charles Bridgeman for John Tracy who was the lord of the manor from 1724 -1735. Unusually the Canal is situated on a terrace, twenty-five feet above the house while the Cascade is fed by water from the Pyramid Pond which flows under the Pyramid. Other features include the Tithe Barn Pond, herbaceous borders and terraced lawns.
The gardens are only open on certain days during the summer so check out their website for details. The front gardens are wheelchair friendly but there is limited access to the rear for viewing the fountain. Dogs are allowed.
Privately Owned | Historic Houses Association | GL54 5JD
Twelve miles from Chipping Campden is Sudeley Castle whose fascinating history spans over a thousand years. It’s the only private castle in England where you will find the burial place of a queen, Catherine Parr, who married controversially Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Sudeley, a few months after the death of her husband Henry VIII. The gardens reflect the different periods in the Castle’s history: the impressive Queens Gardens is named after four Queens of England (Anne Boleyn, Catherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I); the Moorish Knot Garden was designed by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall and was inspired by a pattern on a dress worn by Elizabeth I (Elizabeth made three Royal Progresses here, the last to celebrate the defeat of the Armada); the White Garden next to St Mary’s Church where Catherine Parr lies entombed; and the Herb Garden created by Sir Roddy Llewellyn in 2011. There are also several ponds, a Pheasantry and a series of ‘Tudor’ gardens.
HISTORY: King Ethelred owned Sudeley Castle in the ninth century and it remained in the de Sudeley family until 1469 when, following Lancaster’s defeat in the War of the Roses, Lord Sudeley was forced to sell the Castle to Edward IV. In 1547, Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral of England and Baron Sudeley, controversially married Catherine Parr, a few months after Henry VIII’s death, and in the same year was given Sudeley by his nephew, Edward VI. The marriage was short-lived as Catherine died the following year, a few days after giving birth to a daughter, Lady Mary Seymour. In 1549, Seymour was executed on thirty-three counts of Treason and Lady Mary was left, a destitute orphan, in the care of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk who allegedly resented the imposition. It is not known what happened to Lady Mary; some say she died before the age of two while others that she married Sir Edward Bushel, at the age of six. In 1554, Queen Mary gave Sudeley to Thomas Boydes, who was created 1st Lord Chandos of Sudeley. The Castle was damaged during the Civil War and remained semi-derelict for nearly two hundred years until the Dent brothers, glove manufacturers from Worcester, bought the estate in 1830. In 1854 they employed George Gilbert Scott to restore the Castle and Chapel and after their death the following year, the work was continued by their nephew and heir, John Coucher Dent and his wife Emma. The current owners are Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe and the two children from her first marriage to Mark Dent-Brocklehurst.
The gardens are open daily from March until December and there is a circular route around the gardens for wheelchair users although some visitors may require assistance as the paths are loose gravel or grass. Dogs are not allowed. There is a café.