Bur­ford in all its beauty

Hid­den be­hind the closely packed rows of houses in a Cotswold town lie nu­mer­ous in­ter­est­ing gar­dens, opened for just a week­end bi­en­ni­ally. Jacky Hobbs ex­plores

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs by Clive Ni­chols

Jacky Hobbs takes a peek into the gar­dens of a Cotswold town, opened for just one week­end bi­en­ni­ally

THEIR se­crets are re­vealed, bi­enially, for just one week­end in June, to co­in­cide with the Bur­ford Fes­ti­val. More than 25 gar­dens will open this year, dis­play­ing a ma­trix of shapes, styles and sizes. Built down or across a steep hill­side of the Win­drush val­ley, the gar­dens fre­quently slope or have been clev­erly cut into deep ter­races.

Like the houses, they butt and back onto one another, some­times with huge drops or rises be­tween, which give ei­ther spec­tac­u­lar views over rooftops to open coun­try­side or the pri­vacy gained by walls that meld with the town’s ar­chi­tec­ture. The me­dieval church spire pins many a vista in its place.

Which gar­den can claim the best out­ward view? Grey­hounds is a wor­thy con­tender, home of Michael Tauben­heim and his part­ner, Christo­pher Moore. From their gar­den’s up­per­most reaches, you can look back along the 165 yards of the gar­den, over the low-ly­ing rooftops and into the ris­ing coun­try­side be­yond. With gen­er­ously planted bor­ders, the gar­den is a charm­ing dis­til­la­tion of a larger coun­try es­tate, con­densed into a sin­gle acre.

A row of vin­tage metal-framed glass cloches at­tempts to fend off en­croach­ing veg­e­ta­tion and other gar­den arte­facts are tucked in around the gar­den and its

ter­races. The house, a for­mer coach­ing inn, has a hy­brid pas­sage, half-home, half­gar­den, that fun­nels you from volup­tuous gar­den back to the ar­chi­tec­tural stone of Sheep Street.

Ad­join­ing Grey­hounds, but quite dif­fer­ent, is Cal­en­dars: an el­e­gant, nicely but not overly man­i­cured gar­den with a cool and so­phis­ti­cated flo­ral pal­ette of white, blue and pink set against a vi­va­cious green back­drop punc­tu­ated with Robinia um­bra­c­ulif­era lol­lipops and bob­bins of top­i­arised

yew. A ra­zor-sharp rill dis­sects the up­per­most ter­race, wa­ter splashes down to an arum-lily-lined pool be­low and re-emerges, bub­bling through peb­bles at ‘ground’ level. Four stylish ter­races de­scend through lawns, bor­ders and parter­res to an en­closed and in­ti­mate court­yard that is clois­tered by the house.

The own­ers, Jim and Sue Mid­dle­ton, have cre­ated idyllic out­door rooms in har­mony with the out­stand­ing Tu­dor-style ar­chi­tec­ture. White roses, fra­grant laven­der and scented jas­mine rise above pock­ets of pun­gent herbs on the lower lev­els in this re­fined, re­strained and el­e­gant gar­den.

Across the road, step through the Tu­dor door­way of 9, Sheep Street to dis­cover a man­i­cured, small and ver­dant pocket hand­ker­chief, its emer­ald lawn pegged out with wob­bly box cones. Rem­i­nis­cent of a petite clois­tered Ox­ford-col­lege gar­den, this peace­ful en­clave—a for­mer bell­maker’s yard, en­closed on three sides—has walls that ring with an in­tri­cate lat­tice­work

of trained and trim flow­er­ing and fo­liage plants. Shad­owed cor­ners are lit with scram­bling roses Madame Al­fred Car­rière and The Gen­er­ous Gar­dener and bright­ened with pots of sil­ver or lime-rimmed hostas and white fox­gloves.

One side lies wide open to the hills, with no en­case­ment; the land sim­ply drops 10ft down to the plot be­low. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the open side, Peter Radford has planted what might be termed an ‘in­fin­ity’ bor­der, packed with stout sum­mer blooms. Its roses, del­phini­ums and cam­pan­ula seem to stretch the 36ft square gar­den into the dis­tant open coun­try­side.

El­iz­a­beth El­lis Rees’s gar­den is dis­ori­en­tat­ing. Ac­cessed via a war­ren of ves­ti­gial back lanes, the lofty, open views are dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile with The Gable’s High Street po­si­tion. El­iz­a­beth re­calls that, when Bur­ford’s gar­dens first opened al­most 30 years ago, the most cu­ri­ous vis­i­tors of all were lo­cals, in­trigued to see what lay within the walls.

Very much a plants­man’s gar­den, it boasts a long rib­bon lawn fringed with sub­tle leafy bor­ders, the walls gar­landed with Rosa Madame Al­fred Car­rière, two gnarled wis­te­rias and a claret-leaf vine that were planted be­tween the World Wars by her grand­mother.

