Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens

Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens with Carolyn Mullet

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

August 8, Tuesday – Arrive in The Netherlands at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
August 9, Wednesday – Jac. P. Thijssepark, Vlinderhof, Tuin “De Villa”
August 10, Thursday – Noël van Mierlo, Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature
August 11, Friday – Oudolf/Hummelo, Hortvs
August 12, Saturday – Het Loo Palace, Kröller-Müller Museum
August 13, Sunday – Cruydt Hoeck, Priona, Mien Ruys
August 14, Monday – Lianne’s Siergrassen, Dewit Garden Tools, Jakobstuin
August 15, Tuesday – Garten Moorriem, De Kleine Plantage, Tuin aan het Wieltje
August 16, Wednesday – Depart for home or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, August 8, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Wednesday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, August 9, Wednesday – TOUR STARTS, JAC P. THIJSSEPARK, VLINDERHOF, TUIN “DE VILLA”

What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wildflowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.” We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings.

The Vlinderhof, or Butterfly Garden, is nestled in Maxima Park in Utrecht, and the garden plan is by acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf. Residents in the area asked Oudolf to design a garden within the park, to be maintained by volunteers. Now, over 15,000 plants are planted in this naturalistic setting attracting not only butterflies, but also many other beneficial insects.

Next, we visit a relatively new private garden, Tuin “de Villa”. Started in 2004, the garden is located in a polder between meadows and cornfields on land reclaimed from the sea. Here, Fried and Lily Frederix, the owners, have made themselves a contemporary garden. There will be much to enjoy in their crisp, diagonal design that will lead our eyes to the Dutch Wave garden far in the rear. The Frederix’s have turned a pasture into a rich tapestry of texture & color. Grasses move in the breeze and pollinators buzz around flowering shrubs and perennials. If you like to shoot videos, this is the garden for you.

 

Day 3, August 10, Thursday – NOEL VAN MIERLO, KASTEEL GELDROP, VAN NATURE

We’ll start the day by visiting a private garden designed by Noël van Mierlo. Known for his naturalistic style, van Mierlo is a three-time winner of the National Garden of the Year Award plus the Most Sustainable Garden, Netherlands and the Most Natural Pool. Getting a chance to see a garden by such an accomplished designer is a treat we’ll long remember.

Next we travel to Kasteel Geldrop, a 14th century castle, to see the work of planting designer John Schoolmeesters. He came to this garden in 2005 to turn the walled fruit and vegetable garden into a contemporary naturalistic perennial and grass garden. The end result is a prime example of a post Dutch Wave garden with an emphasis on color, texture, and shape.

Van Nature is also a post Dutch Wave display garden and nursery started in 2013 by landscaper Frank van der Linden, nursery woman Caroline van Heeswijk, and garden designer Frank Heijligers. Here we’ll see ornamental grasses and perennials that may be difficult to find but have been trialed in the display garden for low maintenance & good habit in all seasons. That’s a tall order but it will be fascinating to see what combinations they recommend.

 

Day 4, August 11, Friday – OUDOLF/HUMMELO, HORTVS

Piet Oudolf’s private garden at Hummelo has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of followers from around the world. As the master designer of the New Perennials style of naturalistic planting (which, of course, started as Dutch Wave), Oudolf’s garden is a place of experimentation and testing and therefore, constant change. Enclosed by typical Dutch hedges, the interior garden explodes with familiar and new plants in an exuberant, unconventional display. Oudolf has said, “What I try to do is build an image of nature.” Here we’ll see his current image of nature and draw inspiration from Oudolf’s own innovations. This will be a garden experience we’ll never forget.

We’ll dip into Germany to see Hortvs, the private garden of designer and author Peter Janke, considered a rising star in the German landscape design world. The design is inspired by the work of British plantswoman, Beth Chatto, with whom Janke studied in England. We’ll see a meadow, a gravel garden, a woodland garden with simple mulched paths, and a wild, abundant herb garden. It’s geometric and organic, a beautiful mixture of classic and modern styles.

 

Day 5, August 12, Saturday – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

Today we take a break from Dutch Wave gardens and visit two places that are important to Dutch culture. One is historical and the other is modern.

At Het Loo Palace, we’ll see an example of 17th century formal Dutch garden design, heavily influenced by the French – about as far away as one could get from Dutch Wave. The Great Garden in the back of the palace was designed by a nephew of André Le Nôtre and has a symmetrical axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres, statuary, and fountains. In the 18th century, the original Baroque garden was destroyed to make way for a landscape park but it was restored for the palace’s 300th anniversary in 1984. There continue to be renovations. Recently the boxwood in the parterres were pulled out due to boxwood blight and replaced with a cultivar of Ilex crenata.

The Kröller-Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden set in a national park. We’ll spend some time here at the museum itself, seeing the second-largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and works by Picasso, Gauguin, Mondrian, and Seurat among many other artists. We’ll also want to see the sculpture garden, which has an equally renowned collection of modern sculptures in a beautiful park setting. Then, if there’s time, we’ll walk along the Ecological Walking Route or perhaps take advantage of the free bikes and cycle around the 75 acre national park.

 

Day 6, August 13, Sunday –CRUYDT HOECK, PRIONA, MIEN RUYS

Today our first stop is Cruydt-Hoeck, the seed nursery started by the late Rob Leopold, a specialist in wildflower seeds and one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave movement. Leopold established the nursery in 1978 to preserve the biodiversity of wild plants, bees, butterflies, and other animals, offering seed mixtures for native wildflower plantings and flower meadows. His influence continues today. A connection with Leopold’s work can be made to the much acclaimed landscaping done with seed mixtures at the recent London Olympics site. Since Leopold’s death in 2005, the nursery continues under the leadership of Jasper Helmantel and Jojanneke Bijkerk, designers who are experts in Dutch Wave principles.

Next we visit Priona, the home garden of the late Henk Gerritsen, one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave. Gerritson is credited with developing the main principles of Dutch Wave design and it shows throughout the garden. Wild and cultivated plants grow next to each other. Weeds and pests are tolerated in the name of naturalism. Gerritson said his design principle is simple: “What is straight should be curved, what is curved should be straight.” We’ll discuss what that means after our visit to this garden which author Noel Kingsbury has described as “magical and entertaining … wild and zany.”

Our last garden of the day is the important Tuinen Mien Ruys. Here we’ll pay homage to the woman many call the “Mother of Modernism,” landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904-1999). She made these gardens over a period of 70 years and they’re a reflection of her amazing creativity. Her style is distinctly architectural but the plantings are loose and naturalistic. There are 28 gardens in all, incorporating old and new styles while using unusual materials and perennial introductions from her father’s internationally renowned nursery. Above all, Ruys was experimental. Never afraid to try new things, her garden was an inspiration to the founders of Dutch Wave as it has been to designers from all over the world.

 

Day 7, August 14, Monday – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, DEWIT GARDEN TOOLS, JAKOBSTUIN

The theme of today’s first garden could be summarized simply as “Plants, Plants, Plants!” Lianne’s Siergrassen is a well respected Dutch nursery that specializes in Dutch Wave ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only has the owner, Lianne Pot, indulged her passion and brought together a virtual living encyclopedia of grasses, she has also created a demonstration Prairie Style Garden arranged in curving beds with over 12,000 dynamic plants. There’s probably not one moment in the year that this garden isn’t beautiful.

The Dutch are known for making some of the finest garden tools in the world so we’re very fortunate that DeWit Garden Tools has invited us to visit their factory and maybe even get a chance to make our own tools. The company was started by Willem de Wit in 1898, and today, the 4th generation of the family is running the forging operation. You’ll note the old-fashioned, top-notch quality, along with innovative designs.

We continue our tour at Jakobstuin, a garden that falls somewhere between Oudolf’s current style and Prairie Style. The owner and designer, Jaap de Vries, calls Jakobstuin an “Ode to the Dutch Wave.” In addition to warm season grasses typical of the North American Prairie, de Vries also uses many perennial selections favored in the New Perennial movement and arranges plants in the currently popular matrix pattern. Look carefully and you’ll notice that he pays particular attention to texture, form, and light, which is probably the reason his daily photo posts on Facebook are loved by hundreds of followers.

 

Day 8, August 15, Tuesday – GARTEN MOORRIEM, DE KLEINE PLANTAGE, TUIN AAN HET WEELTJE

Our final day starts with a drive into Germany where we’ll visit Garten Moorriem, Ute and Albrecht Ziburski’s garden begun in 2006. Starting at the 300 year old house, we’ll see skillful combinations of perennials and grasses that get wilder the farther away from the house they are. We’ll cross a garden bridge to see the final plantings that come into their full glory in late summer against the backdrop of a wide, native meadow landscape. This is a garden that plays with the illusion of naturalness to achieve great atmospheric effect.

We’ll return to The Netherlands to visit, Kwekerij De Kleine Plantage, a specialty nursery very much in the spirit of the Dutch Wave. In its beautiful display garden, we’ll see the latest in sturdy, textural perennials and grasses planted in alcoves along a crisp, hedge-lined avenue extending from the house. Since everything is labeled, this will be our chance to find out the names of those plants that we’ve been seeing all week but didn’t know. De Kleine Plantage will remain in our memories as a green oasis showing great love for plants and design.

The final garden of our tour is Tuin aan het Weeltje, a private garden designed by Piet Oudolf. Large groups of grasses are combined with delicately colored perennials. Here will be our chance to see how Oudolf’s ideas fit into a home garden with typical Dutch landscape elements of water, reed, and ancient willow trees. Maybe we’ll pick up some tips to apply to our own gardens when we get home.

 

Day 9, August 16, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS
Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take the train or taxi from Centraal Station to the airport.

 

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany 2018

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany 2018 with Deryn Thorpe

 

Tour Highlights

Private gardens (several listed as ‘Jardin Remarquable’), many visits will be hosted by their owners.

Special visit to the private gardens of La Datcha – created some 25 years ago as a picturesque folly for Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint-Laurent, with gardens designed by Madison Cox.

Work inspired by the great André Le Nôtre at the Château Champ de Bataille and Château de Sassy, and the influences of Edwin Luytens and Gertrude Jekyll at Le Bois des Moutiers.
Le Jardin du Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza, containing one of the finest plant collections in France.

The beautiful, unspoilt northern coast of Brittany with its deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys enjoys an exceptional climate due to the Gulf Stream. Here, we explore Les Jardins de Kerdalo with a rich collection of plants and shrubs, and the private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Further inland, Le Grand Launay boasts a beautiful modern garden built around an old castle.

A journey ‘in the footsteps of the Impressionists’, to Monet’s garden at Giverny, the coast he painted, and the port town of Honfleur; the Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux (Le Havre) containing one of the most extensive collections of Impressionist paintings in France.

Visits to major monuments such as the Abbeys of St-Georges de Boscherville and Mont Saint-Michel; Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals such as Notre-Dame (Rouen) and St-Étienne (Caen)
The megalithic site on the south coast of Brittany in Carnac, where we examine the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC).

The Bayeux Tapestry Museum, containing the 11th-century embroidered cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England.

Explore a rich variety of village architecture in a number of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ including the pretty half-timbered houses of Lyons-la-Forêt and Dinan, the medieval stone houses of St-Céneri-le-Gérei, the walled town of Vannes, and the charming washhouses of Pontrieux.

Sampling of French regional produce, with visits to specialist local markets; tastings of Normandy’s Livarot, Pont l’Évêque cheeses, apple juice and calvados, and Brittany’s crêpes, seafood, famous custard cake the ‘Far Breton’ and the ‘Kouign-Amann’ (cross between a croissant and a palmier).

Fine dining in renowned urban and rustic restaurants including historic restaurant La Couronne, Rouen.

 

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Normandy & Brittany

Overnight Rouen (6 nights) • Honfleur (2 nights) • Bayeux (3 nights) • Silly-en-Gouffern (2 nights) • Vannes (2 nights) • Perros-Guirec (3 nights) • Dinan (2 nights)

 

Rouen – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 1 September, Paris CDG – Lyons-la-Forêt – Rouen

Afternoon tea in Lyons-la-Forêt village
Introduction
Welcome dinner

Today we set out from Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen, to begin our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we stop in Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages, for an afternoon tea in the Hôtel Les Lions de Beauclerc. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the 17th century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the 18th century, which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of Madame Bovary. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After stopping in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving in the evening. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting followed by a welcome dinner at the Brasserie Paul, near our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) D

 

Day 2: Sunday 2 September, Rouen – St Georges-de-Boscherville – St Pierre-de-Manneville – Rouen

Romanesque Abbey of St Georges-de-Boscherville
Manoir et Parc de Villers, St Pierre-de-Manneville
Orientation walk of Rouen
Evening meal at restaurant La Couronne

Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St Georges-de-Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the 7th century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the 11th century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons that was transformed into a magnificent Benedictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

After lunch we visit one of the magnificent country manor houses of Normandy, the Manoir de Villers, a beautiful half-timbered manor house begun in the time of Charles VII (1403-1461) and added to for three centuries. A special delight will be a guided tour of the manor’s interior in which the owners M. and Mme Robert Mery de Bellegarde will show you the magnificent family furniture collection. It is surrounded by themed gardens where we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by our hosts.

We then return to Rouen for an orientation tour of this beautiful historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called ‘Rotomagus’, a derivation of the Celtic name ‘Ratuma’. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the 3rd century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the 15th century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the 15th-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a 15th-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the Saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture.

Tonight we dine together at restaurant La Couronne. Housed in a superbly preserved half-timbered home, it is considered the oldest inn in France, dating from 1345. (Overnight Rouen) BD

 

Day 3: Monday 3 September, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Montmain – Rouen

Buchy village market
Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
Les Jardins d’Angélique, Montmain

A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy where we shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local produce. Many of local farms specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

Three kilometres outside Buchy, Le Jardin de Valérianes, tucked away in a corner of the countryside, was created by a couple of passionate gardeners, Michel and Maryline Tissait, who named the garden after their two daughters. This English-style garden of over 4000 square metres offers much visual pleasure with its combination of perennials, roses, trees and bushes.

Next, we travel to Montmain to visit the Jardins d’Angélique, which comprise two wonderful gardens. Originally created by Gloria and Yves Le Bellegard in memory of their daughter Angelica, the two separate gardens are distinct in character. South of the manor house is a formal garden with walkways and clipped hedges, Italianate in style with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary and a central fountain. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. To the north is a flowing ‘English-style’ garden: dreamy, romantic, with grassy paths winding between hundreds of shrubs, plants and trees.

In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

 

Day 4: Tuesday 4 September, Rouen – Giverny – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Rouen

Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry

This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years. We visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of his later paintings, created when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, ‘Le Pressoir’, and its gardens have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Your visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. You cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond. In September the lawns are typically full of pink colchicums. The dahlias are eye-catching, and there are usually roses and nasturtiums in bloom at the house garden. No wisteria flowers, but the vine covers the bridge, and the pond is surrounded by greenery and impatiens.

