Friday, June 22, 2012

Gardens and Country Houses – 17 June 2012

Banbury is an hour away, and the start of our circular drive. After driving through Banbury, we stopped in nearby Wroxton, where Wroxton Abbey, once the country home of Lord North who was Prime Minister at the time of the American War of Independence, is now an American University. They allow the public to wander in the grounds, so we enjoyed walking around the immaculate grounds, surrounding the typical Elizabethan E shaped house, detouring to the Dovecote and Obelisk.

From here the next stop was Broughton Grange Gardens. We last visited in 2006, and were so impressed, another visit before we leave the UK was the focus of the day. The owners have been there since 1992, and developed the gardens with the help of Tom Smith, in 2000.
Since then, Tom has gone on the win a gold prize at the Chelsea Flower Show six times. The whole look is like a giant Chelsea Flower Show garden. We were just as impressed as when we first visited. It's the sort of place to inspire anybody thinking of creating a garden.

Nearby is Broughton Castle, and as it did not open until 2pm, we were forced to retrace our route back to the attractive nearby town of North Newington. The pub there is old and quaint, as are the staff. We enjoyed a leisurely Ploughman's lunch, before heading back to the Castle.

This castle is amazing to visit. Not only do they allow photographs inside, you feel as you are a guest with the run of the whole house, from the Great Hall where we entered, to the roof, where we could wander freely over part of the lead roof.

The house has not been spoilt and 'modernised' in the Victorian era, instead the modernisation happened in the 16th century and since then has remained largely unaltered. This means wonderful Jacobean ceilings and a truly castle-like feel.

The garden is lovely too, the sort of place to sit for a while, and we met the helpful, friendly owner too, out working in the garden.

From here, we drove via the Tyso villages, to Upton House. This National Trust property was set up for a 1930's weekend away. A video made at an actual house party, set the scene, along with the odd fur stole draped over chairs, snooker available to play on the full-size billiard table, and easy chairs to relax in while reading books in the library.

Nearby is the Edgehill cliff-top castle Pub, dating from the 18th century, commemorating the battle between Charles I and the Roundheads in 1642. The perfect place to stop for coffee. The road descends rapidly to the village of Radway, where the battle actually took place. It's quite a different feel in this tranquil village today.

From here we crossed the M40 and climbed uphill to a really magical place – Burton Dassett. After crossing a cattle-stop at the top of the hill, an open area with a grassed over 'craters of the moon' look, is ideal for private picnics. The old grassed over iron quarry has an unreal feel. Cars seem to be free to drive off road to park in amongst the grassy hillocks, people had picnics set up around every corner. The church is also very different The floor seems to follow the contour of the hill, and definitely has a decided slope. Large windows with clear glass and the plain walls, give a very open, European feel.

The day was nearly over, but we had time for one more stop, the village of Cropredy was also part of the 17th century battlefield. Charles and the Roundheads were based each side of the river Cherwell.

No comments: