Good gardens of Warwickshire
PUBLISHED: 10:16 22 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 February 2013
A number of beautiful Warwickshire gardens are well worth a visit says Katherine Lambert
Warwickshire has a number of historic gardens of national importance, often set in unpromising surroundings. Take Arbury Hall, for example an army of factories may be encamped at the very gate of its vast park, but within is a charmed survival a picturesque landscape surrounding a seminal Gothic Revival house, with earlier stables by Wren, three rush-fringed lakes, a network of canals, magnificent trees, plenty of flowers and a tilting formal rose garden.
Or Packwood House, hidden away in a rather suburban part of the county, where the seven-acre garden is notable for its intact 16th and 17th century layout of courtyards, terraces and brick gazebos, and famous for its unique and almost surreal yew garden. This is traditionally supposed to represent the Sermon on the Mount, but in fact the Multitude was planted in the 1850s as a four-square pattern round an orchard never mind, the result is now homogeneous.
Another National Trust property, Upton House, has a far more spectacular setting at over 210 metres above sea level on Edgehill, near the site of the famous battle. Below a great lawn, the garden descends in a series of long terraces and then down an impressive flight of stone steps to a large lake. In the centre of the terraced area is a vast sloping kitchen garden, and below this a mirror pool has been restored to its 18th-century grandeur.
In Warwickshire even sizeable towns shelter major gardens: the 60 acres of grounds surrounding Warwick Castle were landscaped by Capability Brown an early commission that saw him showered with praise and publicity. Visitors should make for the conservatory at the top of Pageant Field, which houses a replica of the famous Warwick Vase, to appreciate the panorama stretching before them the Peacock Garden and the tree-lined lawn of Pageant Field which meanders down to the gently sloping banks of the River Avon.
Also in the town, in the grounds of Lord Leycester Hospital, The Masters Garden is a tiny place steeped in history which has been restored with care and sensitivity.
A few miles to the north, between Warwick and the sprawl of Coventry, Kenilworth Castle has the most complete example of a 16th-century garden to be found anywhere in the country. Built at huge expense by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester for a visit by Elizabeth I in July 1575, the design of eight knot gardens filled with scented plants of the period and intended to be viewed primarily from the raised walkway running along one side of the castle has been re-created by English Heritage at equally huge expense and to the highest standard.