In the afternoon we drive to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume, where owners Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have converted their orchard into a parterre. There is also a spring garden, summer garden and autumn garden. The summer garden is a kind of modern knot garden with a very formal layout of clipped box in a square edged pattern. Each ‘box’ is then filled with a very natural planting of grasses and perennials but the colours are superb – lots of golden yellow, deep red and burning oranges. The overall mix of formal and informal, the sombre green of the box and the jewel-like colours of the flowers is really superb. In September the box hedges are typically filled with vibrantly coloured flowers, interspersed with grasses. Favourite plants here are dahlias, crocosmias, heleniums, kniphofias and of course grasses – giving the plumes the garden is named for. (Overnight Rouen) B

 

Day 5: Wednesday 5 September, Rouen – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Tourville-sur-Arques – Rouen

The Shamrock Garden, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Church & Sailor’s cemetery, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques

Today we head north to the coastal village of Varengeville-sur-mer where we shall visit two gardens owned by the Mallet family.

We will start with Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the family’s possession since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Delhi, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden, which slopes toward the sea.

After a picnic lunch in the garden, we drive a short distance to Varengeville-sur-Mer Church and sailors’ cemetery. Varengeville is an astonishing commune perched atop white limestone cliffs. It has attracted many artists including Claude Monet, and is famous for its church, with its stained-glass windows by Georges Braque. From the sailors’ cemetery, where Georges Braque, Albert Roussel and Porto-Riche are buried, there is a superb view of Dieppe and the cliffs towards Le Tréport.

We then head back to the village to visit the second garden of the Mallet family, the Shamrock Garden. Created in 1984 by Corinne Mallet, it displays a wonderful Hydrangea Collection including 2000 plants from over 1200 varieties. It has been since given the status of French National Collection .

In the late afternoon we continue to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques, a splendid 17th-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis. Following a light buffet dinner at the Château de Miromesnil we return to Rouen for the night. (Overnight Rouen) BD

 

Day 6: Thursday 6 September, Rouen – Le Neubourg – Rouen

Château Champ de Bataille, Le Neubourg
Afternoon at leisure in Rouen

This morning we depart Rouen and travel south to Le Neubourg to visit the Château Champ de Bataille, belonging to interior decorator Jacques Garcia. Garcia has completely renovated the 18th-century castle and gardens over the past 20 years. The château boasts a magnificent garden based in part on the classic French style and heavily influenced by drawings by the French designer Le Nôtre – hence its inclusion in Monty Don‘s first programme of his new BBC2 series, French Gardens, which aired on 1 February 2013. Monty was exploring Gardens of Power and Passion in and around Paris, with emphasis on those designed by André Le Nôtre, the son of Louis XVIII’s gardener at Les Tuileries. The original gardens at Champ de Bataille fell into disrepair and had virtually disappeared when the present owner, Jacques Garcia, took it upon himself to recreate a garden in the grounds of the château. An outline plan of the former gardens had survived, which revealed the basic outline and terraces of the missing garden. This was used only as a general guideline, rather than copied slavishly. The resulting garden (which was begun in 1993 and took 12 years to complete) is a masterful blend of classical French and Italian design and inspiration, with modern influences. Parterres, follies, classical temples, fountains, lakes – 43 hectares of park and garden in all, crowned by a stunning view that stretches over a mile down the garden from the main terrace of the Château du Champ de Bataille.

After a light lunch in restaurant Le Café Garcia, located in the former stables of the château, we return to Rouen for an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL

 

Honfleur – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Friday 7 September, Rouen – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Honfleur

L’Etang de Launay, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Lunch at Le Piment Bleu, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Le Jardin du Vastérival, Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer

This morning we leave Rouen to visit L’Etang de Launay, the recently created private gardens of Jean-Louis Dantec, with its highly-pruned specimen trees leading to a lake and ponds, with extensive woodland planting beyond. Only 20 years in the making, this very private garden has already gained a reputation as one of the finest woodland gardens in Europe.

After a lunch at Le Piment Bleu, located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vastérival is acclaimed as containing one of the finest plant collections in all France. The gardens are very informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich under plantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world-famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

In the late afternoon we make our way to the old trading and fishing port of Honfleur, situated at the mouth of the Seine, where we shall spend two nights. (Overnight Honfleur) BL

 

Day 8: Saturday 8 September, Honfleur – Le Havre – Honfleur

Morning at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur and Saturday Market
Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
Evening meal in Honfleur

This morning there will be time at leisure to explore Honfleur with its old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. Honfleur is also famous for its Saturday market, taking place around the lovely Sainte Catherine church, the largest church made out of timber in France.

After lunch, we drive south to Le Havre, situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine on the English Channel. Here we visit the André Malraux Modern Art Museum, which contains the second-most extensive collection of Impressionist paintings in France. There are paintings by Claude Monet and other artists who lived and worked in Normandy including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard. Modern art is also well represented with works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Alexej von Jawlensky and Nicolas de Staël.

We meet tonight for a group evening meal in Honfleur. (Overnight Honfleur) BD

 

Bayeux – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Sunday 9 September, Honfleur – Bénerville-sur-Mer – Ouilly-le-Vicomte – Mézidon-Canon – Bayeux

La Datcha – the private gardens of Pierre Bergé, Bénerville-sur-Mer
Château de Boutemont, Ouilly-le-Vicomte
Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon

This morning we depart Honfleur and travel south to Bénerville-sur-Mer for a very special visit to the private gardens of La Datcha (subject to confirmation closer to the date) – created some 25 years ago as a picturesque folly for Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent by designer Jacques Grange.

This weekend retreat is nestled in a garden that Bergé calls “one of the most important parts of the house”. The American garden designer Madison Cox enclosed the site with a stockade fence and forested the perimeter with oak, ash, maple, and dogwood trees. His chef d’oeuvre is the hydrangea walk, where more than 60 varieties of the luxurious shrub – Saint Laurent’s beloved Proust compared its fading blossoms to “bouquets of dead turquoises” – bloom spectacularly in late summer and fall, when Bergé and his guests use the retreat most. “La Datcha was already beautiful, but Madison knew how to make it into a paradise”, the businessman confides, adding, with a look of unmistakable pride, “It’s like no place else on earth”. (by Robert Murphy, Condé Nast, March 2014).

We continue our exploration of Normandy with a visit to the Château de Boutemont. Dating back to the 12th century, this fortified half-timbered manor is a great example of castles built along the coastline after the Norman victory of Hastings in 1066. It is today surrounded by an 11-hectare park listed as “Jardin Remarquable”. The French gardens designed by Achille Duchène at the beginning of the 20th century have since been completed by landscape architect Georges Hayat’s creations, including a Renaissance Italian garden, rose trees-decorated arches and a small “scent garden”.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an 18th-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alteration of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storey structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive to Bayeux, our next base in Normandy, which is famous above all for its tapestry. (Overnight Bayeux) B

 

Day 10: Monday 10 September, Bayeux – Brécy – Bayeux

Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Château de Brécy, St-Gabriel-Brécy

Our program begins today with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Norman architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de Bayeux which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by la Reine Mathilde (Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the 11th-century methods and machinery of warfare.

After lunch at leisure, we drive to the Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the 17th century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

 

Day 11: Tuesday 11 September, Bayeux – Saint-Maurice-en-Cotentin – Castillon-Plantbessin – Bayeux

Le Jardin de la Bizerie, Saint-Maurice-en-Cotentin
Les Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon

This morning we drive across the Cotentin Peninsula to visit the private gardens of La Bizerie. Benefiting from the Cotentin micro-climate, Jérôme Goutier has transformed a damp valley into a unique garden, filled with mediterranean plants as well as semi-tropical species usually found in the southern hemisphere.

After lunch, we return to Bayeux via Castillon to visit the Jardins de Plantbessin, created by Colette Sainte Beuve as a water garden to complement her plant nursery. Here you will find a marvellous treasure trove of plants that includes beautiful samples of Japanese plants as well as herbs and heather, situated on a site which measures less than a quarter of an acre. (Overnight Bayeux) B

 

Silly-en-Gouffern – 2 nights

 

Day 12: Wednesday 12 September, Bayeux – Caen – Silly-en-Gouffern

Fine Arts Museum, Caen
Abbaye-aux-Hommes and its abbatial church St Étienne, Caen

This morning we depart Bayeux to visit the excellent small art museum of Caen (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle.

After lunch at leisure in Caen, we explore the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church St Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

We stay for the next two nights in a typical half-timbered Norman manor, south of Caen. Located in the heart of the forest, this former 18th century hunting lodge is surrounded by an 80 hectare-park. We shall enjoy our meals from the Michelin Guide-listed restaurant, overlooking the woods. (Overnight Silly-en-Gouffern) BD

 

Day 13: Thursday 13 September, Silly-en-Gouffern – Sassy – St-Céneri-le-Gérei – St-Christophe-le-Jajolet – Silly-en-Gouffern

Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei village and lunch at the Auberge de la Vallée
Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet

A day trip today takes us to yet more lovely Norman villages and gardens. We begin with a visit of the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. In the 6th century an Italian anchorite, Céneri, established a hermitage here and this grew into the village of Saint-Céneri which is now considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. In the 19th century, its stone houses, Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes of the 12th and 14th centuries and its small stone bridge attracted many artists, including Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin. We shall have lunch at the charming Auberge de la Vallée and take a guided tour of the village before making our way to Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet.

We drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the 20th century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece. (Overnight Silly-en-Gouffern) BLD

 

Vannes – 2 nights

 

Day 14: Friday 14 September, Silly-en-Gouffern – St-Biez-en-Belin – Vannes

Le Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux, Saint-Biez-en-Berlin

Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Maine region. Our first visit is to Le Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux, in the town of Saint-Biez-en-Berlin. This delightful garden was voted the ‘Preferred garden of the French’ in the Pays-de-Loire region in 2014 by viewers of the France 2 television channel. It was also awarded the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ label in 2007 by the French Minister of Culture. This private garden, which covers 1.5 hectares, has been created since 1987. A wonderfully mature garden, it is full of trees under planted with hydrangeas, day lillies, hostas, ancient roses, acers and dogwood. Every season has its own interest and two large ponds provide focal points in the garden. There are more than 4000 different plants including collections of Acers, Hydrangeas, Cornus (including the beautiful Cornus kousa ‘Salomi’), roses and grasses.

After lunch we travel west to the south coast of Brittany. Nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan, in one of the world’s most beautiful bays, Vannes boasts all the discreet charm of a fortified town with two thousand years of history. There you will have the opportunity to sample Far Breton and Kouign-Amman – two of the region’s famous specialities. Far Breton is a traditional custard cake with prunes, while Kouign-Amann (pronounced “queen a-mahn”), is made with flaky, buttery, caramelised pastry. (Overnight Vannes) BL

 

Day 15: Saturday 15 September, Vannes – Carnac – Auray – Vannes

Guided tour of Carnac: stone alignments and circles
Lunch at Crêperie Saint Sauveur, Auray
Guided tour of the walled town of Vannes incl. Saint-Pierre Cathedral

This morning we travel to Carnac to explore the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC), with almost 3000 upright stones arranged in 11 almost parallel lines over several kilometres, and consider the various explanations which have been offered for their purpose and function.

We then head for lunch to the pretty town of Auray which features the picture-postcard ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful 15th and 16th-century houses. The bend in the River Loch was a natural setting for the town and it soon became one of the busiest ports in Brittany. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence. Here we shall eat together at a local crêperie. The word crêpe is French for pancake and is derived from the Latin crispus meaning ‘curled’. Crêpes originated in Brittany and were once called galettes, meaning flat cakes.

We return to Vannes in the afternoon for a guided tour of its remarkable old quarter, home to the impressive Saint-Pierre Cathedral. We also take a walk along the town’s ramparts. These 13th-century fortifications, which were regularly remodelled until the 17th century, provide wonderful views of the city’s formal gardens and its cathedral. (Overnight Vannes) BL

 

Perros-Guirec – 3 nights

 

Day 16: Sunday 16 September, Vannes – Pont-Aven – Les Monts d’Arrée– Perros-Guirec

Pont-Aven Museum
Eco-musée des Monts d’Arrée, Natural Regional Park of Armorique

This morning we leave Vannes for Pont-Aven, a small and picturesque Breton village which owes its fame to the artistic life that flourished here between 1860 and the mid-20th century. There we shall visit the world’s first gallery devoted to the work of the Pont-Aven School. Reopened in 2016 after having been completely renovated, the museum hosts paintings from post-Impressionist Gauguin and his fellow-artists. You will then have time at leisure to explore the village, walk along the River Aven and sample the town’s “galettes” – butter biscuits invented here in 1920.

From Pont-Aven we continue our journey inland, travelling through the Natural Regional Park of Armorique. We shall drive up to the highest and oldest hills of Brittany, Les Monts d’Arrée, stopping in the town of Saint-Rivoal where we shall visit the eco-museum and be introduced to the Park’s unique fauna and flora by our local guide.

In the late afternoon we continue to our hotel located outside the town of Perros-Guirec, on the northern coast of Brittany at the centre of the ‘Coast of Pink Granite’. The combination of pink rocks, blue sea and a few islands on the horizon make this area very picturesque. While based in Perros-Guirec we shall visit a number of private gardens as we journey through the area’s rocky coastline, deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BLD

 

Day 17: Monday 17 September, Perros-Guirec – Trédarzec – Penvénan – Perros-Guirec

Les Jardins de Kerdalo, Trédarzec
Lunch at L’Abri des Barges, Trédarzec
Jardins de Pellinec, Penvénan

We begin this morning with a visit to the gardens of Kerdalo. The garden, in a valley near the Brittany coast, was the subject of a book by its owner-designer, Prince Peter Wolkonsky: “Kerdalo: Un Jardin d’Exception” (Paris, 1995). He began to create the garden in 1965. Originally a manor farm in its enclosed valley with natural springs, the formal garden merges into a wooded valley with a lake, pools and grotto with a rich collection of trees and shrubs. Since his death in 1997, his daughter Isabelle and her husband Timothy have restored the garden. They both trained as horticulturalists at RHS Garden Wisley.

A short drive will take us to L’Abri des Barges, a friendly bistro housed in a 16th-century mill overlooking the Jaudy estuary. The chef, a former food photographer, specialises in dishes made from local seafood and seasonal vegetables.

