Bradford on Avon
I’ve cycled past the big, ornate gate of Belcombe Court several times, and never really given much thought to what might lie beyond it. But the other day I spotted a sign that said that the garden was going to be open for one day only, as part of the Bradford-on-Avon Secret Gardens Festival. It listed the all the delights that visitors would be able to see, including a walled garden designed by Arne Maynard. I knew I had to go.
As we strolled up to the house after visiting some other gardens, we soon noticed that there were a lot of people milling about. Parking had spilled into the field opposite and lots of folk were making their way through the gates. The place must, I realised, must be quite a big deal.
… And it is. The grounds cover 65 acres and are simply stunning. They’re a mix of parkland, sweeping lawns, woodland, wilder areas and garden rooms. It’s got an octagonal pavilion, a tennis court, a grotto and a cloud-pruned hedge (from Arne Maynard’s Chelsea 2000 garden). In fact I can’t think of a garden feature it hasn’t got.
My favourite part was definitely Arne Maynard’s walled garden. I loved the six tiers of lawn (that lots of kids were happily rolling down), the clipped box and yew, and the ebullient planting in the borders – lots of roses and perennials. I especially liked the cordon apples against the walls, and I’m now convinced that I want a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ in my own garden.
As we wandered around, I observed that it was a bit odd that the place didn’t have a swimming pool. ‘Nah,’ muttered my boyfriend, ‘There’s definitely a pool.’ And of course there was – an infinity number that the great unwashed could just get a glimpse of, over the hedge.
By the end of the afternoon, I felt quite inspired by the garden’s awesomeness. My boyfriend, however, felt envious and inadequate. When we got home, we Googled the owner. It turns out he’s a director who has worked on a Mr Bean film and lots of adverts. And Belcombe Court is just his weekend residence! That left me feeling rather envious and inadequate too.