The small village of Avebury is just to the west of Marlborough, in the chalk downlands of Wiltshire. It is famous for its ancient henge of standing stones and for the sixteenth century manor house which stands adjacent to the village church. Last Thursday, we visited the manor house and its gardens, before walking around the Avebury Stones as the daylight began to fade.
Avebury Manor and its garden now belongs to the National Trust. The house used to be an almost empty shell, but a recent collaboration with the BBC has lead to refurbishment of the rooms in the styles of differing periods in history. The television series, "The Manor Reborn", included the renovation of the gardens, so we were interested to see the results of a spring and summer of hard work both inside and outside the house.
We entered the gardens, through a gate beside the churchyard wall, to find a walled garden with borders and with many beds surrounded by small, clipped box hedges. Masses of colourful dahlias and cosmos bloomed inside the box borders.
A white, old English rose grew against the thatched wall, between the garden and the neighbouring churchyard.
Two vigorous buddlea bushes grew in a corner of the high walls. They were a feasting place for honey bees and this striking insect , which I can`t seem to find in my Insect book. Can anyone identify it?
The Manor House across the walled garden.
A small tortoiseshell butterfly drinking nectar on a dahlia bloom. One of the only small tortoiseshells I have seen this summer.
The next walled garden sheltered old fruit trees.
Through a gate in the wall, we found a lovely border of herbaceous perennials. Glowing oranges and bright yellows of rudbekkia, verbascum and dahlia were mixed with softer blue and white flowers.
Bright perlagoniums in a garden urn.
We walked through a clipped yew walkway and found ourselves in the formal kitchen garden,where raised beds of vegetables grew in military lines beside gravel paths.
Watched over by a scarecrow.
We found the garden just behind the main house. Vivid green topiary shapes and geometric hedging beside the pond were skillfully done.
An interesting and well intentioned garden, but I became aware that everything seemed contained within border walls of wood or box hedge and that much of the hedging was clipped into formal shapes. Although a reflection of older styles of gardening, it did seem to be a place where those in charge were determined to clip and control Mother Nature into shape! A contrast to the ancient and mysterious fields of standing stones just a few hundred yards away.
As someone who prefers a less formal , cottage garden style of gardening, or the wonderful mixtures of colours and textures in the English country gardens of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the formal plantings here were interesting but not very inspiring.
One of my favourite plants in the gardens at Avebury Manor was this rampant, climbing blue clematis, tumbling up and over a wall as though disobeying orders!