After lunch we will explore a private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Inspired by the gardens at Kerdalo, the seven-acre garden on the Pellinec estuary that has excellent soils was started in 1997. The microclimate has enabled Monsieur Jean to grow a huge diversity of plants laid out in visual harmony. The view is ever changing; at high tide, the sea laps at the garden edges creating a spectacular sight. This superb garden was awarded 1st prize ‘Bonpland’ in 2008. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BL

 

Day 18: Tuesday 18 September, Perros-Guirec – Ploëzal – Guingamp – Lanrivain – Pontrieux – Perros-Guirec

Château de la Roche-Jagu, Ploëzal
Lunch in Guingamp
Le Grand Launay, Lanrivain
Boat tour of Pontrieux’s washhouses

This morning we travel to Ploëzal to visit Le Château de La Roche-Jagu, which is surrounded by a contemporary garden in a magnificent setting overlooking the River Trieux. Inspired by medieval gardens, it features a kitchen garden, a medicinal garden and a flower garden. There are wonderful walks in the woodlands, where you can find areas of palms and camellias and water features.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the market town of Guingamp we continue our journey inland to Le Grand Launay, a remarkable garden located in Lanrivain featuring a unique design, perfectly shaped topiary and beautiful hedging. The garden was designed by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit, in collaboration with the landscape designer Gael Boedec. Their work resulted in a beautiful, modern garden with mostly green plants and some white climbing hydrangea here and there. The garden itself is built around an old castle which gives it a specific charm. One of the most fascinating parts of the garden is the so-called ‘garden of temptation’, where boxwood snakes climb the apple tree as in the garden of Eden.

In the late afternoon we return to Perros-Guirec via the small town of Pontrieux which is nestled deep in an estuary. Listed as one of the ‘small cities of character’ in Brittany, the town features fifty or so beautifully restored and flower-decked washhouses which adorn the banks of the River Trieux. We take a short tour by boat to view these charming washhouses and dine at a local restaurant. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

 

Dinan – 2 nights

 

Day 19: Wednesday 19 September, Perros-Guirec – Mûr-de-Bretagne – Bazouges-la-Pérouse – Dinan

Les Jardins du Botrain, Mûr-de-Bretagne
Château de la Ballue, Bazouges-la-Pérouse

This morning we depart Perros-Guirec for Les Jardins du Botrain located outside the small town of Mûr-de-Bretagne. Inspired by English garden design, this romantic garden in the centre of Brittany is a place of relaxation and contemplation. Surrounding an eighteenth-century manor house with its unique apiary, the gardens consist of many rooms including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, an iris garden, an area of hostas, acers, a pond and even a small lake.

We then drive east toward the Château de la Ballue, located between Brittany and Normandy, in a unique rural setting with mild hills and woods. This 17th-century château, which once welcomed guests such as Balzac and Victor Hugo, is surrounded by dramatic theatrical gardens. When the castle was built in 1620, it was surrounded by Italian-style gardens. They were abandoned in 1942 and could have remained fields of potatoes if the editor Claude Arthaud had not bought the property in the 1970s. Thanks to his inspiration the architects Paul Maymont and François Hébert-Stevens created a classic garden and a mannerist garden before the gardens were discovered again by Marie-France Barrière and Alain Schrotter. The new owners have redesigned and reinterpreted the gardens with a modern twist. There are neat traditional geometric terraces, and a lush fernery and scented groves.

In the late afternoon we continue to Dinan. Once a fortified stronghold of the Dukes of Brittany, Dinan is one of the prettiest and best-preserved towns in the region. It’s noted for its ‘maisons à piliers’, medieval half-timbered houses built on stilts over the sidewalks. For centuries the town has served as a hub of cultural and commercial activity, from the original merchants and traders to today’s artists and craftspeople. (Overnight Dinan) BL

 

Day 20: Thursday 20 September, Dinan – Mont-Saint-Michel – Dinan

Mont Saint-Michel
Time at leisure to explore the medieval town of Dinan
Farewell Evening Meal at Le Bistrot du Viaduc

One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the 10th century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the 17th century. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the 11th century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

We return to Dinan in the early afternoon, for some time at leisure. The centre of town is dominated by an impressive castle and surrounded by ramparts. The 2700 metres of ramparts once protected the medieval citadel, which spread over thirty hectares. The ramparts were built in the 13th century when Dinan became a duchy and were continually improved until the Wars of Religion of the 16th century, after which they lost their defensive role. You may wish to take a lovely circular walk along the ramparts, starting from the castle. Tonight we enjoy an evening farewell meal in a local restaurant. (Overnight Dinan) BD

 

Day 21: Friday 21 September, Dinan – Paris (tour ends)

Transfer to Paris CDG airport
Our tour ends today with a coach transfer from Dinan to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, via Rennes TGV station. B

 

Gardens of Ireland

Gardens of Ireland with Carolyn Mullet

 

At-A-Glance Itinerary

June 11, Sunday – Arrive in Dublin at Dublin Airport
June 12, Monday – Mount Usher, Hunting Brook, June Blake’s Garden
June 13, Tuesday – Mount Venus Nursery, Corke Lodge
June 14, Wednesday– Powerscourt, Burtown House & Gardens
June 15, Thursday – Ilnacullin (Garinish Island), Derreen Garden
June 16, Friday – Bantry House, Ballymaloe Cookery School, Lakemount
June 17, Saturday –Mount Congreve, Private Garden, Farewell Dinner
June 18, Sunday – Depart or continue travels on your own

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond our control or opportunities that would enhance the itinerary, adjustments may be necessary.

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, June 11, Sunday – ARRIVE IN IRELAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Dublin Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Monday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, June 12, Monday – TOUR STARTS, MOUNT USHER, HUNTING BROOK, JUNE BLAKE’S GARDEN

There’s no better way to begin a tour than with a garden that’s home to 4000 – yes, four thousand – plant varieties. Designed in a naturalistic style, Mount Usher was laid out according to the the principles of William Robinson, the Irish-born gardener, writer, and publisher who advocated wild gardening in the late 19th century. We won’t find many straight lines at Mount Usher. Instead we’ll see clusters of luscious plantings – many from the Southern Hemisphere – along the ambling Vartry River which is at the heart of this romantic garden.

Next we’ll visit Hunting Brook, a 15 year old garden which began its life as homage to Oehme, van Sweden, the landscape architects who popularized huge sweeps of ornamental grasses and perennials in the late 20th century. However, Jimi Blake, the owner who’s an internationally renowned plantsman and collector, has since moved on. The garden now features cactus, tropicals, evergreens, frequently-changing perennials, and woodland gems. The 20-acre garden is 900 feet above sea level and the landscape slopes down to Hunting Brook, from which it takes its name. We’ll work our way past thousands of plants and up the hill to a great expanse of meadow and The Wicklow Mountains in the distance. Hunting Brook is a garden that will inspire us to greater adventure in our own gardens back home.

June Blake (Jimi’s sister) started her career as a jewelry designer and a sheep farmer. Much later that she turned her three-acre property into a plant nursery and made a garden here that truly reflects an inventive and artistic spirit. The structure is quite formal but exuberant billows of plants soften the hardscape to create what garden writer Jane Powers calls “a piece of poetry.” The garden is also a great lesson in re-purposing materials found on site. Paths and walls were constructed from materials on the property; the paving at the front door was once used as the floor in a cattle shed; and steel beams used to outline some paths were salvaged from a hayshed.

 

Day 3, June 13, Tuesday – MOUNT VENUS NURSERY, CORKE LODGE

Travelers can learn a lot about a country’s gardening culture by visiting a local nursery. So we’ll begin the day with a stop at Mount Venus Nursery which specializes in unusual perennials and grasses. Here we will see the best, new cultivars of familiar plants and experience for ourselves why Liat and Oliver Schurmann’s nursery is beloved by dedicated gardeners and professional designers throughout Ireland. Beyond growing plants, this talented couple designs private gardens and have received multiple gold medals for their show gardens at Irish and English flower shows.

It seems entirely possible that the term “green gardens” was coined to describe the garden we’ll see on our visit to Corke Lodge. A parterre of boxwood, swathes of tree ferns, stands of dark green laurels, and a leafy green canopy overhead. It was created by furniture designer and architect Alfred Cochrane who inherited the property in 1980. He left in place a number of huge specimen trees but renovated the rest of the garden with an eye towards Italy. The resulting woodland garden is classically formal and now looks like it’s been there forever.

 

Day 4, June 14, Wednesday – POWERSCOURT, BURTOWN

The first garden today is Powerscourt, considered by many to be the grandest garden in Ireland. The house dates back to the mid-1700’s. It was designed for the 1st Viscount Powerscourt and includes a 13th century castle. The 62-acre garden began life as a formal landscape to complement the mansion, with a pond, a walled garden, a number of trees, a fishpond and a grotto. In the mid 1800’s, the 6th and 7th Viscounts added Italianate elements: statuary, gates, urns, stone terraces, marble replicas of classical figures, a huge mosaic made from black and white beach pebbles, a gothic boathouse and a Triton fountain. Throughout the landscape, we’ll see many specimen trees, a Japanese Garden, a Pet Cemetery, a rhododendron walk, and herbaceous borders. Those who are interested in a walk deep into the Deer Park can see the tallest waterfall in Britain and Ireland, an impressive flourish for this grand garden.

Burtown House and Gardens has been in the same family since the early part of the 18th century. The garden was laid out by Isabel Shackleton, cousin of the Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, but it came into its own after the property was inherited by three amazing artists. The late Wendy Walsh was one of Ireland’s renowned botanical artists and many of her rare plants were moved to the garden as her daughter, artist Lesley Fennell and her son James, a renowned photographer, began expanding the plantings. The design style is part Victorian, part Arts & Crafts, and features large herbaceous borders in blazing color, shrubberies, a rock garden, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland area surrounded on all sides by water. Wildflower meadows are punctuated with sculptures, and woodland and farmland walks abound. Strolls around the garden make it clear that its owners have keen artistic eyes. Burtown has recently added a restaurant where we’ll enjoy lunch.

 

Day 5, June 15, Thursday – ILNACULLIN, DAREEN

We’ll board a boat for a short ride to an island in West Cork where we’ll see a windswept landscape that’s now a noteworthy garden. Ilnacullin (which in Irish means “island of holly,”) was designed in the early 20th century by architect and landscape designer Harold Peto who turned the rocky soil into a garden paradise. Formal and classical, Peto’s design included exotic plants from afar to blend with the nearby sea and mountains. We’ll stroll around the Italian Garden, note the Japanese touches in the Casita, admire the perfect lawn for croquet and tennis, and examine the plants in the walled garden. There are many rare and notable plants in this garden, including a celery pine, a weeping Huon pine, and the multi-colored Pseudowintera colorata.

One of the most unusual gardens you’ll ever encounter is Derreen, a 60-acre property on the edge of a harbor on the rugged Beara peninsula. It’s romantic, it’s green, it’s magical and spooky. The site was inherited by the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, who had served as Viceroy of India. He hired workers to drain the boggy soil and plant conifers, shrubs, and a massive grove of tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, native to Australia and Tasmania. Planted around 1900, they now are over 20 feet high, and form an amazing spectacle of pure green under a canopy of oaks, eucalyptus, rhododendrons and conifers.

 

Day 6, June 16, Friday – BANTRY HOUSE, BALLYMALOE COOKING SCHOOL, LAKEMOUNT

Our first garden today is Bantry House which has been aptly called one of the most ostentatious in Ireland. Back in the mid 1800’s, the Earl of Bantry filled sketchbooks with images of grand European estates. He then employed hundreds of workers to terrace the rocky landscape that rises up steeply from Bantry Bay, and he filled them with European statuary. One hundred steps, known as the Stairway to the Sky, ascend to the top of the property, where there’s an intricate box parterre and sweeping views of the bay and mountains. The gardens have recently been renovated, and the Sunken Garden, once home to box and roses, is now filled with airy, contemporary ornamental grasses and perennials. Paths through a woodland are lined with majestic ferns, and the Stream Walk ends at an early 20th century Japanese-style water garden. There’s also a five-acre Walled Garden, formerly a vegetable and fruit garden, but now taken over by self-seeded local plantings, a currently popular trend with gardeners everywhere interested in sustainable practices.

Next we’ll visit Ballymaloe Cooking School which was once the home of William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. This farmland was passed down through generations of Quakers to the present owners, who have been creating new gardens on the site since the 1980’s. In a huge, one-acre organic glasshouse, vegetables of every kind are grown for the farm’s existing restaurant and for students at the cooking school. We’ll have tea here and stroll around 7.5 acres of gardens, a wildlife meadow, and a farm walk. The oldest part of the garden – Lydia’s Garden – features a serene lawn surrounded by mixed borders. There’s also a summer house with a mosaic floor, a classic baroque herb garden with 19th century beech hedges, and a lovely vegetable garden that’s often featured in publications. An ornamental fruit garden designed by Irish Times gardening correspondent Jim Reynolds sports strawberries and apples, and berries galore.

Color, color and more color – in blooms, bark, leaves, and grasses is the outstanding characteristic of the 2.5 acre Lakemount Garden just outside Cork city. It was designed by Brian Cross and his mother Rose Cross, who planted masses of hydrangeas all over the garden in hues of clear blue, purple and lavender, depending on the soil. A conservatory houses an amazing array of tropical plants, and ‘Rosemount’, planted by Rose Cross, is a classic, charming cottage garden. Lakemount is known for its collection of small trees, pruned in a sculptural manner by Brian. The garden is a true plant kaleidoscope.

 

Day 7, June 17, Saturday – Mount Congreve, Bernard Hickie Garden

Our day starts at Mount Congreve, a plant collector’s dream garden. Mount Congreve is known for its huge massings of plants, acquired over a lifetime by the late Ambrose Congreve, who died just a few years ago at age 104. Congreve’s horticultural mentor was British banker Lionel de Rothschild, who sent him plants in the 1920s and 30s, including an impressive stand of Rhododendron sinogrande, still thriving today. Congreve believed in clustering plants together for effect, and spectacular specimens are everywhere. We’ll take a half-mile stroll along a walk lined on both sides by Hydrangea macrophylla, and admire paths filled with pieris, camellia, mahonia, azaleas, and many others. Mount Congreve is home to more than 2000 varieties of rhododendron; 600 of camellias; and 300 Japanese maples. In Congreve’s Walled Garden, borders are planted to flower by month, and a door in the garden opens onto a pond shaped like the race course at Ascot. In the Woodland, we’ll see a classical temple, a Chinese pagoda, and a waterfall inside a quarry. It’s a spectacular garden, and a testament to Congreve’s plant growing expertise: he won 13 gold medals over the years at the Chelsea Flower Show for his horticultural excellence.

We’ll end our week of garden adventures by visiting a private garden designed by Bernard Hickie, a Dublin-based contemporary landscape designer known for his bold and innovative projects. As he notes on his website,

“Plants fascinate me – form, texture, habit. To combine plants successfully is both tremendously important and immensely satisfying. The joy of seeing these constantly changing creations grow and adapt to their imposed environment is exhilarating.”

