One of the very best things Alex and I have done since moving to England is become members of the National Trust. The Trust is a charity organisation taking on the monumental task of preserving some 500+ homes, gardens, churches, nature reserves and stretches of coastline for now and future generations. I am consistently amazed at the work they do with the money they raise. If you ever get the opportunity to take a preservation tour at one of the properties, I recommend doing it. You will come away with a renewed respect for the task at hand. I did the tour of the Abbey at Lacock this way and I left feeling very proud that my membership contributed to the work, but equally that the membership fee is woefully small for the service the National Trust is providing for the nation and our heritage.
There is a bit of an assumption that membership is for people of a certain age, ie. retirees with lots of time on their hands. As 20-something-year-olds, we can honestly say that day trips to National Trust properties are some of our favourite days. Lucky for us, we have one or two on our doorstep and many more within easy reach. As I write, we've visited eleven properties in the eight months that we've been living in the UK.
A couple of weeks ago whilst out furniture shopping we stumbled across The Courts Garden in Holt. It is within easy drive of where we live, but we had intended to visit at a later date because our priority at the time was furnishing the home we now live in. I am so glad we decided to actually visit the garden that day though, because it was such a perfect spring day, and the garden was magical to see in its spring time flush. I had left my good camera at home, thinking we'd just be traipsing around antique and collectables stores and not pretty gardens. Nevertheless, I managed to capture some of the beauty of the seven acres of gardens on my i-phone.
This is the path visitors take when entering the property. The house is a grade II listed 18th Century manor, built from local Bath stone. The manor house is not open to the public as it is still lived in by the owners of the estate. It's beautiful from the outside, and sits in the grounds so wonderfully. It is 'very happily situated', to borrow a line from Elizabeth Bennet.
At the rear of the manor is a handsome lawn surrounded by hedging and herbaceous borders, from here the garden leads on to other garden rooms, the kitchen garden and eventually the orchard and a three-acre arboretum.
I really love a good arbour grown using trees. I imagine this is an ornamental pear or similar, but I can't be sure. I wish I'd seen it when it was in full blossom. As it establishes and matures it will be very beautiful. A lot of work, but so timeless.
The apple blossom in the orchard part of the arboretum was really at its peak. I could have happily picnicked underneath it all afternoon. So English, isn't it?
See how well the house sits in its surroundings? Each yew-hedged garden room is so beautiful in its own right, but collectively the garden has been so well designed. The vista back to the house from numerous points around the property showcase the grandeur of the house and quirkiness of the garden layout.
The site was once home to a 19th Century woollen mill, and apparently some of the features from this industrial past have shaped and dictated how the garden has been constructed- crooked borders, skewed paths etc. The lily pond, above, was brimming with tadpoles.
The Pillar Lawn is a lovely formal space, contrasting well against the relative 'softness' of the neighbouring lily pond and dye pool.
I'll admit, I'd love to poke around inside. Given the exquisiteness of the garden, I imagine the interior is equally impeccable. Perhaps the garden benefits greatly from the house being closed though? Sometimes the money and effort needed to preserve great crumbling country piles means the attached gardens and parklands suffer, but given that this property is still privately occupied maybe means the emphasis is on the garden?
In any case, it is well worth a visit if you love formal gardens.