The tour starts and finishes in Bath and stays at The Cross in a quaint old village near Wells. Bath is easily accessible by fast trains from London Paddington to Bath Spa station.Hestercombe
The tour will begin with coffee in the elegant Georgian Spa pump room after which we shall be driven to see the Royal Crescent and other Georgian buildings of historic Bath. We are staying at The Cross Guest House, an old 16C Inn which has been recently tastefully furnished to a very high standard. During the next four days we shall visit many gardens as well as the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace in Wells. This is in Somerset where there are the limestone gorges of the Mendip Hills and the wilderness of Lorna Doone’s Exmoor. There are excellent gardens in both these counties, in Wiltshire Iford Manor and Stourhead which is perhaps the most famous ‘English Landscape’ garden replete with magnificent temple follies, a lake, rustic bridges and a grotto. In Somerset we visit Milton Lodge, Kilver Court, Hestercombe designed jointly by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, Montacute House, Tintinhull, East Lambrook Manor and some small private gardens.
The Cost of this tour is £1350 which includes B&B and a home cooked evening meal. Included is a tour of Wells with a visit to its magnificent cathedral, transport to the gardens, garden entrance fees, leading throughout and optional evening power point talks.
Flora’s small group tours typically have 5-7 of us in a comfortable 8 seater vehicle. Dr. Sommerville plans and guides all tours, enthusiastically describing the plants, scenery and architecture which we encounter.
Members of the National Trust or the Royal Oak Foundation are eligible for a 5% discount on the advertised price of this tour.
We shall leave our luggage at ‘Cafe au Lait’ cafe, Dorchester St., opposite the Bath Spa railway station about 10.30am [£5 per bag] and walk to the Pump Room Reastaurant near the Abbey where we all meet over coffee in the pump room at 11am. From here we shall either walk or get a taxis up the hill to No.1 Royal Crescent, a museum of Georgian Bath and then have lunch in the Royal Pavilion cafe in Victoria Park close by. We shall be collected from there by our driver for the rest of the tour at 1.45pm and drive to the “Cafe au Lait” cafe to pick up our luggage. We shall then drive to Wells to be shown round Stoberry Garden, a 6 acre garden belonging to Frances and Tim Young. Stoberry Garden is set in lovely Mendip Hill scenery and has formal and wild areas, a pond, a walled garden and English CREAM TEA and CAKES served at 4.15pm [£5]. We shall stay there until 5.45 and then be picked up to drive to The Cross Guest House in the quaint village of Croscombe arriving about 6pm. Our hostess, Terri Chichester who last year won an award for the best Guest House in Somerset, will serve dinner at 7pm.
Some evenings there will be time for a 30 minute power point presentation either before, 6.30pm, or after dinner for those who would like this. The subjects I talk about are English garden history—early [eg. medieval and before] and later [eg. the Landscape movement and Victorian gardening]. I can also do one on ‘Good garden design’ and one about my own garden which I have just “finished” making and about which I published a small book last year Against All Odds. The story of a Norfolk garden. The choice is yours.
We spend the morning in Wells leaving The Cross at 9.30am. This very historic town has a superb 12C cathedral as well as a walled and moated Bishop’s Palace within which is a lovely garden. From 10.30am to 12.30 the small Deanery garden is open growing herbs for medieval medicine as it did in the apothecary-minded Dean’s day. There is also a wide ranging Wednesday Market in the city centre supplying local produce for our lunch. At 3.30pm we go to Milton Lodge for tea. This charming garden is set high in the Mendip Hills overlooks Wells:-“The great glory of the gardens of Milton Lodge is their position high up on the Mendip hills, to the north of Wells ... with broad panoramas of Wells Cathedral and the Vale of Avalon.”- Lanning Roper. There will be lovely rambling roses on the teraces, Those that wish can attend the cathedral evensong at 5.15pm. We shall return to The Cross for dinner.
Leaving The Cross at 9am we shall drive to Hestercombe Gardens, at Cheddon Fitzpaine. This is one of the best known collaborative achievements of Gertrude Jeckyll, the garden designer, and Edwin Lutyens, the architect, created in the Edwardian era just before the 1st World War. It has 50 acres of temples, lakes and cascades. We lunch there and leave at 1.15pm to drive to Stourhead. This is one of the world’s finest landscape gardens begun by Henry Hoare in 1741 in the ‘Arcadian’ fashion with a lake, temples, a grotto and ‘Cottage Orne’ . It is possible to go on a preview of this landscape garden in a N.T. buggy. There is also an impressive mansion which is open.
Leaving Croscombe at 9.15am to drive to Duck Pond Barn belonging to Janet and Marc Berlin to be shown round their lovely 1.6 acre garden and given “coffee” and cake [£4] and then visit The Courts Garden belonging to the National Trust which is a “hidden gem of different ‘rooms’ comprising herbaceous borders, topiary, arboretum, water and vegetable gardens”. We shall lunch there and at 1.30pm visit the quaint town of Bradford on Avon, have a look round, see the huge medieval Tithe Barn by the Kennet and Avon Canal and at 2.30pm we shall meet in the station car park to move on to the delightful Iford Manor where we shall have tea [£4]. This house, set in a steep valley beside the River Frome once belonged to Harold Peto, a well known garden designer working in the early 20C. He imported a tiny Italian monastery cloister to decorate the garden and set a classical statue on the old stone bridge as well as many in the garden. We shall leave for The Cross, Crosscombe about 4.30pm to collect our luggage.
About 6pm we all shall be driven back to Bath Spa station with our luggage
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