Hickie was greatly influenced by his mother, who was a dedicated gardener and landscape photographer, and he traveled with her to most of the great gardens across Ireland. Aside from private residential gardens and large estates, Hickie also designs landscapes for film sets.

 

Day 8, June 18, Sunday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take a taxi on your own from the hotel to the airport.

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark 2018

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark 2018 with Deryn Thorpe

 

Tour Highlights

This tour is limited to 22 participants

Join Deryn Thorpe, horticulturalist, garden designer and presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, for a 14-day cultural garden tour of the Channel Islands. Deryn will be assisted by a Jersey native, Beth Lloyd.

Travel in spring, when clifftops are covered with wildflowers and subtropical gardens burst with colour.

With naturalist Mike Stentiford, enjoy a wildflower meadow walk at Le Noir Pré, which bursts into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids, and tour the Eric Young Orchid Foundation.

Try to spot the dazzling courtship ritual of marsh harriers at the new National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre at St Ouen’s Pond.

Enjoy specially arranged visits to private gardens, many featured in Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands and in 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.

Enjoy a talk on the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, at this centre established by Gerald Durrell on Jersey to provide a sanctuary for endangered species.

Local archaeologist Olga Finch introduces us to the prehistory of the Channel Islands.
Visit La Hougue Bie Museum with the conservator to see the newly discovered ‘Jersey Hoard’ of Iron Age and Roman coins.

Sue Hardy, an expert on Jersey’s Norman and English history, guides our visit to Mont Orgueil Castle.

Visit the unique Glass Church of St Matthew on Jersey where René Lalique designed and produced the extraordinary and beautiful doors, font, screen and altar. It is the only church of its kind in the world.

Visit the Jersey War Tunnels, a 1-kilometre tunnel network built by POWs. Originally an ammunition store, it was converted into an underground hospital.

Visit Hauteville, Victor Hugo’s house at Havalet Bay on Guernsey, where the author lived in exile for 15 years (from 1856 to 1870); the Islands inspired his Toilers of the Sea (1866).
Take a ferry to Sark for a tour of the walled gardens of La Seignerie, and a special lunch of Sark lobster.

Cruise to Herm for a guided tour of the island’s award-winning gardens with head gardener, Brett Moore.

Take a boat trip from Alderney to view the Atlantic puffin colony which breeds on Burhou Island between March and July, and viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac.
Note: Guest lecturers’ participation is subject to confirmation in 2018.

 

Tour Overview

The Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Alderney and Sark – are the remains of a vast primordial volcanic crater. Although they lie closer to France than England, the islands’ inhabitants are British citizens. They are, however, neither legally part of the UK nor administered from Westminster, having governed themselves since the 13th century. Their distinctive histories, cultures and geography set them apart not only from France and England but also from each other.

This 14-day tour explores the gardening, history and horticultural heritage of the Channel Islands. Warmed all year round by the Gulf Stream, the Channel Islands possess dynamic ecosystems, each a sanctuary for an incredible variety of flora and fauna. Our tour is timed for spring, when clifftops are covered with wildflowers and subtropical gardens burst with colour.

Starting in Jersey, the ‘Floral Island’, the tour continues to Guernsey. From here, we take excursions to the nearby islands of Sark, Burhou and Herm. As well as seeing a large and varied selection of public and private gardens, including Grey Gables, La Maison des Près and the walled garden at La Seigneurie on Sark, we also visit the wildflower meadow at Le Noir Pré, which bursts into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids, and enjoy a tour of the Eric Young Orchid Foundation, where unique varieties are still bred. A feature of this tour is the large number of specially arranged visits to private gardens that rarely open to the general public, and a boat trip from Alderney to view the Atlantic Puffin colony which breeds on Burhou Island between March and July.

This tour draws on the expertise of local guest speakers. The ‘Birdman of Jersey’, Mike Stentiford, will introduce some of his island’s abundant birdlife, and Dr Olga Finch will introduce the islands’ rich archaeological heritage. During World War II, the islands were the only part of the UK occupied by Germany. We visit the Jersey War Tunnels, a 1-kilometre tunnel network built by POWs originally as an ammunition store and then converted into an underground hospital. We have the special opportunity to visit the La Hougue Bie Museum with the conservator to view the ‘Jersey Hoard’, a vast collection of Iron Age and Roman coins discovered in 2012 and now on display after a period of study and conservation. On Guernsey we visit Hauteville house, where Victor Hugo, in exile, wrote Les Misérables. On Jersey is the unique Glass Church of St Matthew, the extraordinary doors, font, screen and altar of which were designed and produced by René Lalique. As befits these unique islands, this is the only church of its kind in the world and a splendid example of the Channel Islands’ singular beauty and heritage.

Along the way we will visit markets to purchase fresh ingredients for picnic lunches. We’ll also sample Jersey’s famous cheese, ice cream, crab sandwiches, the Guernsey Gâche (a special bread made with raisins, sultanas and mixed peel), and Sark’s famous lobster.

 

14-day Cultural Garden Tour of the Channel Islands

 

Overnight Jersey (7 nights) • Guernsey (6 nights)

 

St Helier, Jersey – 7 nights

 

Day 1: Friday 25 May, Arrive Jersey

Welcome Meeting
Short Orientation Walk (time permitting)
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer from the airport to the hotel in St Helier on the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Pomme d’Or Hotel.

St. Helier stands in St Aubin’s Bay on the southern side of the island and is named after Jersey’s first and most famous saint, a 6th century ascetic hermit who was martyred on the island in c. AD 555. The town is the capital of Jersey and has a population of about 28,000 – roughly one third of Jersey’s total population. While St Helier has a distinctive British atmosphere, the town retains numerous French influences as attested by the many streets that carry old French names and numerous shop fronts still displaying the names of their island founders. Depending on arrival times, a short orientation walk of the town will be conducted before time at leisure for dinner. (Overnight St Helier)

 

Day 2: Saturday 26 May, Jersey

Walk around St Helier – Royal Square, Central Market & Church of St Helier
Le Clos du Chemin, St Peter
Mont Orgueil Castle, Grouville
Welcome Talk by Tim Liddiard, Natural Environment Officer for the States of Jersey: An introduction to the unique ecology of the Channel Islands
Welcome Dinner

Today we begin with a short orientation walk around the cosmopolitan harbour town of St Helier. Our walk includes a visit to the Central Market, where we may purchase ingredients for our picnic lunch. This Victorian covered market includes a stunning array of overflowing flower stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, wines and chocolates, dairy products made from the famous Jersey cow, and local specialties including des mèrvelles (small doughnuts), de nièr beurre (apple preserve) and cabbage loaf (bread baked wrapped in cabbage leaves). We visit the Royal Square, where at its centre a stone commemorates the Battle of Jersey, which took place in 1781. We also visit the pink granite Church of St Helier, the largest of the parish churches. The seafront used to come right up to the church, and the square tower served as a useful observation post. The stretch of land between here and the sea was reclaimed from the end of the 18th century for town housing and warehouses.

Mid-morning we travel to St Peter to visit Le Clos du Chemin, the private garden of Mrs Susan Lea. Colour and texture reign in this garden, set on a hillside overlooking the bay. It features a glorious herbaceous border; a bed filled with plants in shades of silver; around twenty different types of magnolias; and an extraordinary ‘foxglove tree’ that sports vivid violet flowers in the spring.

We next turn our attention to a medieval site, Mont Orgueil Castle. This iconic landmark commands a prime position overlooking the picturesque harbour at Gorey and the Royal Bay of Grouville. Blue Badge Guide Sue Hardy will guide our visit here, explaining how construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century after King John lost control of Normandy and how for 600 years Mont Orgueil Castle protected the island against French invasion. Although Elizabeth Castle replaced Mont Orgueil as the island’s premier defence station when it was decided an inland setting was safer to protect, Mont Orgueil remained the island’s secondary defence until it was decommissioned in 1907.

This evening we will have a special lecture by Tim Liddiard, Natural Environment Officer for the States of Jersey, that introduces the unique ecology of the Channel Islands. This will be followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel, where we will enjoy a taste of Jersey’s marvellous local produce. (Overnight St Helier) BD

 

Day 3: Sunday 27 May, Jersey

Wildlife walk with Mike Stentiford: Le Noir Pré Orchid Field
National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre, St Ouen’s Pond
Jersey War Tunnels, St Lawrence
Eric Young Orchid Foundation

The favourable climate of the islands, warmed all year around by the Gulf Stream, ensures that the Channel Islands have dynamic ecosystems, and each provides a sanctuary for a rich variety of flora and fauna. This morning we take an environmental wildlife walk with the ‘Birdman of Jersey’, naturalist Mike Stentiford, who will introduce you to some of Jersey’s abundant flora and fauna. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2000 in recognition of the work he has done in promoting and introducing Jersey’s natural heritage to visitors to the island.

We begin early this morning with a visit to Le Noir Pré Orchid Field, whose meadows fringing St Ouen’s Pond burst into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids. Often known simply as ‘the Orchid Field’, this unique site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), which also occurs in Guernsey, but is absent from the rest of the British Isles. In addition, three other species, the southern marsh (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), common spotted and heath spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata), occur at the site. The meadows also contain a wide variety of other plant species, many of which have become increasingly uncommon in Jersey. During May and June, the meadows are a riot of colour, with the stunning deep purple of the Jersey Orchids contrasting with the various shades of pink, through to white, of the remaining species. Other notable wildflowers include the ragged robin, yellow bartsia, parsley water-dropwort, common knapweed, square-stalked St. John’s-wort and tufted vetch. A wide range of insects can also be seen in the meadows, especially butterflies of various species, such as the orange tip, whose caterpillars feed on cuckooflower, and dragonflies, including the spectacular emperor dragonfly. Small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews attract the kestrel, the barn owl and other predatory birds, and the rare marsh harrier can sometimes be observed hunting over the site.

We make a visit to the new National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre. Overlooking La Mare au Seigneur (St Ouen’s Pond), the centre acts as both a state-of-the-art bird hide and a wetland interpretation centre. The nature reserve contains an incredible mosaic of wetland habitats including reedbed, fen, wet meadow, dune grassland and the largest area of natural open water in Jersey. In addition to wildflowers, small mammals and green lizards, almost 200 bird species have been recorded at the site. It is one of the best places to view the majestic marsh harrier. Normally shy birds, at St Ouen they come very close to the viewing areas, and while they are present at the pond throughout the year, spring is a particularly good time to view their dazzling courtship ritual.

The five years of German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II has had a significant impact on islander psyche. This, along with the material legacies left by the German occupation, is now reflected in tourism on the islands. During their occupation the Germans built hundreds of reinforced concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, anti-tank walls and tunnels – all constructed for an invasion that never came. Such was Hitler’s belief that England would try to regain the islands, he sent to the Channel Islands over 20 percent of the material allocated to the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ – a line of massive defence works which stretched from the Baltic to the Spanish frontier – to turn them into ‘impregnable fortresses’. Following Germany’s defeat, islanders began the job of decommissioning and destroying this legacy, but now they are recognised as important heritage sites and considerable energy and money has been expended on conserving and interpreting them.

The Jersey War Tunnels were originally constructed as an ammunition store and artillery barracks, but were converted into a casualty clearing station known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 (often abbreviated to Ho8) or the German Underground Hospital. A huge workforce was needed to build the 1-kilometre network of tunnels and this was supplied by the Organisation Todt. More than 5,000 slave labourers were brought over to Jersey – Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Spaniards. Conditions were terrible, although Russian and Ukrainian POWs were treated the worst, with cases of malnutrition, death by exhaustion and disease among them becoming common. Today the site is a museum, which through interactive displays tells the story of the Occupation.

We end our day with a visit to the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful parish of Trinity and sitting within its own wonderful landscaped garden, this nursery and display complex houses one of the world’s finest collections of orchids. Jersey orchid breeders are considered amongst the best and this collection has won many awards. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 4: Monday 28 May, Jersey

Creux Baillot Cottage Gardens, Leovill, St Ouen
Chateau La Chaire Gardens, Rozel Valley

This morning we visit the private garden of Judith Quérée at Creux Baillot Cottage. Judith and her husband Nigel bought the traditional stone house over 30 years ago. They’ve gradually created a glorious garden, crammed with unusual species of plants that thrive in the mild local climate. There are strange flowers that drip nectar, roses the colour of clotted cream, a burgundy-coloured buddleia and a mysterious mandrake: “Folklore says you should only pull it up at night when the spirit of the plant is asleep,” says Judith. Her garden is divided into different ‘rooms’, with a cool boggy area complete with a rowing boat, and a hot, dry border that attracts scores of butterflies. Hanging from a mature tree are some ropes – a playground for the local red squirrels, which still thrive on the island. This garden is featured in both Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands and 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.

We then travel by coach to Rozel Valley to Chateau La Chaire, a former manor house and now hotel, set in beautiful gardens and woodland. The original 19th-century garden was designed in 1841 by Samuel Curtis, botanist and director of the Botanic Gardens at Kew. The gardens were altered by subsequent owners, but recent efforts have been made to retrieve and restore Curtis’ work.

After a light lunch we will walk through the grounds of La Ferme, one of the largest dairy farms on the island, and on to the north coast cliff path. From here we will be able to see L’Etacquerel Fort before returning to the coach. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 5: Tuesday 29 May, Jersey

St Matthew’s Church, (Glass Church), Millbrook
La Maison des Près, St Peter
Parish Church and Fishermen’s Chapel of St Brelade’s Bay
Grey Gables, St Brelade

We begin today with a visit to St Matthew’s Church at Millbrook. While the exterior of this church scarcely merits a second look, its interior is a work of such beauty that even the Germans took care not to damage it during their occupation of the island. Often referred to as the Glass Church, St Matthew’s has wonderful Art Deco glass fixtures and fittings designed in 1934 by René Lalique (1860-1945). The work was commissioned by Florence Boot, Lady Trent, Lalique’s neighbour in the South of France. Lady Trent’s principle residence, however, was in Millbrook on the island of Jersey and the work was commissioned to honour her late husband Jesse Boot, founder of Boots the Chemist. Opalescent panels, a magnificent altar cross, a glass font – perhaps the only one to be found anywhere – the Jersey lily motif, and Art Deco angels make the church one of the Island’s treasures and arguably some of the finest work Lalique ever produced.

La Maison des Près is the private garden of Lord and Lady Brownlow. Its fine selection of trees includes a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, and a Metasequoia (dawn redwood). A walk through the wildflower meadow allows us to note the lime trees around the border and the different windbreaks. After the informality of the meadow and orchard, there is a complete change as you enter the more formal garden. Here we find a giant Romneya coulteri (Californian tree poppy) and a delightful semi-circular summerhouse leading into Lady Brownlow’s ‘secret garden’, guarded by two actual-size reproductions of the celebrated terracotta warriors which were excavated in Xi’an, China.

