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A Late Winter visit to Rousham House and Garden

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

The sun has come out this afternoon. We've had weeks of bleak skies, and bitter winds, and today the clouds parted and the sun shone. There are so many jobs I am supposed to be doing in the meadow - (when I'm not touring the Cotswolds, I grow flowers to sell). My little scabious seedlings are crying out to be moved on to bigger pots, but this afternoon, I ignored all the nagging jobs and whizzed out on a mini Teacup Tours. I say mini, because when I'm not in the VW Caravelle which I use for my tours, I drive a little convertible Mini. It isn't fancy, but it feels sporty and fun.

So off I went to Rousham Park House and Garden. Lucky for me, just a 15 minute drive away from where I live. Rousham is glorious. Built in 1635 by Sir Robert Dormer, the house is still owned by the same family. Isn't that a rare and wonderful thing?! I think I have an engraved silver spoon from the 1700's still in my family, but that's not quite the same as having a huge country house.

If you know and appreciate the work of the landscape designer William Kent (1685-1748), then you need to see Rousham. The gardens here were designed by him and very little has been changed since that time. Right now, the daffodils are just coming in to bloom. They are going to be exceptional in the next week or so.

You can imagine the delight of the Eighteenth Century visitors exploring the grounds. There are classical statues, lots of intriguing rhododendron lined pathways through woods. Enchanting waterways, leading to pools, waterfalls and then bigger ponds beyond. The House sits at the top of the valley, looking down to the River Cherwell. It is all beautiful and very romantic. Goodness knows what went on in all of those secluded temples!

Then, as you follow the paths, you come to the Insta-favourite ornate wrought iron gate into the walled garden. Every time I visit, this gate is always closed, but not locked. The first time I went, I wasn't sure if I was allowed through it, but the temptation to go in was irresistible so I opened cautiously and entered. ( I am sorry to say, that I wasn't being in the slightest bit naughty, visitors are meant to go this way, but I didn't know that at the time.)

Once inside the walled garden, you are impressed by its size and the avenues of espalier apple trees. Follow the paths to the smaller formal gardens and vegetable gardens. Whenever I go, there is never anyone else there. I have it all to myself. Which is dangerous, because then I start to talk out loud to myself. I rave about the flowers, talk to the bantams, and say things like, "ooh, what's in there?" One day, someone is going to catch me out.

Rousham stays peaceful with its uncommercial attitude. There are no tearooms and no shop. No dogs allowed and no children under 15 years. In their words, "Bring a picnic, wear comfortable shoes and it is yours for the day." What could be more perfect? I am dying to bring my tour visitors here this summer. I can only ever take max 5/6 guests at a time, so everything still feels exclusive and private. I have settled upon the perfect picnic spot, which varies depending on where the sun is (or isn't). I want to pack up my china tea set, blankets and collect cakes from Hugo Lovage Patisserie in Burford and whisk you away from it all, to this idyllic location.

If all that isn't enough to persuade you, I've just read that Rousham is Monty Don's favourite garden in England. You can find his episode featuring Rousham in the 2008 BBC series, Around the World in 80 Gardens.

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