Monday, 20 June 2011

Greys Court - off the beaten track in Oxfordshire

The Knot Garden in May when the laburnum is in bloom
Greys Court, near Henley-on-Thames, dates back to the 14th century, and much of the charm of the garden is the fortified tower ruins you see while walking round. But despite the property's long history, there are no records for the gardens or grounds prior to the arrival of the Brunner family in 1937. To them it was a family home, and Lady Brunner made the three-acre gardens what they are today during her 65-year reign at the property. 
The fortified 14th century tower ruins make a striking backdrop to the garden at Greys Court
Although the Brunner's signed Greys Court over to the National Trust in 1969, Lady Brunner remained there until her death in 2003 and continued to play an active part in the maintenance of the garden. She was particularly fond of the White Garden, which she planted in the shadow of the ancient towers before the outbreak of WWII; and the Kitchen Garden, which was brought back into service to support the 'Dig for Victory' campaign, a war time effort to persuade civilians to use any spare land for vegetable growing to ward off food shortages.
The Kitchen Garden is filled with flowers and fruit, but the red pillars are somewhat incongruous!
Greys Court is also well known for its rose garden, even though the soil in the Chilterns is not ideal for rose growing, so it has been replanted twice in recent years - in 1982 and then again in 2002. But perhaps the best known feature here is the huge wisteria (below), planted in about 1890, which has now taken over a whole corner of the garden, and is almost triffid like, but quite spectacular when in bloom.
The huge wisteria, which is 120 years old and still flowering every year
Make sure you don't miss the Archbishop's Maze (below), which you can access through the rear of the Kitchen Garden. It was commissioned by Lady Brunner; designed by Adrian Fisher, who is recognised as the world's leading maze designer; and blessed by Archbishop Runcie in 1981 after it was completed. The design includes seven rings, representing the seven days of creation. Fisher has also designed mazes at many other English gardens including Longleat, Leeds Castle and Warwick Castle.
The Maze was designed by Adrian Fisher and blessed by Archbishop Runcie when completed in 1981
Greys Court is open from March until the end of September, Wednesday through Sunday, from 12.00 - 17.00. Close enough to London for a day trip, but there's also plenty to see in nearby Henley-on-Thames, or you could combine it with a visit to some Oxford Gardens.

3 comments:

  1. Lovely photographs and interesting information. I have visited Greys Court often in the past (I was born just a short distance away!) but not done so now for a few years.

    The last time I was there, they had just replaced the box hedges - lost to blight - in the knot garden with a tiny leafed euonymus. Is that what was showing in the photograph, I wonder? Whe I spoke to the Head Gardener, she wasn't confident that it would work and I've been meaning to return to see if it did!

    Johnson

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  2. That wisteria is almost a piece of art. I love these tours...thanks for taking us along.

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  3. Now with bloggers hopeful in years ahead we will have records of gardens and we will know who they belong to so less history is lost.

    People around here does corn mazes.
    Coffee is on.

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