Following some time at leisure for lunch at St Brelade’s Bay, we visit the Parish Church and La Chapelle des Pecheurs (locally known as the Fishermen’s Chapel), which occupy the site of an original wooden church built by St Brelade in the 6th century. In the early centuries of Christianity it was common for a community, or a wealthy local family, to fund a chantry chapel. Here a priest could be paid to say prayers to keep the devil at bay and guarantee a path to heaven for the righteous. Originally it was thought that the name derived from the fishing guilds of the island, although it is also possible that pecheurs (‘fishermen’ in French) is a corruption of péchés (‘sinners’). A wooden structure may have existed on this site as the first church, however these churches were often burned down by pagan invaders. While the chapel appears older than the adjacent church, recent archaeological work suggests that it was constructed afterwards, probably during the 12th century. The chapel is built from the same material as was used in the parish church. Limpet shells from the bay were crushed and dissolved with boiling seawater. Until the 19th century, when the military fortifications were built in Jersey, it housed cannon for the local militia. It therefore survived the destruction of chapels at the time of the Reformation.

This afternoon we visit the extensive gardens of Grey Gables, located in a peaceful, elevated position above La Haule Hill in St Brelade. Developed by the late Mrs Celia Skinner, the garden consists of a mixture of terraced and formal gardens with large areas of natural wood banks featuring many mature indigenous and specie trees including Australian tree ferns. There is also a well-stocked greenhouse, a herb garden and a vegetable area with fruit trees.

In the late afternoon we return to St Helier for an evening at leisure. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 6: Wednesday 30 May, Jersey

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens with Ned Malet de Carteret, brother of the current Seigneur
We begin our day with a visit to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, formerly the Jersey Zoo. Located in a 16th-century manor house and surrounded by 32 acres of park and farmland, Jersey Zoo was the realisation of a dream by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) to create a safe place for his animals. From the outset the Jersey Zoo was dedicated to breeding endangered species to ensure their survival. Many zoologists denounced Gerald’s early efforts at captive breeding but they are now universally acknowledged as an important weapon in the fight to save animals from extinction.

In 1963, Gerald turned his ‘zoo’ into a charitable trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has established breeding groups of many species of endangered mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and has pioneered the return of their progeny to the wild. In Jersey, in the 50 plus years of the Zoo/Trust’s operation, it has achieved many major breeding firsts. These include: Alaotran gentle lemurs, Rodrigues and Livingstone’s fruit bats, Rodrigues fodys, Madagascan flat-tailed tortoises, Round Island boas and Montserrat mountain chicken frogs. While most of us think of Gerald Durrell in connection with his best-selling book, My Family and Other Animals, which documented his earliest animal adventures and the antics of his family on the island of Corfu, Durrell’s greatest legacy has undoubtedly been in the field of animal conservation and the Trust he created on Jersey.

Durrell met his second wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell, in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University; she was studying there for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death.

After lunch we take a guided tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens. The traditional home of the Seigneur of St Ouen, and the ancestral home of the de Carteret family since the 11th century, the garden features an ancient colombier (traditional dovecote) and walled garden. The walled garden and landscaped gardens are surrounded by a moat and stream flowing down to a wooded valley. The dramatic entrance arch next to the lodge leads to an avenue of majestic trees with huge trunks of ash, beach and oak above green verges. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 7: Thursday 31 May, Jersey

Introduction to Jersey’s Prehistoric Sites by archaeologist Olga Finch
La Hougue Bie: prehistoric mound and dolmen
La Hougue Bie Museum & the ‘Jersey Hoard’
Beau Desert, Trinity

Jersey became an island at the end of the second Ice Age as the land that once linked it to France was flooded. Neolithic people from the Mediterranean started to move north through France up to the coast of Brittany and eventually settlements appeared around the coast of Jersey. These early settlers brought with them a megalithic tradition of erecting stone monuments, known as dolmens or menhirs. They also introduced ‘passage’ graves, where a narrow entrance and passageway led to a burial chamber providing a focus for spiritual beliefs. This morning archaeologist Olga Finch joins us to explain what the various Neolithic sites on Jersey signified to the indigenous population.

We begin by visiting the 6,000-year-old burial site at La Hougue Bie. This prehistoric mound and dolmen is one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Particularly significant at La Hougue Bie is the placement of its entrance; it points directly east and during the Equinox sunlight penetrates the passageway illuminating the chamber deep in the mound. The discovery of the Equinox alignment demonstrates how important this time of year was to this past farming community and how critical cycles of nature were to its survival.

Nearby we will have the special opportunity to visit the La Hougue Bie Museum with one of the conservators who has been working on one of the newest and most important discoveries to be made in the Channel Islands – the Grouville Hoard. More commonly known as the ‘Jersey hoard’, this is a collection of over 10,000 Celtic and Roman coins that was found in 2012 by two metal detectorists. Work on the find is ongoing, but at this stage it is believed that the hoard belonged to the Curiosolitae tribe from Brittany, who came to Jersey fleeing the armies of Julius Caesar in approximately 50 BC.

This afternoon we visit Beau Desert, the garden of Mr and Mrs Michael Crane. This manor house dates to the 15th century, with later Georgian and Victorian additions, and the beautiful botanical gardens were created in 1903. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7 nights

 

Day 8: Friday 1 June, Jersey – Guernsey

Flight from Jersey to Guernsey
Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / Time at leisure in St Peter Port

This morning we depart Jersey and take a flight to Guernsey, where we will be based for the next six days. From 933 AD Guernsey was part of Normandy, forging a link between Britain and France that survives locally on the island in Norman Law, surnames and D’gernésiais, the local language. When in 1066 William of Normandy (‘William the Conqueror’) became King of England, Guernsey was linked to the English Crown. Guernsey remained an English possession after King Philippe Augustus of France took back the mainland of Normandy from King John in 1204. Guernsey prospered particularly from the 18th century when its port became free from British import duties. Wine and brandy were stockpiled here and taken to Britain in small quantities when prices were good. Referred to as ‘Free Trade’, the practice legitimated what was in effect little more than smuggling.

Our first visit in St Peter Port is to Hauteville House. This was Victor Hugo’s home when he lived in self-imposed exile on Guernsey between 1856 and 1870 and again in 1872-73. Hugo arrived in Guernsey after he was evicted from Jersey, where he had lived for three years, because of his loudly expressed Republican opinions. The poet produced some of his best work on Guernsey, though as a Frenchman who brought his mistress into exile, installing her in a house at 20 Hauteville Street, while he lived with his wife in the nearby Hauteville House, Hugo did not really fit into Guernsey society. While living here, Hugo saw his most famous work, Les Misérables, published in 1862. His novel, Toilers Of The Sea, written during the author’s stay on the island, is set in the ancient parish churchyard around St Sampson Harbour. Note: access to Hauteville House is limited to very small groups. For this reason our group will be sub-divided with half the group visiting the house today, and the other half tomorrow morning. (Overnight Guernsey) B

 

Day 9: Saturday 2 June, Guernsey

Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / Time at leisure in St Peter Port
Sausmarez Manor Saturday Farmers Market, St Martins (time permitting)
La Petite Vallée, St Peter Port
L’Etiennerie Farm, Castel

For those who visited Hauteville House yesterday afternoon, we begin today with some time at leisure to explore the lively atmosphere of Guernsey’s capital, St Peter Port. With its cobbled streets, and picturesque seafront, this is considered one of Europe’s prettiest harbour towns.

Mid-morning we journey to the parish of St Martins, hopefully in time to visit Sausmarez Manor’s Farmers Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings. Here, fresh vegetables, free range eggs, chutneys, honey, hams, exotic plants and shrubs, vegetable plants, bric-a-braque, bedding plants, homemade cakes, antiques, books and health foods can all be found.

Returning to St Peter Port we visit the the private gardens of Mrs Monachan, La Petite Vallée, with a wide range of exotic and traditional planting on terraces and slopes leading down to the sea. Here we will have the chance to explore the seasonal cloisters, herbaceous borders, woodland walk and a tropical area with a number of unusual plants and water flows

Following a lunch at the Fleur du Jardin pub, we walk to L’Etiennerie Farm, home of Tim and Eleanor Henderson. This informal country garden features herbaceous borders, a pond, potager, a wild flower meadow and stunning views over the Fauxquets Valley and surrounding countryside. (Overnight St Peter Port, Guernsey) B

 

Day 10: Sunday 3 June, Excursion to Alderney & Burhou

Boat to Alderney
Boat cruise of the Alderney Ramsar Site: including Burhou Island for puffin watching & viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac

Today we cross to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands, situated at the mouth of the Channel, 11 kilometres due west of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. From Alderney a boat trip takes us on a tour of the Alderney Ramsar Site (1,500 hectares of important wetlands, accredited under the Ramsar convention in 2005) to view the Puffins on Burhou, as well as the impressive gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac and the Atlantic seal colony near Burhou Reef.

Burhou Island is just 2.25 kilometres northwest of Alderney. Despite being only about one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Burhou is a bird sanctuary which is home to eleven species of breeding birds. The island is best known for its colony of Atlantic puffins, which may be viewed between March and July. The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the auks (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes guillemots, the razorbill and auklets. Today there are 143 pairs of Burhou puffins, having declined from a total of many thousand birds in the last twenty years. The puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean. They only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. On Burhou the puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Other nesting birds on Burhou include the oystercatcher, storm petrel, shag, greater and lesser black-backed gull and herring gull.

Les Etacs and Ortac rocks support more than 2 per cent of the world’s gannet population. These colonies are the most southerly within the gannet’s range, with over 6,000 breeding pairs recorded. Gannets feed primarily on fish such as mackerel, sand eels and herring, which they find by diving to depths of up to 20 metres of scavenging along the surface of the sea.

Before we return to Guernsey, we will take the opportunity to visit some of the small but charming private gardens on Alderney. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 11: Monday 4 June, Day Excursion to Sark

Ferry to and from Sark
Guest talk by Dr Richard Axton on Sark’s prehistoric finds and Sark in the 16th century
Guest talk by the Seneschal of Sark, Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman (subject to confirmation in 2018)
La Seigneurie Garden and lobster lunch at Hathaways Brasserie
Private Gardens of Mollie McKinley
Tour of the island by horse and carriage

This morning we take a 45-minute ferry ride to Sark. The island is only 5 kilometres long and a little over 1.5 kilometres wide, but boasts 64 kilometres of picturesque coastline. Although it has a population of just 600, Sark is a self-governing Crown Dependency and was the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008. The Head of Government is the Seigneur, a hereditary position dating back to 1565 and currently held by John Michael Beaumont.

Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark to the south: they are connected by a narrow, razor-edged isthmus called La Coupée, which is 90 metres long and has a drop of 100 metres on each side. Two bays flank the isthmus: La Grand Grêve to the west and Convanche Bay, part of Baleine Bay, to the east.

We will be given a talk on two periods of Sark’s history – the Prehistoric era and the 16th century – by Dr Richard Axton. Subject to confirmation, we will also be joined by Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman, the Seneschal of Sark (President of Chief Pleas and Chief Judge), who will explain the history and politics of the island.

We will then visit the gardens of La Seigneurie, the home of the Seigneurs of Sark. With its colourful borders and stone walls, this is one of the finest gardens in the Channel Islands. There is also a potager, a pond, a restored Victorian greenhouse and a recently extended fruit and vegetable garden. The walled garden dates to the mid-19th century, complete with some of its original Victorian lay out. The high walls give protection from the wind and the island’s almost frost-free climate allows many tender and half hardy plants to thrive.

Nearby we also visit the private garden of Mollie McKinley. Mollie keeps chickens and grows a wonderful selection of fruit & vegetables which she usually sells at the gardens.

Sark is renowned for its local lobster, and we will partake of this delicacy at a special lunch in the beautiful surrounds of the gardens. We will spend the remainder of our time in Sark visiting sites on Greater Sark. As there are no cars on Sark, our tour of the island will be made the old-fashioned way – by horse and carriage. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 12: Tuesday 5 June, Excursion to Herm

Ferry to and from Herm
Guided tour of Herm’s award-winning gardens with chief gardener, Brett Moore
Cliff Path Walk of the South Coast

The Island of Herm is a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port. Like Sark, it has no cars, and visitors tour the island on foot. This tiny island, covering just 550 acres, is a subtropical paradise supporting beautiful gardens laden with native and exotic plants. From spring onwards wildflowers take over the island with violets, red campion, primroses and daffodils lining the coastal cliff paths and carpeting the woodland. The fragrance of Burnet rose drifts across the heathland by June whilst the southern cliffs are sprinkled with sea pinks, rock samphire and heather.

The island rarely suffers from frost and has few native trees, having been cleared for sheep grazing. After the First World War, Sir Compton Mackenzie took over the lease of Herm and set about restoring the gardens. Trees were then introduced by the next resident, Sir Percival Perry, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, who realised that Monterey pines, holm oaks and Monterey cypresses would offer shelter from the prevailing sea winds and allow subtropical plants to flourish. Today, all the displays and gardens on the island are successfully looked after by a head gardener with an assistant, who have won numerous awards for their efforts. This morning we join Herm’s head gardener, Brett Moore, for a private tour during which we will learn about the unique plant life and challenges associated with gardening on Herm.

After a light lunch we will take a walk around the island to explore the beauty of its coastline, and then return to Guernsey. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 13: Wednesday 6 June, Guernsey

Royal Bank of Canada Garden, Les Cotils
Candie Gardens
Private garden of Mr & Mrs Cummings
Grange Court, St Peter Port
Farewell Dinner

Today we will walk along an ordinance line to visit four very different gardens. The 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal-winning Royal Bank of Canada garden has found a permanent home in the grounds of Les Cotils, a not-for-profit hotel and conference centre. Its relocation is in partnership with Floral Guernsey and it forms part of a new floral trail through St Peter Port. Designed by Hugo Bugg, the garden explores the role of water and is divided into three zones – a ‘dry garden’ without irrigation, a water harvesting zone and an edible garden with a seating area.

We then walk through the restored Victorian Candie Gardens that offer the best view across St Peter Port harbour and over to the sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th-century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glasshouses in the British Isles, which date back to the late 18th century.

We continue our floral trail with a visit to the charming private garden belonging to Mr and Mrs Cummings, and Grange Court – the private gardens of Mr and Mrs Pat Johnson, which featured in the April 2013 edition of The English Garden magazine. Set in the heart of town, Grange Court is a 2-acre garden with a mix of formal and informal styles, containing many exotic and rare plants. A mature private town garden, it is shaded by majestic old trees, including a magnificent copper beech. Features of the garden include the remains of an elegant old stone orangery which forms the backdrop to the rose gardens, and an impressive Victorian ‘cactus’ greenhouse. Mixed shrub and perennial borders provide colour all year round in this immaculately maintained garden.

