Coughton Court - ancient house with glorious walled gardens
|Coughton Court - a castellated Tudor manor house and home of the Throckmorton family since 1409|
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Coughton Court (pronounced 'Coaton') was a small castle, when you approach this Tudor property in the heart of Shakespeare country in Warwickshire. Your first view is the one above - a honey-coloured house, with towers and castellations, which has been home of the same family since the 15th century. And it's the current resident - Clare Throckmorton - who, with the help of her daughter, Christina Williams, has created the garden here in the last two decades. Before they started work here in 1991, there was a rather flat and uninteresting landscape around an important listed property.
|At the rear of the house there are two avenues of pollarded limes, which lead to a pair of sunken gardens|
Christina is no newcomer to garden design and was an RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner in 2010. The landscape she's created at her family home is a tribute to her talents, but more importantly, has turned Coughton Court into one of the great Midlands gardens, attracting more than 100,000 visitors annually. The house is managed by the National Trust and features portraits, priest holes and an impressive collection of furnishings and family memorabilia. But garden visitors can enjoy one of the best walled gardens in the country with a fine collection of roses and a landscape that is constantly evolving.
|The formal courtyard garden overlooks the pollarded lime avenues (above)|
At the rear of the house, Christina has created a formal garden comprising a courtyard with box-edged beds (above), laid out in the style of an Elizabethan knot garden and filled with different perennials throughout the seasons. On the same axis, there's a double lime walk, leading away from the house towards a pair of sunken gardens. Elsewhere there are a series of contemporary garden rooms, all immaculately planted and tended. But at this time of year, it's the former walled kitchen garden that attracts most attention from visitors.
|The walled garden features a rose labyrinth and 'hot' and 'cold' borders to provide constant seasonal colour|
The two-acre walled garden adjoins St Peter's Church and has an impressive rose labyrinth, where more than 200 varieties of roses are entwined with clematis around arches and pedestals and underplanted with perennials. Only opened in 1996, it received the World Federation of Rose Societies' Award of Garden Excellence, ten years later in 2006 - a first for a UK garden, but you wouldn't know this unless you happened to see the tiny commemorative wall plaque within.
|Strategically places seats provide resting places throughout the magnificent walled garden at Coughton|
Leading off from the central rose labyrinth, you'll find the Red and White Gardens, surrounded by hornbeam hedges with 'window' peepholes, giving visitors a glance of what's within - 'hot' herbaceous borders, with bold displays of cannas, dahlias and lobelias in the former and an oasis of calm in the latter, featuring white clematis and other subtly shaded perennials. Remember to look back as you walk through this part of the garden, as there's many notable vistas. Curved allees create climbing frames for the plants and you there are strategically placed seats to sit and admire the view.
|"Curved allees create climbing frames for the plants"|
Not surprisingly, the walled garden can get very crowded in high summer, so wander further afield and enjoy the bog garden and riverside walk (glorious in springtime when the daffodils are in flower), and slightly further afield, Philip's Garden - a densely shaded area, filled with water-loving plants - primula, iris, hellebore and fern - named after its Harrogate horticulturalist creator, Philip Swindells. There are also two churches within the grounds here at Coughton - St Peter's with its fine collection of Throckmorton monuments and the smaller Catholic church, which is in need of restoration.
|The gardens at Coughton have been created during the last two decades by a Throckmorton family member|
As you wander through the gardens, it's hard to believe that there was nothing here of note just 20 years ago and that work was further hampered by a huge flood in 2007, when the water flooded not just the gardens, but the entire ground floor of the house. If you're looking for another local property, visit The Master's Garden in Warwick. Coughton Court is open daily (except Monday) from 11.00-17.00. Admission to the garden is just £2.50 if you're a National Trust member, but otherwise £5.90 for adults.