Last weekend NAH and I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon at Great Chalfield Manor. It's not very far away, but this was our first visit. It dates back to the 15th Century and even has its own church. The buildings are lovely with plenty of views across spring fed lakes. It was a hot afternoon, so we decided to save the tour round the manor house for a rainy day and explore the gardens instead.
One of the most striking features of the garden are these clipped yew walkways. Four trees have been trained to form these and it is possible to enter them from four directions. In the middle is a cooling fountain - again spring fed.
In one corner of the garden is a lovely gazebo which doubles as an apple store. Leading to it is an unusual wall top border with plenty of self-seeded Verbascum. Below the wall are the more traditional and familiar long borders.
Behind the manor is another lake complete with very fat carp used to keep the water weed to manageable levels. A rose walkway leads you back to the house.
On our way to finding that all important cup of tea we just had to stop at the stables to admire the horses. Great Chalfield is a tenanted property and it seems the family are all horse enthusiasts.
Tea was found in a large barn - help your self and put the money in an honesty box. This was a feature of the whole visit, there was no-one to take admission monies and National Trust members had to sign a small notebook to show they'd visited. In the tea barn was a display about the Manor's history and details of the arts and crafts garden designed by Alfred Parsons. Sometimes it was hard to spot the real person in there!
Whilst I enjoyed my visit, I was also a little disappointed. Most of the borders seemed tired and too reliant on Geranium species to fill the gaps and suppress the weeds. They just seemed to be a little neglected and in need of some TLC. I was thinking to myself 'Of course July's not the best time to visit as the borders have gone over', but then found Arabella Sock's account of her visit to Hidcote the same weekend, where the borders are still romping away and looking gorgeous. It also didn't seem to have the same care and attention shown when I visited Lytes Cary Manor earlier in the year - a similar style of property in the Trust's portfolio. I wonder how much of this difference is down to the number of staff/volunteers at each property and the perceived 'importance' of the gardens? On a more positive note, it's made me appreciate my own borders a lot more; until then I'd been chuntering to myself over their lack of colour compared to earlier in the year, now I think they're not so bad after all.