Last Sunday, while making a rare excursion south of the Trent, Hubcap and I came across this marvellous place: Spetchley Park Gardens near Worcester.
The gardens originally formed the grounds of a Tudor moated manor house belonging to Rowland Berkeley, a descendant of the Lords of Berkeley. This was burned down on the eve of the Battle of Worcester in 1651 by Scottish Prebyterian Royalists in order to prevent Oliver Cromwell from using at as his headquarters, and the and the present Georgian mansion (which is still a private family home) constructed on the site in 1811.
The Adam & Eve Statues and South Border leading to the Fountain Garden
Wrought-iron bridge spanning the Tudor moat/ leading to the Long Walk
Spetchley Park is associated with many notable people, including: composer Edward Elgar, renowned horticulturalist Ellen Willmott and landscape architect John Evelyn, who advised on the layout and plantings, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill; earmarked as his wartime HQ, it was used instead as a recuperation centre for the USAAF. On Churchill’s death, an acorn he had collected from his favourite oak at Blenheim Palace was planted at the top of the Long Walk to mark this connection – but although we searched, we couldn’t find it (good reason to return and look again!).
So we thought it well worth £7 admission (including parking and an information/map leaflet) to stroll round these historical gardens - because as you can see, they’re spectacularly beautiful as well as fascinating, with many different zones and features to admire from walled kitchen gardens to woodland and lakeside. Hubcap, who usually makes an extremely well-informed garden guide, was in ecstasy because he couldn’t recognise half the plants – maybe not surprising since they represent generations of Berkeley family collectors importing and nurturing rare exotic species from all over the world. However, he was very excited to show me an old gingko tree, the most ancient variety of tree on Earth, and identify it as probably among the first of its kind to be planted in Britain.
Then after a brief interlude for cuppa and homemade cake in the Old Laundry Tea Room (Victoria sandwich for me and gluten-free carrot for Mick, both excellent), we ambled back to the car-park via the 14th century All Saints Church (decommissioned/maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust); this lovely ancient building is almost worth a visit in itself to see the family tombs, (upper right), especially the fine marble effigies of the Tudor Rowland Berkeley and his wife (lower right).
Luckily it wasn’t far from the church to the car, because no sooner had we got there than the promised rain set in and put a decisive end to our visit. But if we’re ever in these parts again, we’ll certainly come back to see Spetchley Park, perhaps in a different season and better weather (although it must look glorious at any time of year) – it makes a grand day out, highly recommended for history and nature lovers alike!