Thought I'd enter a post for the RHS Gardening Blogs competition, although true to type, there's a glitch that won't let me install the button correctly on my main page! I've therefore included RHS images that at least direct interested folk to the RHS blog competition page - click for more information and to enter too!
Last week we found ourselves ‘down south’ in Swindon for a business trip, and a lunchtime finish left us with a rare free afternoon. As the weather was fine, quite warm in fact, a visit to a nearby garden seemed too good to miss. A quick scan of the nearby garden properties threw National Trust Dyrham Park into view, but a half hours drive away. I knew from past visits that a neat garden was tucked away behind the mansion, so it was a good bet that we’d have the chance to wander amongst some late season colour.
In a completely rural setting, the parkland car park arrival area completely denies the visitor any clue as to what lies ahead. Choosing to stroll along the tree lined avenue towards the house, rather than use the provided bus, we wandered along before veering off the drive as we approached the brow of the hill. An awe inspiring English Landscape view appeared, revealing the mansion at the foot of a hollow in the landscape. Beyond, even in the hazy sunshine, the landscape rolled away in spectacular fashion.
As fascinating as the 230 acres of deer park might be, we continued down along the slope in search of the garden, but not before passing this fellow, a statue of Neptune that hints in no uncertain terms to a once formal garden layout that has been all but eradicated.
We passed through the building block to begin our garden stroll, with no ambition but to soak up the peaceful ambience of the garden on a post school holiday afternoon. The garden certainly didn’t disappoint. Gardeners, either volunteers or staff were toiling away here and there in the warm early autumn sunshine. A bit of mowing over here, a bit of hoeing over there, and some chats to visitors on occasion were all part of the scene.
The nut walk was shaded and pleasant, and tempted us along to delivery us in the very centre of the garden, where ornamental fish ponds remained from an earlier time. A gentle cascade fed the pools, and benches nearby were populated with visitors making the most of such a peaceful spot.
Around and about were various well-kept borders packed with a mixture of plants, many still providing colour and variance. Butterflies were aplenty and although a little raggedy, were very obliging, pausing on the blossom of well-chosen plants. Leaving the expansive mixed borders behind, the terrace immediately behind the mansion was simple with an ornate gravel parterre pattern cut into two grass areas. Fortunately, this area was calmer than expected as the house was closed, which allowed a nice stroll around its perimeter, and a good pause to enjoy the varied garden scene.
A rigid design can be seen to exist prompted no doubt by the earlier formal garden, but whilst the garden areas didn’t to me unite particularly well; the whole garden, a sum of parts - , was enjoyable and demanded exploration. Luxuriant lawn areas throughout were well cared for, and their open aspect allowed room to breathe, the perimeter of the garden being pleasantly formed by a mix of leafy trees and ornate architecture.
A sense of heritage, something I always look for, is in the Dyrham garden in heaps - the buildings and substantial walls alone are testimony to this. An interesting link to the past however is a permanently exposed section of archaeology. A shallow pit displays, just a few inches below the surrounding surface, a section of earlier driveway made from carefully set stone – not your ordinary gravel approach here! This exposed pit, with explanation board provides a fascinating window on the past, and also on the present, showing how important it is to not destroy the past in our current gardening activity. It must have been quite a task to develop this garden around the formidable garden that exists beneath; I think a great balance has been found.
Before leaving the garden, I had to make a visit to the orangery which I knew to be a jewel in Dyrham’s crown. We had time to wander, sit and soak up the gorgeous scent of the citrus blossom. An excellent display, especially for me, was the expanded historical garden maps on the walls. These gave clear illustration to the vast scale of the lost formal garden, and I could spin around to gaze out on parkland outside, that was once layered with intricate stonework, canals, parterres and topiary. Not forgetting of course, another cascade with our friend Neptune, the one we passed on the way in, standing proud, if a little lost, at the very top.
Although the house was closed, which initially caused mild frustration; I was glad we chose to visit. An uplifting and much needed afternoon visit was really enjoyed, and I was glad to re-acquaint myself with an old friend of a garden, and to see that it is still in good hands. The gardeners didn’t seem to notice us, but on a rare recreational visit, we certainly noticed them, and their handiwork is beautiful; much to their credit. Do visit if you find yourself in the Swindon/Bath area, I'd thoroughly recommend it, and do say hello to Neptune on the way past!