There will be time to return to the hotel before we head out to a local restaurant to share a farewell dinner. (Overnight St Peter Port) BD

 

Day 14: Thursday 7 June, Depart Guernsey

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour concludes in St Peter Port today. After breakfast, group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Guernsey Airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in the Channel Islands. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Great Houses and Gardens of East Anglia 2018

Great Houses and Gardens of East Anglia in 2018 with Richard and Margaret Heathcote

 

Tour Highlights

Stay in 4-star hotels including the Hilton Cambridge City Centre; Best Western Plus Knights Hill Hotel & Spa, atop one of the highest points in West Norfolk, near King’s Lynn; Norwich’s lovely Maids Head Hotel, dating back to the 13th century; and The Angel Hotel in the heart of Bury St Edmunds.

Journey through haunting landscapes that inspired Dickens (David Copperfield), an
d natives like Rupert Brooke, L.P. Hartley, Arthur Ransom, Constable, Cotman and Gainsborough.
Go boating on the Broads and explore fenland history at Wicken Fen.

Visit Humphry Repton’s superb landscape garden at Sheringham Park, Beth Chatto’s inspiring garden, Capability Brown’s Audley End, and Helmingham Hall Gardens.

Visit the stately homes of Oxburgh, Felbrigg, Blickling, Holkham, Houghton, Somerleyton, Melford, the Royal Estate at Sandringham, and Anglesey Abbey.

Make special private visits to The Manor at Hemingford Grey, made famous as ‘Green Knowe’ by Lucy Boston; Lord and Lady Walpole’s Mannington Hall with gardens containing thousands of roses; and the 16th-century moated hall at Otley.

Visit castles at Norwich, Framlingham and Castle Rising, the great Norman cathedrals of Norwich, Ely and St. Edmundbury, and priories at Castle Acre and Walsingham.

Discover medieval Lavenham, the market town of Saffron Walden, and the Hanseatic port of King’s Lynn.

Explore Cambridge’s colleges, libraries and collections, including the Pepys Library at Magdalene College.

Take part in a literary afternoon tea at Grantchester, with punting on the Granta and attend a performance at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds.

 

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of East Anglia

Overnight Cambridge (4 nights) • King’s Lynn (5 nights) • Norwich (5 nights) • Bury St Edmunds (6 nights)

 

Cambridge – 4 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 5 June, London Heathrow – Cambridge

Arrive Heathrow Airport and transfer to Cambridge
Short Orientation Walking tour of Cambridge
Pepys Library, Magdalene College
Welcome Dinner
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Heathrow Airport in the early morning. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach north to the university city of Cambridge. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Heathrow Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

Even before the famous university was founded, the River Cam, a strategic watercourse for communication, trade and conquest, shaped the city’s history. The Romans built a camp called Durolpons on a hill here to control both the river and the Via Devons that connected Colchester with Lincoln and other northern garrisons.

When the Romans departed in 425 AD the town, like all other Roman cities in Britain, went into decline. Bede, in the late 7th century, records that monks from Ely went to the ruined settlement and found a marble coffin that they used for the burial of St. Etheldreda, foundress of their monastery. The settlement enjoyed a trickle of commerce in the Saxon period, in which the bridge over the Cam was first recorded by name, Grantebrycge.

The Vikings revived Cambridge’s economic fortunes in the 9th century and the centre of town shifted from Castle Hill on the left river bank to what is now known as Quayside on the right bank. The Saxons reclaimed the city for a short time in the 11th century and built St. Benet’s church in 1025. Two years after the Battle of Hastings, in 1068, William the Conqueror built a stronghold on Castle Hill. During the Norman period, the river was called the Granta and the town became Grentabrige or Cantebrigge (Grantbridge). The city’s famous Round Church is from this period.

The city was known as Cambridge before the Granta’s name changed to the Cam. Cambridge University was founded in 1209, and its oldest surviving college, Peterhouse, in 1259. King’s College Chapel was commenced in 1446 by Henry VI and finished in 1555 under Henry VIII. The well-respected Cambridge University Press was founded in 1534. The river made medieval Cambridge a centre of trade because trade routes between London, the Midlands and Europe met at the bridge over the Cam. Interestingly, in the United Kingdom a ‘city’ must have a cathedral. Although a prosperous commercial centre and despite its renowned university, Cambridge was only officially named a city in 1954, because it has no cathedral.

After settling into our hotel, the Hilton Cambridge City Centre, we will take in the atmosphere of this wonderful centre of learning with a gentle riverside stroll along the backs of the colleges to view the famous, as well as the lesser known, colleges and their gardens. We visit the Pepys Library at Magdalene, gifted by the great diarist Samuel Pepys. His eyewitness account of life in the London of Charles II includes a famous account of the Great Fire of 1666. Pepys believed the Library of an educated man need hold no more than 3000 books and once he had arrived at that number any addition meant a book had to be discarded! One book to survive his occasional culls is a manuscript translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses used by William Caxton. Our tour includes an introduction to Samuel Pepys as a collector, information on the library building and furniture, and a chance to see and hear about a range of items from the collection.

In the evening we shall have a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Cambridge) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 6 June, Cambridge

Walking tour of the University of Cambridge, including King’s College, St. John’s College, Trinity College & the Wren Library
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge and its university are inseparable and our walking tour will reveal how the ‘town and gown’ have co-existed since the 13th century. College quadrangles, chapels and halls dominate the city centre around the market square, constituting a treasure trove of architectural styles. This morning a local guide will give us a tour of the various colleges of this lovely university town. We shall conclude our tour at the library at Trinity College which was started by Sir Christopher Wren. In this superb building is a statue of Byron (who broke every rule in the college books when he was a student there) and manuscripts by Milton, Tennyson and Thackeray.

In the heart of Cambridge we will visit the Fitzwilliam Museum to explore the collections of art and antiquities of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Near and Far East, all bequeathed by Viscount Fitzwilliam. The museum was established in 1816. Of special interest is the Fitzwilliam’s extensive collection of applied arts of all periods, most notably, ceramics and armour. (Overnight Cambridge) B

 

Day 3: Thursday 7 June, Cambridge – Grantchester – Cambridge

Kettle’s Yard (subject to reopening in 2018)
Grantchester through the eyes of Rupert Brook
Orchard Tea Garden
Punt from Grantchester back to Cambridge
Today we visit Kettle’s Yard, a most unusual collection created by Jim Ede, once a curator at the Tate Gallery. This is more than just an art collection. The building and the way in which the artworks and other objects are displayed are unique. In many ways Kettle’s Yard retains the characteristics of a real home where you we can sit in the chairs and read the books. Key 20th-century artists represented here include Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and David Jones, with sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Brancusi, Joan Miró and Gaudier-Brzeska. Ede, who lived here with his wife Helen for sixteen years, set out to engage students with: “a living place where works of art could be enjoyed …where people could be unhampered by the great austerity of the museum or public art gallery”.

Next, we board our coach and drive to Grantchester for lunch. After lunchtime at leisure we will take a literary walk focused on Rupert Brooke, a quintessentially English poet, who died from an infected lip on the Gallipoli campaign during WWI and is buried on the island of Scyros in the Mediterranean. Brooke’s famous poem, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, speaks of the town and asks:

“Stands the clock at ten to three
And is there honey still for tea?“

We will indeed take tea in the Orchard Tea Garden and explore the significance of the poet’s lines and the world of which he speaks. To complete our classic Cambridge summer’s day we will board punts to be conveyed back to Cambridge in true undergraduate style under the care of Scudamore’s Punting Company. (Overnight Cambridge) B

 

Day 4: Friday 8 June, Cambridge – Wicken Fen – Ely – Anglesey Abbey – Cambridge

Guided walking tour of Wicken Fen
Ely Cathedral
Anglesey Abbey, Gardens & Grounds
This morning we begin to explore the country of Hereward the Wake, the Saxon champion who successfully resisted the Norman armies in the marshland terrain around Ely. The Fens isolated this region until they were drained and tamed by Dutch engineers in the 17th century. Wicken Fen is the last remnant of the Fens of East Anglia, which at their greatest extent covered 2500 square miles. This reserve comprising six hundred acres is an artificially preserved wetland, managed by the National Trust since 1899. Our guided tour of Wicken Fen will reveal much of the natural and cultural history of this rich area and the technologies that have sustained it. It is particularly beautiful in June because of the large number of wildflowers that bloom at this time.

We next visit the Isle of Ely where St. Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria, founded an abbey in 673 AD. Abbot Simon, who owed his appointment to William the Conqueror, begun construction of the great Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity here in 1081. Ely Cathedral rose like a giant ship in the middle of the dense marshes of the Fenlands and attracted many pilgrims who came to visit Etheldreda’s tomb. Our tour of the cathedral will take in the west front with its impressive Galilee porch, the great nave and the octagonal crossing with its distinctive lantern, the work of Alan of Walsingham and William Hurley dating from 1340. We shall also visit the Lady Chapel and enjoy the architectural delights of Cathedral Close and the surrounding town, where Oliver Cromwell was born.

We complete the day by travelling to Anglesey Abbey. The chief glory of this 12th-century converted priory is its gardens and grounds, which we shall be shown by the head gardener of this important National Trust property. It is grand in scale but its spacious lawns, pools, flowers, shrubs and statuary are all brought together in a scheme that unites formality with charm. We will also explore the interior of the house in which Lord Fairhaven, son of an American Railway magnate, used great ingenuity in displaying his collections. His eclectic taste in art ranged from paintings by Antonio Canova and Claude Lorraine to those of John Constable. (Overnight Cambridge) B

 

King’s Lynn – 5 nights

 

Day 5: Saturday 9 June, Cambridge – Hemingford Grey – Wisbech – King’s Lynn

The Manor, Hemingford Grey
Peckover House, Wisbech
On this, our last day in Cambridgeshire, we visit an astonishing house, not so much for its acknowledged beauty but for its great age, extraordinary atmosphere, and important literary associations. The Manor at Hemingford Grey is one of the oldest continuously lived-in houses in England, or even Europe, for it is built around a 12th-century Norman hall. It has several original windows, a doorway and an extremely rare surviving Norman fireplace. It is also, however, a shrine to Lucy Boston, who grew up in it, and wrote about it in Green Knowe and Memory in a House. Her son Peter, who illustrated her books, depicted many of the objects in the house and the garden. The attic, for example, contains toys used by the fictional children, so you will have the feeling of walking into the literary world Lucy Boston created.

The house has a moat and beyond is a four-acre garden that borders the Great Ouse river and is famous for its collection of over two hundred old roses. It also features fascinating topiary, and an important collection of irises, many of which have won the prestigious Dykes medal. One of the special characteristics of the garden is the element of surprise it creates by use of hidden corners that one comes upon unexpectedly.

After lunch we drive a short distance through this rich fruit and flower growing area to Wisbech, a thriving river port that was once a centre of the English wool trade. Strong Dutch trade connections are reflected in the styles of gables displayed by the houses along the North Brink, the fashionable bank of the River Nene. Here, among the dignified mansions, we visit one of the town’s finest Georgian town houses. It belonged to the Peckovers, a wealthy merchant family, having been purchased by John Peckover in 1794. Its interior presents a familiar Georgian ordered restraint with one delicious surprise – Rococo plasterwork that delights with its ornament and vivid decoration. Steps lead down to an extensive garden that we will take time to explore. From the garden you can look back at the house’s three storeys of brick symmetry. After visiting this lovely house we drive on to King’s Lynn and settle into our hotel, where dinner is ordered. (Overnight King’s Lynn) BD

 

Day 6: Sunday 10 June, King’s Lynn – Castle Rising – Sandringham Estate – Houghton Hall – King’s Lynn

Castle Rising
Sandringham Estate
Houghton Hall and Walled Gardens
Castle Rising is now a small, interesting inland village but was once a seaport. When the sea receded Kings Lynn supplanted it as the main port in the region. It is, however, the location of one of the grandest surviving Norman castles anywhere and we shall visit this as part of a day dedicated thematically to the dwellings of royalty and aristocrats. Although much is lost, its original scale can be gauged from the huge earth works. The keep (c.1140), one of the largest and most ornate in England, remains to tell the story of its builder William d’Albini who married Henry I’s widow and became the Earl of Sussex. To the east of the keep, a small square gatehouse is set in the bank near a fragment of the castle’s 14th-century brick curtain wall. A rectangular enclosure, strongly banked and ditched, guards the gatehouse and to the west there is a smaller flanking enclosure. Also in the inner enclosure are the foundations of an 11th-century Norman chapel that is thought to be older than the castle itself. The remains of this chapel were uncovered in the 19th century. The castle passed to the Howard family in 1544 and it remains in their hands today, the current owner being a descendant of William d’Albini II.

From the battlements of Castle Rising we will be able to look out across the lands of the Royal estates of Sandringham, to a living monarch’s favourite home. Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham for Edward VII in 1861. The prince, who had just married Alexandra, wanted a secluded place for his projected family, where they could enjoy country pursuits. Sandringham has been a favourite of four generations of the Royal family who continue to use it as a retreat whilst farming its land. The gardens and parklands of Sandringham are extensive. The house itself is large but not at all grand or pretentious. We shall visit the gardens and the house, exploring the rooms used by the Windsor family and their guests, especially at Christmas.

We depart from Sandringham, driving along the narrow country roads of the estate lined with huge drifts of rhododendrons that flourish here, to another of Norfolk’s palaces. Houghton Hall was designed by Colen Campbell and completed in 1735 for Sir Robert Walpole, England’s first Prime Minister. It is one of the country’s great houses and everything about it is of the best quality. Only Holkham, which we visit later in the tour, rivals its Palladian grandeur. The interiors were entrusted to William Kent and their decorative style is matched by the house’s collection of art that adorns the staterooms. There are still wonderful pictures here, although all too many of them were sold to Catherine the Great of Russia to pay the debts of Walpole’s eccentric grandson. Room after room is filled with furniture that Kent designed for the house; the Green Velvet Bedchamber possesses the most sumptuous state bed in the country. We will also walk through the park and explore the walled garden. (Overnight King’s Lynn) B

 

Day 7: Monday 11 June, King’s Lynn – Oxburgh Hall – King’s Lynn

Guided walking tour of King’s Lynn: including the St. George’s Guildhall, Docklands area & Custom House
Oxburgh Hall, Garden & Estate
We begin today by meeting a local historian and ex-mayor of King’s Lynn, Dr Paul Richards, who will give us a rather different perspective on life in King’s Lynn, which has a character all its own. This ancient town was one of the most important seaports during the Middle Ages. The maze of streets and lanes, many of which retain their original character, wraps around the quay. It includes Hanseatic warehouses, which reflect stylistically the influence of the Dutch and Lowland States that traded here. The Hanseatic League developed as an important free association of trading cities around the Baltic and North Sea coasts. It was dedicated to protecting members’ shipping from pirates and guarding members’ privileges and interests. Although not a political entity in its own right, the League often defended its interests successfully against monarchs. Some other Hanseatic cities were Lübeck, Hamburg, Bruges, Bergen and Novgorod. We will begin the day by visiting St. George’s Guildhall, which was built in the 15th century. It was converted to a theatre where Shakespeare is said to have performed. Our guided walking tour will take us through the streets of King’s Lynn to reveal its buildings, people and their stories.

