Why do so many Londoners hop on a Paddington Station train and venture into the Cotswolds for their summer vacation? A local shopkeeper in Chipping Campden answered my question with dramatically outstretched arms, a massive smile and slightly upturned chin…”Because THIS is England!”
The pastoral landscape, thatched medieval villages and olde market towns built with distinctive honey-coloured stone…the fresh air, miles of winding footpaths through rolling hills (wolds) and – OH YES – the quintessential English gardens to explore!
Life gets busy and I truly believe the idyllic natural beauty of this ancient landscape has the power to energize the soul and ease the hectic pace – as it did for my sister Pat and I, on our recent trip to the Cotswolds this summer.
If you’re feeling a bit knackered and need a wee break – I invite you to come along with me for a walk through the ‘Heart of England‘ as I take an appreciative look back at my recent trip.
There are so many delights in this ‘green and pleasant land’ that I hope will add a welcome layer of colour to all your garden dreams – and perhaps – you’ll sense a sprinkling of the magic this landscape leaves on the heart as a parting kiss.💚
ENGLISH COUNTRY GARDEN ideas:
- STONE TROUGH GARDENING – and other examples of English gardens from the Cotswolds
- ENGLISH HANGING BASKET – tips and inspirational photos from Chipping Campden
- HIDCOTE MANOR GARDEN – a peek at my recent visit there along with…
- KIFTSGATE COURT GARDEN – (including a little video tour just for the fun of it 😀)
- COTSWOLD LAVENDER FARM – I wish I had smell-o-vision for that!
This charming old wool merchants’ town, Chipping Campden, received its town charter from King Henry II in 1175 and became a ‘home-away-from-home’ during our two week stay in Gloucestershire. It is truly a ‘picture postcard’ town that makes you feel like you’re back in time as you walk through the streets.
Chipping Campden is centrally located in the North Cotswolds and only a ten minute drive from Kiftsgate Court Gardens and Hidcote Manor Garden (HUGE two thumbs up for a gardener!👍🏼👍🏼) It also marks the beginning and the end of the 102 mile ‘Cotswold Way‘ – one of the most beautiful long distance walking paths in the UK that follows the length of the Cotswold escarpment between Chipping Campden and the World Heritage City of Bath.
I drew so much inspiration from many of the gardens we came across on our walks around Chipping Campden village. My own vegetable garden this summer has been filled with Dahlia plants in preparation for an August wedding, so when we came across this woman’s garden overflowing with healthy blooming Dahlias I was totally impressed! I love the bamboo stakes she has tied together to support the plants along the perimeter of the patch 👍🏼
No dirt? No problem!
Get creative when you’re finding ways to make space for plants and flowers – even where no ‘ground’ exists! We saw so many lovely examples of plants grown in stone troughs, Hollyhocks growing out of the smallest cracks in front of homes along the High Street – and small patches of dirt turned into glorious lavender front walkways! Check it out! 😄
Lavender – vines and boxwood hedges growing in the most unlikely places!
ENGLISH HANGING BASKET TIP
I asked around…the beautiful baskets you see below that were scattered throughout the town of Chipping Campden put on such a colorful display – apparently, the trick is to plant them root ball to root ball…don’t worry about soil between them. They pack them in tightly with the base being filled with the best organic soil available, top off with soil and then fertilize EVERY TIME they water. That’s it! It totally answered the question in my mind “How on earth do they get SO MANY plants in one container?!”
EIGHT BELLS INN – CHIPPING CAMPDEN – ENGLAND
I can’t move on from Chipping Campden without first giving a special ‘SHOUT OUT’ to the folks at the ‘Eight Bells Inn‘ who gave us many good meals (fish & chips deep-fried in their own beer batter and roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and local vegetables)…oh, and the local craft beer on tap 😀 Eight Bells Inn was built in the 14th century to house the stonemasons that built St James’ church and was later used to store the peel of eight bells that were hung in the church tower – hence the name!
HIDCOTE MANOR GARDEN
One of the finest and best known examples of an Arts and Craft garden in Britain – just a stones throw away from Chipping Campden and a short drive from Straford-upon-Avon. Lawrence Johnston began creating this garden in 1910. Well known for it’s intricate garden ‘rooms’ that meander throughout the property and out to the countryside beyond. It took nearly 30 years to transform some fields containing a few trees into one of Britain’s most beautiful gardens. Breathtaking and inspiring are two words that come to mind!
KIFTSGATE COURT GARDENS
Spectacularly set on the Cotswold escarpment and created by three generations of women. First created in the early 1920’s by Heather Muir – a woman after my own heart – decided early on that the gardens would develop organically rather than planning everything on paper. Heather enlisted the assistance of her close neighbour and friend, Lawrence Johnston – creator of Hidcote Manor gardens.
Heather’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued to add to the garden during the 60’s and early 70’s – one notable addition you can see in the pictures below, is the semi-circular swimming pool in the Lower Garden. Later, her granddaughter, Anne Chambers, current head gardener and living in residence, painted the swimming pool black so it would better blend into the surrounding landscape.
The ‘borrowed view’ of the distant valley beyond the ha-ha is spectacular!
NOTE: A ‘ha-ha‘ is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier while preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond
Kiftsgate had to be our favourite garden! We went there several times and the only way I could do it justice was take you for a walk through the gardens with my GoPro camera. The plant combinations in the borders, and the dramatic setting on the escarpment combined with such a huge variety of trees and massive Scots Pines made me want to share this in more detail with you. I hope you enjoy the video below..despite my audio fluffs (still figuring out how to put videos together properly)! 😄
COTSWOLD LAVENDER FARM
English Lavender grown in the beautiful Cotswold Hills overlooking Broadway and the Vale of Evesham. This was a feast for the senses on so many levels! We drove up to the Cotswold Lavender Farm with the windows rolled down in our little rental car – OH MY! I always wondered what an entire field of Lavender would smell like – now I know – HEAVENLY!!
This third generation family farm is located very close to where we were staying in Chipping Campden. We planned our trip for full blooms, both here and in the Cotswolds in general – and are we ever glad we did! End of June, beginning of July…perfect time to visit if you ever get the chance.
What’s lovely about the farm, is this family operation grow, steam distil and naturally age all of their essential oils using traditional methods. The quality of the English Lavender here is unquestionable.
The distillation plant was also open to the public to view and I found this plaque with some information quite helpful in understanding their process.
Along with the lavender fields, they plant a huge wildflower field to support the local bees – and they were a busy bunch when we were there for sure! Lots of poppies and cornflowers to a name a few of the flowers.
Of course – we had to stop in at the Gift Shop and Tea Room after floating in from the field visit…I’m still enjoying some Lavender Tea I picked up, I have to admit it’s like ambrosia for me. Nothing more than pure Lavender flowers steeped in hot water…but there is something quite sweet and soothing about it – LOVE IT.
We enjoyed some classic views of the English countryside from this beautiful location – and although I’ve had lavender growing in my garden over the years, ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ varieties…I’m definitely going to make space for more next year in the springtime. What’s not to love about lavender 💜
I hope you found something inspirational to take away with you for your own gardens in this walk through the Heart of England – the Cotswold countryside!
The colour, movement, shape and form of the trees, shrubs and plants growing in our gardens change and evolve over the years – but the dreams and inspiration of a gardener are a well-spring that never runs dry.
The Garden Muse can truly be found anywhere you find yourself in nature – I hope she whispers in your ear and adds strength to your dreams. ENJOY the day everyone, and thank you so much for coming with me on this journey – you being here to share with means everything to me 💚