Friday, 1 July 2011

Iford Manor - the Peto Garden

I've been doing some garden visiting recently, and yesterday I went to Iford Manor, which is tucked away somewhere near Bath.

Foolishly, I trusted the SatNav and it took me there via the middle of Bath, hmmm, with the final access being down a road so narrow that greenery brushed both sides of the car. I would recommend approaching from the Trowbridge side, if you get a choice.

It's advertised heavily as a Peto garden - and in case, like me, you have no idea who Peto is, then in their words:

"The Grade 1 Italianate garden at the Manor is famous for its tranquil beauty and was designed by the architect and landscape gardener Harold Ainsworth Peto who lived here from 1899 to 1933. A unique and romantic hillside garden, it is characterised by steps, terraces, sculpture and magnificent rural views and is open to the public from April to October."

("tranquil beauty"? Not when there is a baby alternately screaming or breast-feeding... and it's owner complaining loudly and constantly about the difficulty in getting the buggy around the garden. No matter where I went, I couldn't escape these wretched people! )

What they forget to mention is that Mr Peto was of the opinion that gardens should not be about flowers, but should be a careful balance of stone - both hard landscaping and in the form of buildings, colonnades, viewing points, statuary, fountains, etc - and greenery.

So for a gardener, it's not the most exciting of gardens. Not a label to be seen! And I didn't take a single photo, which says something about it.

However, the topiary has inspired me, and has made me realise that I have been too modest in my ambitions. Warning to all my clients: there might be the sounds of shears clip, clip, clipping!

Here is his version of a knot garden: beautifully clipped box hedges and corners, plus a selection of other topiary.

(photos pinched from the internet, not my own)

I have to say, I've seen five gardens in the last five weeks - yes, I get around - and this one had the best clipped topiary of the lot, far and away the best. Some of their topiary was huge, looming way above me, and I'd quite like to see their guys up ladders working away on them.

It's a useful garden to look at if you are located on any sort of hillside, as it is a sort of master-class of terracing.

They have steps regular, and irregular: safe and very much not safe: and a lot of water features, if you can call them that.

Not so much "features" in the artificial Ground Force sense, but water appearing as ponds, rills, hidden streams etc just all over the place, which I liked very much.

In fact, the sound of trickling water is very much the sound of this garden.

At one point I found what looked like an Ice House (I have a fascination with Ice Houses) but it had the overflow from one of the ponds leading down brick steps into it! I have no idea why, there was no-one around to ask.

And unlike Bourton House gardens, all the paths lead somewhere! In fact, without a garden map - and no, they didn't have any garden maps, shame - it's not possible to know if I actually saw all of it. There may well be parts that I missed. Well, I didn't bother with the woodland paths towards the top, as the day was getting on and the black clouds were threatening.

So, a fair trek to get there, but a good place to go if you like steps and water, and don't mind having to constantly go up steps, or down steps. Not so good if you are a bit rickety on your pins, as it were. 




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