El­iz­a­beth par­tic­u­larly en­joys fo­liage and has added lay­ers of year-round tex­ture to her grand­mother’s im­print. Pots of feath­ered ferns, to­gether with scented strew­ing herbs, jos­tle beneath tex­tured and varie-

‘stream, Paths wend up­wards past a fern-strewn fed by an old metal pump

gated shrubs that are pruned to cre­ate an airy, nat­u­ral grace.

At the top of the High Street sprawls Pytts Piece, where Peter Higg’s three cot­tages meld into one with a cor­re­spond­ing trio of gar­den plots. A small raised rose gar­den and a charm­ing stone folly, the ‘gar­den bar’, lead you up to a lawned area bor­dered with shade-lov­ing shrubs, an­cient mul­berry and ap­ple trees and cu­ri­ously trained or­na­men­tal cherry. Nec­tarines, goose­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, black- and red­cur­rants flour­ish read­ily against the gar­den’s south­fac­ing wall.

Stone pil­lars frame an al­most Ital­ianate gar­den vista and plump flower bor­ders richly planted with pe­onies, pop­pies, lupins, del­phini­ums, roses and irises draw you down to a fo­cal tiered foun­tain and pool. Ducks and wood­peck­ers have taken up res­i­dency at the re­moter gar­den end.

The Lodge, an 18th-cen­tury house in Pytts Lane, is seem­ingly built ‘back­wards’, like many in Bur­ford. Its in­ward-fac­ing side, clad with roses, wis­te­ria and a fig, faces the flower-filled gar­den, ren­der­ing passers-by blind to its trea­sures. Here, Bur­ford gar­dener and gar­den de­signer Su­san Ash­ton works sen­si­tively around her Ed­war­dian-style plot, feel­ing she’s cus­to­dian of wider fam­ily mem­o­ries. Her late fa­ther, an an­tiques dealer with a pas­sion for breed­ing auric­u­las, and her mother, a botanist, en­sured a rich gar­den legacy. The invit­ing glasshouse is a time­warp of per­fectly pot­ted gera­ni­ums ar­ranged on benches, sills and stone pil­lars. Vin­tage wire­work chairs hud­dle round an open fire­place as early-flow­er­ing Rosa Maréchal Niel shades and per­fumes the glass-paned room. A stone ter­race and lawn with flower-en­gulfed pots, obelisks, ar­bours and bor­ders make a size­able gar­den basin.

Con­cealed be­hind shrubs and plant pil­lars, paths wend up­wards past a fern-strewn stream, fed by an old metal pump, to a small, painted ‘tea house’. Seated here, you can ad­mire the small grid of raised fruit and veg­etable beds, stuffed with the prom­ise of ar­ti­chokes, rhubarb, cour­gettes and sweet peas.

From The Lodge you may glimpse, two walls away, the more for­mal en­vi­rons of The Great House, which was fea­tured in

Coun­try Life in 1948. The late Duchess of Devon­shire resided here for a brief pe­riod with her mother af­ter the el­der Mit­ford sis­ters had flown the nest. This im­pos­ing late-17th-cen­tury house, one of the largest in Bur­ford, once had ex­ten­sive gar­dens that ran right up the hill and are de­picted in the orig­i­nal oil-painted pan­els in­side the house.

The own­ers, Mr and Mrs Su­rat­gar, noted a stone path­way that, to their de­light, was re­vealed when they dug up the lawn. The orig­i­nal 17th-cen­tury stonework is now flanked by chain­link, box parterre edg­ing, each com­part­ment stud­ded with a stan­dard rose. This sweeps you away from the lawned shade of a mag­nif­i­cent red­wood tree, past herba­ceous bor­ders, right up to the wis­te­ri­aclad house walls. Other re­cently re­stored el­e­ments of the gar­den in­clude a horn­beam arch­way and de­fin­i­tive yew top­i­ary.

These are just a few high­lights of the in­di­vid­ual, yet in­ter­twined, se­cret gar­dens of Bur­ford, well worth trav­el­ling to see, although there are many other events dur­ing the fes­ti­val that will also be vy­ing for your at­ten­tion.

The Bur­ford open gar­dens week­end oc­curs on June 10 and 11 this year, with speak­ers Mary Keen, Clive Ni­chols and Helen Dil­lon tak­ing part. The gar­dens aren’t open for the rest of the week-long Bur­ford Fes­ti­val (June 10–18).

Visit www.bur­ford­fes­ti­val.org for de­tails of its speak­ers and mu­si­cal, the­atri­cal and literary events

The flower bor­ders of Pytts Piece in­clude pe­onies, pop­pies and columbines

Above: One of the four ter­races at Cal­en­dars in Sheep Street

Top: Peter Radford’s ‘in­fin­ity’ bor­der is an ex­plo­sion of colour.

Gar­den de­signer Su­san Ash­ton’s glasshouse at The Lodge, with its range of pelargo­ni­ums and suc­cu­lents

Box-edged beds, linked in a chain ei­ther side of the cen­tral 17th-cen­tury path, bring pe­riod pat­tern to the com­plex gar­den of The Great House

A view of Bur­ford rooftops from the up­per gar­den at Grey­hounds

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