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Gardens of the Heart of England: Remarkable Gardens of Cottage and Mansion

In the heart of England, the county of ‘spires and squires’, Northamptonshire, harbours a wealth of wonderful gardens. From a rectory garden in the shadow of church towers, to densely-planted borders below the walls of country homes, to huge terraces surrounding a stately pile set in Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown parkland – this tour includes them all. An additional highlight will be a whole day visit to Thenford Gardens and Arboretum, home of Lord Michael Heseltine, where we will enjoy exclusive access as well as a delicious lunch. Your tour host will be Helen Yemm, a passionate gardener with a wealth of hands-on experience. Helen has teamed up with experienced tour leader and garden historian, Sophie Piebenga. We will be staying at The Falcon, an old coaching inn which has been thoughtfully restored by Lord and Lady Northampton as a hotel, restaurant and wellbeing retreat. Located in the small, quiet estate village of Castle Ashby, the hotel is a stone's throw away from the popular Rural Shopping Yard, offering a variety of local crafts and delicatessen.

Your Tour Includes

  • Transport from Banbury station
  • 3 nights bed and breakfast accommodation
  • 3 evening meals with wine and 4 lunches
  • Private coach transfers
  • Guided visits to all sites listed in the programme
  • Detailed programme and garden notes
  • Services of the Tour Manager and Tour Host
Experts
Helen Yemm

Helen Yemm

Helen Yemm is probably best-known for her weekly Thorny Problems page that has been a fixture for nearly twenty years in the Saturday’s Daily Telegraph. In ‘real life’ she is a hands-on, self-taught, keen-as-mustard gardener and lecturer with a garden in East Sussex that she occasionally opens for small groups. Helen is a sometimes television presenter (Gardening from Scratch and Gardening Week for BBC Two) and is the author of several gardening books (the latest being Gardening in Pyjamas). She is also a regular feature writer for The English Garden magazine.

However, hosting garden tours is, she says, the icing on the cake – she gets enormous pleasure from discovering gardens in the company of others who share her passion.

Sophie Piebenga

Sophie Piebenga

Born in The Netherlands and based in the Cotswolds, our expert Sophie Piebenga has lived most of her life in the UK. Trained with the National Trust and qualified at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, all whilst working as head gardener of a private estate, Sophie quickly developed a particular interest in the conservation of historic gardens. This eventually led to a doctoral study at the University of York, researching the work of the early Victorian landscape gardener, William Sawrey Gilpin. Sophie has since worked freelance, mostly in the field of historic landscape conservation, and, for the last 25 years, has regularly led Boxwood tours around the UK and to Ireland, France, Spain and The Netherlands.

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Itinerary

The tour starts at Banbury station at 10:30am from where it is but a short distance to Thenford Gardens and Arboretum.

Started by Michael Heseltine and his wife Anne in the 1970s, the gardens encompass a huge walled garden, wide herbaceous borders, a beautiful rill, rose garden, water garden as well as an important arboretum with over 3000 different trees and shrubs. Scattered throughout is a large collection of art works. Starting with an introductory talk over coffee, we will enjoy an exclusive, guided tour of the gardens. After a special lunch, there will be further opportunity to explore the 70-acre grounds at leisure before we travel on to the small village of Castle Ashby to settle in at the Falcon Hotel.

We will dine together for all three nights at the hotel.

Includes Lunch

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Thenford Gardens and Arboretum

From the hotel, it is a short walk to the gardens of Castle Ashby, set in huge parkland designed by England’s most famous landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

The special guided tour will take us across the private terraces near the castle which allow far-reaching views over the surrounding park landscape. The Victorian gardens contain a Grade I orangery by Matthew Digby Wyatt overlooking the formal Italian Gardens. We return via the Rural Shopping Yard before travelling to the private rectory of a nearby village where we will enjoy a special invitation to lunch before viewing the gardens. Professionally designed and maintained, the owners use their garden for a wide variety of purposes, including poetry readings and wild swimming sessions.

They will join us for dinner this evening to further expand on the making of their garden.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Castle Ashby Gardens

This day we travel Northwards to Coton Manor for ‘early-bird, exclusive access’ to the 10-acre gardens where the roses will be at their best, as will the wildflower meadows. Started by the grandparents of the present owners, the garden encloses a series of smaller gardens, all luxuriantly planted with a wide variety of especially herbaceous plants. The adjacent specialist nursery offers over 1000 plant varieties, propagated from the garden.

After a private lunch in the Groom’s Cottage we travel the short distance to Cottesbrooke. Formal gardens and terraces surround the Queen Anne house, all maintained to a high standard. Here we will encounter work by landscape-greats such as Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, Dame Sylvia Crowe and, more recently, James Alexander-Sinclair and Arne Maynard.

We return to our hotel for dinner.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Cottesbrooke Coton Manor

Our first stop is Lamport Hall where the 2-acre walled garden contains long rows of ‘Piet Oudolf-type’ plants, resembling rows of vegetables. Head Gardener Jake Croft is closely involved with the Iris Society, and his own collection of Iris will look its best.

Nearby Kelmarsh Hall is a Palladian house, the two-time(!) home of mid-20th century society decorator Nancy Lancaster who, together with gardener Norah Lindsay and landscape designer Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, is largely responsible for the gardens as we see them today. A unique, triangular walled garden centres around an Edwardian ‘Foster & Pearson’ vinehouse and contains numerous (cut)flower borders. After a light lunch we travel westwards to Pettifers where Head Gardener Polly Stevens continues to garden in the spirit of its late owner Gina Price who developed this garden over the past 40 years. Offering a stunning view over the adjoining fields, the garden is packed with interesting plants and strong topiary shapes.

After a final cup of tea, we return to Banbury station for 16:15pm.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Included Highlights

Lamport Hall Kelmarsh Hall

Accommodation

Your will stay for three nights at the 4-star Falcon Hotel, Castle Ashby.