Monday, 27 August 2012

In the Garden at Avebury Manor

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!


Mum said...

A beautiful place but it must take many hands to keep it pristine. Thank you for the tour.
Love from Mum

Kath said...

How interesting to read this post and see your photos. I have been to Avebury many times, to walk amongst the stones, but never explored the Manor.

Bovey Belle said...

Lovely gardens, but I'm like you and like a . . . dishevelled garden! Yours always looks lovely throughout the seasons. My Rudbeckias are flowering now and adding spots of brilliant colour above the leaves of the Umbrella plant.

Karen said...

Not having cable I can only wish that "The Manor Reborn" comes to PBS (Public Broadcasting System) so I could see the inside.

But thank you for the tour of the gardens. I guess one good thing from all the rain you've had in the UK this summer are the gardens are just amazing unlike our poor heat stricken ones here in North Carolina.

ChrisJ said...

Since we are semi tropical in climate, I prefer the jungle look. But every couple of months or so my husband insists it must be pruned back or 'given a hair cut'. But now I'm wondering why we British walled our gardens. I don't know much about gardening so I will have to look that up.

Morning's Minion said...

This is a place I would probably enjoy in person--although I'm another who prefers a 'cottage garden' style.
Since most of us garden with very little help other than a patient husband, its difficult to imagine designing and keeping up such a formal expanse of plantings.

angryparsnip said...

These post really have my tourist radar pinging !
In my tourist mind this is what an English garden looks like and the house is beautiful.

cheers, parsnip

Ragged Robin said...

Lovely photos of a beautiful garden. We visited there a few years ago when we visited the mystical stones - a magical place :) I can see what you mean about the formal aspect of the garden.

re: the mysterious insect. I think it might be a hoverfly and possibly the Belted or Hornet Hoverfly although have to say I am not an expert!!!

thelma said...

Loved the photos, did not realise the gardens were so beautiful. We have a relative who helps in the house as a volunteer guide I think.