I've often talked about gardens in terms of stage sets - and when you visit as many as I do - you start to see certain similarities. You recognise the director, in terms of the garden designer or influences; the actual set, in terms of planting; and the playwright who gains recognition, in terms of the success of the garden and the size of the audience. But How Caple Court in Herefordshire breaks all the rules and certainly ranks as one of the most unusual gardens I've seen yet.
|The rill at the heart of the Italianate garden with the "hanging gardens" behind|
This garden still haunts me nearly a month after I visited and when you visit the How Caple website, you read: "These important Arts and Crafts gardens, in their heyday immaculately formed, have with the passing of time relaxed into an intensely romantic semi-wilderness, redolent of a lost "Golden afternoon". It seems that the owners are most interested in promoting this as a wedding venue, but you'd certainly want to make sure that none of your guests staggered off into the sunset here, because the "semi-wilderness", whilst "romantic", could end in tears!
In reality How Caple offers a decaying Arts & Crafts garden, that has run to ruin in parts; but it's incredibly atmospheric - hauntingly so, with it's almost forgotten Italianate water garden, with the rill at its heart (above), filled with pungent, mirky water and a vista that made me think this could be reminiscent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, should they still exist.
|Elsewhere in the Italianate garden, there is seating, steps and stone pillars|
|The stone-flagged terraces adjacent to the house are filled with statuary|
You must proceed through this garden with caution though because the paths are hard to find; there are steep inclines; and the Italianate garden is nothing short of a skating rink after rain! Definitely not suitable for anyone with a disability and don't even go there if you're thinking of taking a wheelchair, pushchair or pram! Forewarned is forearmed and this garden is certainly different!
|Views of the valley below from the garden terraces|
Nearer the Grade II listed, timber-framed house (top), life looks up and the stone-flagged terraces are filled with topiary that's clearly been given a crew cut; statuary and clusters of flowers and shrubs and vistas of the adjacent medieval church and valley below. Definitely not a garden for the feint-hearted, but if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, this one fits the bill! Open daily from March to mid-October (10.00 - 17.00), but take a torch if it's late in the season and a machete to cut through the undergrowth! If you're looking for chalk and cheese, visit Hampton Court afterwards and return to the real world of Herefordshire gardens.