Our afternoon visit is to a most remarkable house and garden. Edmund Bedingfield built Oxburgh Hall in 1482, when the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses were over and England was entering a period of relative tranquillity, so that it was no longer necessary for residences to be fortified. Although this house did not function in the same way as a castle, its owners had to negotiate the tortuous politics of the Tudor court, and it therefore incorporates symbolic elements of marshall architecture. Oxburgh looks quite tremendous as we approach its twin-towered Gatehouse and seven storeys of brick walls rising to battlements. A moat surrounds this most dramatic manor house. The associated walled garden, on the other hand, is delightful, with a parterre, long herbaceous borders, and a 19th-century kitchen garden. (Overnight King’s Lynn) B

 

Day 8: Tuesday 12 June, King’s Lynn – Castle Acre – Felbrigg Hall – King’s Lynn

Castle Acre Priory & Herb Garden
Felbrigg Hall, Garden & Park
Aptly named, Castle Acre village lies within the outer bailey of an 11th-century castle built by William de Warenne, son-in-law of William the Conqueror, of which only earthworks remain. More impressive is the ruin of the Cluniac priory (founded 1090) that we have come to visit. The Cluniac love of decoration is everywhere reflected in the extensive ruins of Castle Acre Priory, whose great 12th-century church directly imitated that of the vast Burgundian mother-house, Cluny. Its beautiful west end, standing almost to its full height, is articulated and enlivened by tiered ranks of intersecting round arches. This forms an attractive group with the late medieval porch, part timber-frame and part flint-chequer, and the extremely well preserved prior’s lodging. A mansion in itself, this includes a first-floor chapel that retains traces of wall paintings, and a private chamber with two fine oriel windows. The original size of the abbey can be gauged from its remaining walls. Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, which brought about its destruction; the Roman Church was a major landowner, holding a third of the country’s land, roughly the same acreage as the king and his aristocracy, and until Henry’s reign it answered only to the popes. We will walk in the beautifully recreated medieval herb garden, which displays medicinal, culinary and decorative plants used by the religious communities living in these great monasteries, centres of learning and healing, that were scattered throughout East Anglia. Lunchtime at leisure will be in the village.

Felbrigg Hall is set on a ridge in lush parkland planted with oak, beech and chestnut. It has a wonderful walled garden, an orangery dating from 1704, and an orchard with rare old varieties such as Norfolk Beefing and Wyken Pippin. This 17th-century house belonged to Squire Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, and both he and the house are of substantial character. Although it dates back to the 1400s, it is a place in which to experience 17th-century life and culture. Fine architecture and a consummate choice of materials were brought together in a building program that lasted a hundred years and beyond. The Windham family, who owned Felbrigg for generations, bequeathed a set of pictures acquired by William Windham on his ‘Grand Tour’, and there is much else in the interior to interest us, such as the library and wood carving by Grinling Gibbons and Nollekens. (Overnight King’s Lynn) B

 

Day 9: Wednesday 13 June, King’s Lynn – Sheringham Park – Holkham Hall – King’s Lynn

Sheringham Park
Holkham Hall & Estate
Today we set off for the north coast of Norfolk to encounter two supreme moments in architectural, landscape and naval history. The first of our coastal experiences for the day comes at Sheringham Park – a masterwork of Norfolk landscaper Humphry Repton. As you walk along the snaking drive you suddenly come upon a prospect to the coast and house. This panorama is breathtaking and together with its plantings of trees and rhododendrons amounts to a quite remarkable landscape.

We drive through north Norfolk byways, threading along picturesque roads to Holkham Hall, the Palladian masterpiece that was essentially designed by Thomas Coke, with advice from William Kent, whom he had met, along with Lord Burlington, in Rome during a six-year ‘Grand Tour.’ The estate, which is a huge working farm, is still owned by his descendents, who combine agriculture with an innovative approach to conservation. Houghton Hall and Holkham have always rivalled each other, as have other pairs of English stately homes. These two Palladian houses embody the great building boom of the 18th century. Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester (1697-1759), was consumed by the construction of Holkham. The restoration of the family’s fortunes and completion of the house, however, fell to the second Earl. Both men had numerous talents. They were innovative farmers, reformers and progressive thinkers (they were Whigs, whereas the Walpoles of Houghton were Tories). ‘Earls of Creation’ was scholar and writer James Lees Milne’s particularly apposite title for such men. We enter a landscape in which most aspects of the vast deer park (with a herd of Fallow Deer) are dominated by the great house, and everywhere vistas lead your eye to some delight: a temple, an arch, an obelisk or a serpentine lake. In 1762 Capability Brown was commissioned to make adjustments to the grounds, but these were minor. The park wall and shelterbelt were 19th-century additions, as were the formal Victorian parterres beside the house, designed by W.A. Nesfield in 1854. The breathtaking but tasteful boldness of the park is matched by the drama of the house’s interior. The family collection of old masters epitomises the taste of an 18th-century nobleman. A visit will be a rich visual feast with few equals elsewhere within England. (Overnight King’s Lynn) BL

 

Norwich – 5 nights

 

Day 10: Thursday 14 June, King’s Lynn – Cley-next-the-Sea – Wells-next-the-Sea – Walsingham – Norwich

Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
Guided tour of Walsingham Abbey & Village
Dinner at Roger Hickman’s Restaurant
This morning we take a short coach tour of the picturesque coastline of Cley-next-the-Sea. We then drive to the tiny fishing port of Wells-next-the-Sea whose charming quay is a mile from coast at high tide. Next we embark on a pilgrimage to Walsingham Abbey, the great medieval Shrine of Our Lady. Our journey will be by a reconstructed train of the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. A reconstruction of a historic narrow-gauge tank engine will pull our 19th-century carriages gently through the chalk and flinty downs to the market town of Little Walsingham, first settled in 1061. Our tour will take in the history of this place of pilgrimage, including the Abbey grounds, priory, Georgian courthouse and prison from which some inmates were sent to Australia!

We then continue to Norwich. After checking in to our hotel we shall go Roger Hickman’s Restaurant for dinner. (Overnight Norwich) BD

 

Day 11: Friday 15 June, Norwich – Mannington – Blickling Hall – Norwich

Mannington Hall & Gardens
Blickling Hall & Gardens
This is a day devoted to visiting grand country houses with gardens to match. We commence with the garden surrounding the 15th-century Mannington Hall, a three-storey moated manor house constructed in local flint stone, owned by the Walpole family since 1740. June is Mannington’s ‘Month of Roses’ and roses feature throughout, especially in the Heritage Rose Garden, whose important collection of historic species reflects changing tastes in gardens and roses. There are lakes, follies and woodland walks to explore and morning tea in the ‘Rose Teahouse’.

Travelling on through the quiet roads of central Norfolk, we come to Blickling Hall, which is flanked by massive trimmed yew hedges. The house is a Jacobean masterpiece in red brick. Here we shall take a tour of the grounds that include glorious formal gardens with parterres, a fountain and extraordinary topiary. Beyond is a park with a lake and a summerhouse that takes the form of a Tuscan temple. The park offers fine vistas through its magnificent stands of trees. The current house, which we shall explore at the end of the afternoon, was built in 1620 by Sir Henry Hobart; the Hobarts later became Earls of Buckingham. Blickling, however, has a longer history. A precursor of the present house was owned by Geoffrey Boleyn, grandfather of Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded by order of her husband Henry VIII; local legend has it that on the anniversary of her execution her ghost rides up to the hall in a carriage drawn by headless horses guided by a headless coachman! (Overnight Norwich) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 16 June, Norwich

 

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Norwich Cathedral
“The finest provincial city in England,” declared John Julius Norwich, leading British architectural historian and writer. The unique city of Norwich lies on two rivers, and has kept its labyrinthine medieval plan, encompassing thirty-two medieval churches and a dazzling colourful market. Norwich gave its name to a famous school of painters, and the city has six museums, including the only ‘museum of mustard’ in the country! Norwich is, moreover, one of the best-preserved cities in Britain. Fortified by the Saxons in the 9th century, it became a prosperous market town when Flemish settlers came here in the 12th century, and was the second most important city of England until the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

We begin our day at the Norwich Museum and Gallery, which is housed in a dramatic location, the keep of a Norman castle (1160) occupying a high mound in the very heart of the city. In the Gallery we will be introduced to work of the Norwich School of watercolour artists, including John Sell Cotman, the Chromes, John Thirtle and George Vincent, who portrayed life in Norwich itself and in the surrounding countryside in the first half of the 19th century.

After lunchtime at leisure we shall have a guided tour of Norwich Cathedral, one of the most beautiful cathedrals of England, which was begun in the 11th century. This masterpiece in the Romanesque and late Gothic style has a dramatic stone spire, the second tallest in England after Salisbury. It also has many treasures such as the largest number of fine roof bosses anywhere in Christendom. At the end of the afternoon you will be given time to explore the quaint shops in the medieval streets of Elm Hill and Tombland, the old Saxon marketplace. (Overnight Norwich) B

 

Day 13: Sunday 17 June, Norwich – Lowestoft – Norwich

Somerleyton Hall & Gardens, Lowestoft
Today we are off to the Suffolk coast for a visit to a working country estate near Lowestoft that has an Australian garden connection. Somerleyton Hall was originally a Jacobean manor but was remodelled in 1844 when it was transformed into a fine early Victorian hall in the Anglo-Italian style. The Crossley family who made these changes still resides here, operate its farm, and presents the history of the site with flourish, as you will see! W.A. Nesfield, the formal revivalist landscaper, remodelled the garden in the Victorian period. He laid out the great parterre and the balustraded terraces in the 1840s. The vast yew hedge maze also dates from this time, as do the walled garden and the fully functioning Victorian vegetable garden. George Brunning and his brother Charles, who migrated to Melbourne in 1853 where they set up and operated Brunnings Nurseries, both trained and worked as gardeners at Somerleyton Hall. Those who have a copy of the Australian Gardener published by Brunnings will know the impact this family has had on the Australian nursery trade and practical gardening. At Somerleyton we shall see where they learnt their trade. On arrival we will tour the house, then take lunch at the tearooms, after which one of the horticultural staff will take us on a garden tour. (Overnight Norwich) B

 

Day 14: Monday 18 June, Norwich – East Ruston – Ludham – Wroxham – Norwich

East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens
The Dutch House Gardens, Ludham
Boat Cruise of The Broads, Wroxham
Today we visit a garden created by two men over the past twenty-five years, begun after they acquired a run down Edwardian Vicarage with no garden. Today it features in 1001 Gardens to see before you die. Situated two kilometres from the sea, it has an absorbing, exotic atmosphere and features a series of gardens, including a Sunken Garden, Dutch Garden, Tropical Border, Mediterranean Garden and Walled Garden. Alan Gray and Graham Robeson created these gardens and Alan will guide us through them. They are a plants person’s paradise! A morning tea an delicious lunch will be included in this inimitable garden experience.

We then visit a smaller scale garden at Ludham, a typical broadland village near the river Ant. The present owner will show us around this long, narrow garden of approx two and a half acres that leads through marsh and wood to Womack Water. Designed and planted originally by the painter Edward Seago, it has recently been replanted. Seago (1910-1974), who grew up in East Anglia, was very much influenced by the Norwich School. Despite being called ‘a very English painter’, he developed an international reputation for his landscapes, seascapes and townscapes.

To complete the day we drive to Wroxham where we board our boat to cruise the Broads and experience first hand the setting of Arthur Ransom’s children’s adventure stories Swallows and Amazons. We sail along the river Bure and into the network of lakes known as the Norfolk Broads. The Broads were regarded as natural elements until the 1960s when Dr Joyce Lambert proved that they were, in fact, artificial, having emerged through the flooding of early peat excavations. The Romans first exploited the rich peat beds of the area for fuel, and in the Middle Ages the local monasteries began to excavate the ‘turbaries’ (peat diggings) as a business, selling fuel to Norwich and Great Yarmouth. When sea levels rose the pits began to flood. Despite the construction of windpumps and dykes, the flooding continued and resulted in the today’s typical Broads, with their reed beds, grazing marshes and wet woodland. (Overnight Norwich) BL

 

Bury St Edmunds – 6 nights

 

Day 15: Tuesday 19 June, Norwich – Otley Hall – Bury St Edmunds

Otley Hall and Gardens
Walking tour of Bury St Edmunds, including St. Edmundbury Cathedral & Abbey Garden
Tour & Evening Performance at the Theatre Royal (subject to performance schedules)
Today, after a short coach drive, we arrive at Otley Hall, a stunningly beautiful 16th-century house surrounded by a moat. This family home is set in ten acres of gardens in the tranquil Suffolk countryside near Ipswich. The house is recognised as one of the most perfect examples of unspoiled late medieval architecture in England. Unequalled in Suffolk are the Great Hall and Linenfold Parlour, both of which look out onto a rose garden. Our guide will show us a wealth of notable features, including a cross or screens passage, richly carved beams, superb Linenfold panelling, and 16th-century wall paintings celebrating the marriage of Robert Gosnold III to Ursula Naunton (1559). The building’s profile is inflected with lofty chimneys, and especially noteworthy are the herringbone brickwork and vineleaf pargetting.

Our guided tour continues into Otley Hall gardens that were placed sixth in a poll recently undertaken by The Independent of the ‘Top 50 Best British Gardens to Visit’. The garden came second in the ‘gardens with significant architecture’ category. In addition, there are historically accurate recreations here, designed by Sylvia Landsberg, author of The Medieval Garden. These include an orchard, a herb, and a knot garden. The ten acres of gardens at Otley Hall provide a feast for the senses with their exquisite blend of wild and cultivated terrain. Francis Inigo Thomas (1866-1950), for example, contributed interesting elements including an H-canal, nutteries, a croquet lawn, rose garden and a moat walk. Conservation is an important part of the gardeners’ program here. They have encouraged growth of wild flowers and hedges, and have taken particular care to preserve the habitats of native wildlife. We shall be treated here to a ploughman’s lunch.

