Saturday, 23 June 2012

Upton Wold - a Cotswold garden with a difference

The Cotswold stone house at the heart of Upton Wold
We've all visited wonderful Cotswold gardens filled with flowers, which reflect the light from the golden houses they grace, but Upton Wold is quite different to all the other gardens I've seen in my travels. Created by Ian and Caroline Bond over the last 35 years, this garden is all about levels and vistas and undulating landscapes. From the moment you arrive, your eye is drawn in through the gate posts to the house within, but once you start wandering around, you realise this garden is something special. One of the few properties in "The Good Gardens Guide" to be awarded the coveted two-star rating, I assure you that it not only deserves it, but is also one to put on your Wish List.
Borders are kept to a minimum here, because the emphasis is on the rolling landscape
The landscape that faced the Bonds when they moved here was neglected and barren, so they called in Brenda Colvin and Hal Moggridge to help them create the skeleton of what's there now. Mrs Bond is a skilled plantswoman, while her husband has a passion for trees and they've worked side-by-side to turn their garden into the glorious, tranquil landscape you'll find at the heart of the Northwick Estate today. And while both acknowledge the importance of the Colvin/Moggridge input to the garden there today, it is their efforts that have made this garden unique.
The canal garden created by Anthony Archer-Wills lies behind high hedges on a plateau adjacent to the house
But what really sets this garden apart from many others in the area is that there are wide open vistas, instead of endless borders and topiary. Another innovative addition is the walnut arboretum planted by the Bonds, which now houses the National Collection, comprising more than 170 cultivars and 14 different species. Plantsmen who visit will be amazed by the number of unusual plants here, and arborists will delight in all the trees inside and outside the arboretum, including a handkerchief tree, which took 20 years to flower.
Rolling meadows compliment the more formal garden areas
My favourite part of the garden is the undulating meadow (above), with pathways mown through them that lead from the pond area to the arboretum. But what makes this garden really special is that although it's quintessentially English, it has a gay sense of abandon. It has also evolved as the owners have learned more about horticulture. Ian and Caroline Bond are charming hosts and their enthusiasm is clear as they show you around the landscape they have created. 
Wonderful vistas and clever planting keep your eyes entertained wherever you look at Upton Wold 
Colvin and Moggridge introduced the network of hedges that have now matured to provide the "walls" of the many garden rooms that are part of the charm of Upton Wold. Anthony Archer-Wills created the canal garden, which sits on a plateau below the early 17th century house. Beyond that there are the meadows filled with wildflowers, the walnut arboretum (Ian Bond's baby) and a pond hidden behind trees (Mrs Bond's favourite), so you get refracted light from the sun shining through the leaves (on the rare occasions that the sun has shone this season). 
Entrance to the arboretum and home to the National Walnut collection
Upton Wold does not have regular opening hours, but you can arrange to visit by appointment and I honestly urge you to do so. You won't be disappointed. At its best between April and July, but definitely worth getting a group of friends together for a visit. Call +44 (0)1386 700667 or send an email enquiry to  And if you're in the area don't miss two other interesting gardens nearby - Sezincote and Snowshill Manor.

For more gardens to visit in France and England, click here


  1. A delightful place to wander and enjoy, especially with a camera. If I lived anywhere nearby I certainly would be visiting.