A combe that casts a spell

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Non Mor­ris ex­plores the Rep­ton-de­signed grounds of End­sleigh, Olga Polizzi’s Devon ho­tel

Non Mor­ris ex­plores the his­toric 100-acre grounds of End­sleigh, Olga Polizzi’s al­lur­ing West Coun­try ho­tel, de­signed by Humphry Rep­ton in per­fectly Pic­turesque style

There is a shel­tered, south-fac­ing ter­race in a rav­ish­ing corner of Devon with per­fect views down to the lushly wooded val­ley of the river Ta­mar. The ter­race is pro­tected by the hand­some walls of what was once end­sleigh Cot­tage, a hunt­ing and fish­ing lodge built for the 6th Duke of Bed­ford and his wife, Ge­or­giana, in 1810. The lodge was built as a series of low, com­fort­able build­ings de­signed to nes­tle un­ob­tru­sively into the land­scape—a style known as a cot­tage orné.

end­sleigh came com­plete with such de­lights as a thatched dairy for the duchess and an un­lived-in lit­tle house in the woods, built specif­i­cally so that, when the fire was lit by a boy who rowed across the river ev­ery morn­ing, a charm­ing wisp of smoke would emerge from the tree­tops to ‘an­i­mate’ the land­scape. The house was de­signed by Jef­fry Wy­att (fa­mous for trans­form­ing Wind­sor Cas­tle into a castel­lated Gothic palace) and, once it was com­pleted in 1814, humphry rep­ton, who had de­signed the duke’s gar­den at Woburn, was in­vited to con­sider the 100 or so acres of grounds.

It re­mains one of the most per­fect ex­am­ples of the Pic­turesque style, not least be­cause it’s now a ho­tel owned and run in a per­sonal and pas­sion­ate way by Olga Polizzi. rep­ton

fa­mously pre­pared red linen-bound port­fo­lios for his clients with beau­ti­ful ‘lift-the­flap’ wa­ter­colours to show them what their gar­den would look like. ‘If you look at our Red Book, you see it all in front of you… the long bor­der, the parterre, the dell,’ Olga tells me. As one of Rep­ton’s last schemes, de­signed when he was no longer able to walk and had to be car­ried about the grounds in a sedan chair, it’s a gar­den that en­sures there is com­fort and in­ti­macy close to the house, as well as a sense of sur­prise and ad­ven­ture when you set off to ex­plore the grounds.

The south-fac­ing ter­race—the parterre— was con­ceived by Rep­ton as a ‘chil­dren’s gar­den’, built in a sunny spot in front of the nurs­ery wing (or ‘chil­dren’s cot­tage’) and set out as a series of neat con­cen­tric beds around a pretty bowl-shaped marble fountain. In the Red Book, you’ll find an idyl­lic il­lus­tra­tion of chil­dren float­ing toy sail­boats along the ele­gant curved rill that frames the parterre.

There is a rus­tic ve­ran­dah with bark­cov­ered col­umns clothed to­day in the del­i­cate pale-pink roses Phyllis Bide and Shrop­shire Lass and a boxy pav­il­ion framed with ex­quis­ite French-grey painted trel­lis (the trel­lis is wo­ven rather than nailed to­gether) that casts won­der­ful, del­i­cate shad­ows on the soft stone walls. ‘If you ever have the chance to have a lazy lunch un­der the ve­ran­dah,’ smiles Olga, with her deeply im­bued sense of how to turn a good thing into a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, ‘you can have a long ta­ble laid here—it’s re­ally lovely.’

The feel of the parterre is sur­pris­ingly mod­ern. There’s a clever ever­green col­lar of golden creep­ing Jenny around the fountain and the beds are planted sim­ply and stylishly with per­haps hun­dreds of mau­ve­flushed Vi­ola Sor­bet Or­chid Rose Bea­con fol­lowed by Tulipa Groen­land (rose pink with green flames) for win­ter and spring and the long-lasting Salvia horminum Claryssa Mixed for a more re­laxed look in sum­mer: ‘I love it when the salvias go mad. It looks won­der­ful when it’s a bit wild.’

Olga bought End­sleigh in 2005. It had been sold af­ter the death of the 12th Duke in 1953 and run as a sport­ing lodge for sev­eral decades by the Fish­ing Friends, a syn­di­cate made up of the duke’s friends who had en­joyed fish­ing and shoot­ing on the es­tate. A cer­tain amount of restora­tion of the long bor­der and the Shell House had taken place in the 1980s, but, by 2003, it was on the mar­ket: a di­lap­i­dated, Grade I-listed house with much of the gar­den im­pen­e­tra­ble.

A friend had sug­gested Olga visit it, know­ing she would love the po­si­tion, the grot­tos and the at­mo­spheric wa­ter­falls, but her ini­tial verdict was that it was too much to take on. A Mar­cus Bin­ney ar­ti­cle in The

Times set­ting out the ur­gent need for a life­line—‘can a se­cret coun­try gem be saved for us all?’—made her re­con­sider. ‘I bought it with my heart and not my head. It was so beau­ti­ful.’ Her daugh­ter, Alex, moved into the lodge house to su­per­vise the painstak­ing

‘It re­mains one of the most per­fect ex­am­ples of the Pic­turesque style

Pho­to­graphs by Marianne Ma­jerus

Pre­ced­ing pages: The orig­i­nal End­sleigh Cot­tage was built for the 6th Duke of Bed­ford. The con­cen­tric beds of the parterre are filled with Salvia horminum Claryssa Mixed. Left: Lysi­machia num­mu­la­ria Aurea cre­ates a golden col­lar around the fountain. Above: The rose walk. Plant­ing in the bor­der to the left includes Rud­beckia fulgida, del­phini­ums, gera­ni­ums and ivy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.