After lunch we drive on to Bury St Edmunds where we will take a tour of the city that is rich in archaeological and historic treasures. Here in the 9th century St. Edmund became the last king of East Anglia. The Danes murdered him because of his Christian faith, and after his burial the town became a place of pilgrimage. For many years St. Edmund was the patron saint of England. We shall see the ruins of the great abbey built in his honour. It was here in 1214 that the Archbishop of Canterbury met with the Barons of England who swore that they would force King John to honour the dictates of the Magna Carta. The Abbey Gardens include an Old English rose garden, a water garden and a garden for the blind, where fragrance takes the place of sight.

If time permits, we shall visit Moyse’s Hall. Built around 1180, it houses a collection of artefacts from the Bronze Age, as well as Roman pottery and Anglo-Saxon jewellery.

We take a tour of the Theatre Royal, focusing on the early history and architecture of the Theatre Royal and on the provincial circuit theatre in East Anglia in the late eighteenth and early 19th century. The Theatre Royal was designed and built in 1819 by William Wilkins (1778-1839) who also designed the National Gallery, London. With many of its original features still intact, it is the best example of a Regency playhouse in the United Kingdom and one of the most beautiful, intimate and historic theatres in the world. Although the playhouse was only originally used for short seasons before it fell into decay, it was still able to boast the world premier of ‘Charlie’s Aunt’. Now beautifully restored, the theatre has initiated a special project to present often forgotten plays of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. We explore the whole building; auditorium, stage, and backstage. After time at leisure for dinner we shall attend a musical performance at the Theatre Royal (subject to performance schedules). (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) BL

 

Day 16: Wednesday 20 June, Bury St Edmunds – Framlingham Castle – Stowmarket – Sudbury – Bury St Edmunds

Framlingham Castle
Helmingham Hall Gardens, Stowmarket
‘Chestnuts’ private garden
Framlingham Castle, in Suffolk, is one of the most important and beautiful medieval castles in the British Isles. Bigod, second Earl of Norfolk, built it in about 1190 on the site of an earlier timber castle. Mary Tudor was one of its occupants. In the summer of 1553, with a large encampment of followers, she waited here for the results of the succession following the death of her brother, Edward VI. We shall visit the castle, climb onto its curtain wall, and walk along the ramparts through the thirteen towers that form its formidable defenses. The walls of the castle offer commanding views of the surrounding Suffolk countryside. We shall then have some time for lunch at leisure and take a quick look round the small market town of Framlingham.

We shall then drive for about thirty minutes along Suffolk roads to Helmingham Hall Gardens. It is hard to exaggerate the effect this beautiful park, with its red deer, and the spectacular moated hall constructed in mellow patterned red brick with its famous gardens, will have on you. The whole combines to give an extraordinary impression of beauty and tranquility. A classic parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses lies before a stunning walled kitchen garden with exquisite herbaceous borders and beds of vegetables interspersed by tunnels of sweet peas, runner beans and gourds. On the other side lies a herb and a knot garden behind which is a rose garden of unsurpassable beauty. The subtle colour combinations in all these are in immaculate taste. The influence of the well-known garden designer Xa Tollemache, is clearly visible; the parterre was redesigned in 1987 and the new rose garden to east of the coach house was created in 1982, together with the knot and herb garden. We may need a cup of tea in the Coach House to restore our equilibrium.

To complete the day we travel for a short distance to a small private garden, ‘Chestnuts’. The garden is very restful, with places to sit and relax and bring our day to a gentle moment of repose, before returning to our hotel in Bury St Edmunds. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) B

 

Day 17: Thursday 21 June, Bury St Edmunds – Lavenham – Bury St Edmunds

Guided tour of Lavenham, including the Guildhall of Corpus Christi
Afternoon at leisure in Bury St Edmunds
This morning we visit the village of Lavenham, once a vibrant, prosperous Suffolk wool town. The legacy of its past wealth is reflected in the buildings that have survived. We shall visit the Guildhall of Corpus Christi, one of the finest surviving timer-framed buildings in Britain. The Guildhall was the economic hub of what was once the fourteenth richest town in England. Built around 1530, it was one of the last buildings to be erected before the cloth industry collapsed. Fascinating exhibitions here give you insights into local history and traditional farming practices, as well as the area’s medieval cloth industry. An interesting walled garden grows plants that produce traditional dye colours, which are bright even by today’s standards. Our guided walk around the village where so many Tudor timber framed buildings have miraculously survived will take in the vast parish church of St. Peter & St. Paul. Clothiers built this great church to celebrate the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. Quaint streets will lead us into enchanting medieval prospects, including the market place, the Old Wool Hall, Tudor shops and Woolstaplers. In the afternoon we return to Bury St Edmunds for time at leisure. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) B

 

Day 18: Friday 22 June, Bury St Edmunds – Elmstead Market – Long Melford – Bury St Edmunds

The Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market
Long Melford
Melford Hall (optional visit)
Beth Chatto has become one of the great gardening writers of our time and enjoys an international reputation after winning ten gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show. She and her husband began establishing gardens at Elmstead Market in Essex during 1960 when the site was an overgrown wasteland between two farms. Faced with all kinds of difficult conditions Beth and Andrew Chatto set out to find homes for many of the plants they wished to grow. With dry and damp soil in both sun and shade, they were able to put into practice the underlying principles of what is now referred to as ‘ecological gardening’. We have booked a one-hour guided tour but also have reserved an hour of leisure time so you can wander and explore. Adjoining the gardens is the nursery providing those keen gardeners among us with the opportunity to check out plants that they might have seen growing in the gardens. There are over two thousand different types of plants, predominately herbaceous perennials, bulbs and a selection of shrubs and climbers. Although purchasing plants is not practical, we can talk to the knowledgeable nursery staff about their growing conditions and care. We will be at leisure to take lunch at the ‘Nursery Tearoom’.

To complete our day we travel to the charming village of Long Melford, where we will visit the fine church. From the village we will spy a dramatic skyline of tall chimneystacks and fanciful octagonal turrets belonging to Melford Hall (visit optional), one of the finest and most satisfying Elizabethan houses in the East of England. It stands beside the River Chad, at the northern end of a village noted for its wide village green that leads up to a great perpendicular style church. Melford Hall is a mellow red brick house largely of the 16th century. It incorporates part of a medieval building held by the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. They had used it as a place for pleasure and relaxation from before 1065 until 1539. Melford Hall’s subsequent owner, Sir William Cordell, was a ‘new man’ of his time, and one of the most hospitable country gentlemen in Suffolk. He entertained Queen Elizabeth I at Melford Hall in 1578. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) B

 

Day 19: Saturday 23 June, Bury St Edmunds – Ipswich – Flatford – East Bergholt – Dedham – Bury St Edmunds

Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich
Guided walk of Flatford (1½ hrs)
Constable Country Walk from Flatford to East Bergholt (1½ hrs)
Afternoon tea at the 16th-century ‘Essex Rose Tea Room’, Dedham
Today we make a short journey to the county town of Ipswich. You will discover something of Ipswich’s past when we visit the beautiful Christchurch Mansion. Our main purpose in coming here, however, is to see the biggest collection of paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable outside of London, along with collections of other artists inspired by the beautiful landscapes of East Anglia. There are also period rooms such as the sumptuous Georgian Saloon and the humbler Victorian wing with its displays of children’s toys and dolls houses.

We travel a little way to eat lunch at the tearoom in Flatford, site of the famous Flatford Mill, before our Constable Country Walk. John Constable (1776-1837) was born in Suffolk and is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home, which he invested with an intensity of affection. “I should paint my own places best”, he wrote to his friend John Fisher in 1821, “painting is but another word for feeling”. His most famous paintings include Dedham Vale (1802) and The Hay Wain (1821) the colourism and open brush stroke of which, when the painting was exhibited in Paris, were to have a revolutionary influence upon French artists such as Delacroix. Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable British paintings, he was never financially successful and did not become a member of the establishment until he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of fifty-two. He sold more paintings in France than in England. Constable rebelled against the demand that artists compose from the imagination rather than depict nature with immediacy. He told Leslie, “When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is to forget that I have ever seen a picture”. We begin our tour of Flatford from Bridge Cottage, before exploring the rest of this delightful town. The second leg of this walk takes us outside the village itself, as we make our way through the countryside to East Bergholt. Our tour of painting sites immediately around Flatford will include scenes made famous in The Hay Wain, Boatbuilding and Flatford Mill. Our guide will be armed with reproductions of the paintings, so you can make comparisons with the scenes today (remarkably similar). We have time for tea at the ‘Essex Rose Tearoom’ in Dedham before we return to our hotel at Bury St Edmunds. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) BL

 

Day 20: Sunday 24 June, Bury St Edmunds – Saffron Walden – Audley End – Bury St Edmunds

Market town of Saffron Walden
Audley End House and Gardens
Farewell Dinner
Today we venture into the county of Essex and begin by exploring the enigmatic sounding town of Saffron Waldon. In the medieval period Saffron Walden was primarily concerned with the wool trade. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) came to be grown throughout the area. The precious saffron extracted from the flower’s stigmas was used in a variety of ways – in medicines, as a condiment, as a perfume, as an aphrodisiac, and as an expensive yellow dye. The town, originally known as Chipping Walden, thus took the name Saffron Walden. By the end of the 18th century brewing had replaced saffron as the main crop in the district; local malt and barley supplied more than thirty maltings and breweries here by the 1830s.

Our other purpose for travelling into Essex is to visit one of the great country house that monarchs and aristocrats alike have used for over four hundred years as a symbol of their wealth, status and power, as well as for their pleasure. This is Audley End, a fitting climax to our tour. Henry VIII gave Walden Abbey to Sir Thomas Audley, who transformed it into his mansion, Audley End. His is grandson Thomas, first Earl of Suffolk, rebuilt this mansion between 1603 and 1614. The new Audley End was truly palatial in scale, but Suffolk fell from power after 1618. Charles II bought the house in 1668 and used it as a base for attending the Newmarket races. By the 1680s, Sir Christopher Wren was warning of the need for major repairs. The cost of these caused William III to return Audley End to the Suffolk family. When the Suffolk line died out in 1745, the Countess of Portsmouth bought the house for her nephew and heir, Sir John Griffin Whitwell, the fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke.

Today, the house’s interior largely reflects the tastes of the third Baron Braybrooke, who inherited it in 1825. He installed his extensive picture collection here and filled the rooms with rich furnishings. The fourth Baron Braybrooke’s natural history collection also remains an appealing feature of the house. After nearly thirty years in store, a rare set of English tapestries by the Soho weaver Paul Saunders has been conserved and displayed in the Tapestry Room. They depict figures in a landscape with ruined buildings and were originally supplied to Audley End in 1767.

Audley’s park and the fine Victorian gardens are just as glorious as its interiors. An artificial lake, created with water from the River Cam, runs through delightful 18th century parkland. The Classical Temple of Concorde, built in 1790 in honour of George III, and the restored 19th century formal parterre garden, dominate views from the back of the house. We will see Robert Adam’s ornamental garden buildings, and the Elysian Garden cascade. If all this sumptuous living is too rich for you then a sobering visit to the historic kitchen and dry laundry might be to your taste. You will have time to lunch here in the Tea Room located in the Servants Hall. After lunch we shall visit the thriving organic walled 19th-century kitchen garden, with its box-edged paths, trained fruit and fifty-two metre long vine house – still as it was in its Victorian heyday. We then make our way back to our hotel at Bury St Edmunds for our farewell dinner. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) BD

 

Day 21: Monday 25 June, Bury St Edmunds – Heathrow Airport

Morning at leisure
Departure transfer to Heathrow Airport
Today you may have a morning to read the papers or take a leisurely stroll around town, now that the tour program has come to an end. The coach will depart from our hotel around midday for those who wish to travel to London’s Heathrow Airport for flight connections. B

 

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes National Park 2018

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes National Park 2018

 

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Southern France

Overnight Menton (8 nights) • Aix-en-Provence (3 nights) • Avignon (6 nights) • Florac (3 nights)

 

Tour Highlights

Travel in May to view spring’s colourful wildflowers and enjoy chestnut groves and picturesque stone villages in the UNESCO-listed Cévennes National Park.

Delight in the finest gardens of the Côte d’Azur, including Serre de la Madone and the Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh. By private invitation, visit the Clos du Peyronnet.

Near Grasse visit four private gardens, by special appointment: the gardens of the Villa Fort France originally planted by Lady Fortescue in the 1930s; Joanna Millar’s private gardens at Domaine du Prieuré; Le Vallon du Brec; and Le Mas des Pivoines.

In Provence explore a host of private gardens: Jardins d’Albertas, Pavillon de Galon, Clos de Villeneuve, the hilltop gardens of La Carméjane and Le Clos Pascal by Nicole de Vésian, Le Petit Fontanille, and Nicole Arboireau’s intimate Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre.

Visit contemporary masterpieces by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, such as the Jardin de La Noria outside Uzès.

Meet tree sculptor Marc Nucera, who will show us his atelier and experimental garden south of Avignon, and one of France’s most famous private gardens, Mas Benoît, laid out by sculptor, garden designer and land artist Alain-David Idoux.

Meet landscape designer Dominique Lafourcade and study her work with a visit to the gardens of the Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pierredon and to one of her new creations near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

View the designs by Michel Semini in Mas Theo, the private courtyard gardens of fashion magnate Pierre Bergé, lifelong companion of Yves Saint Laurent, in Saint-Rémy.

See the paintings, sculpture and furniture of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a mansion set in extensive gardens; and the nearby Villa Grecque Kérylos, a luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling.

Enjoy a range of museums devoted to modernists like Matisse and Picasso, visit Cézanne’s studio, the chapels painted by Matisse and Cocteau and the Maeght Foundation containing an exceptional collection of 20th-century works.

Explore Provence’s Roman heritage at the Pont du Gard, at the huge medieval Papal Palace, Avignon, and in Arles, whose museum features a 31-metre-long Roman boat discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011.

Cruise through the precipitous Gorges du Tarn, a limestone canyon carved by the Tarn River and dotted with medieval castles.

Visit the antique market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the colourful food stalls of Uzès.
Combine culinary delights with an evening of classical music under France’s oldest magnolia tree at the Château de Brantes.

Savour haute cuisine at Mauro Colagreco’s Restaurant Mirazur, perched above the Mediterranean, and at La Petite Maison de Cucuron with Michelin-star chef Eric Sapet in the Luberon Ranges.

Stay in carefully chosen hotels including the Hotel Napoléon, with gardens by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières; and a lovely family hotel, Hotel des Gorges du Tarn, in the mountainous village of Florac.

 

Tour Itinerary

 

Menton – 8 nights

 

Day 1: Sunday 6 May, Arrive Nice – Transfer to Menton

Introductory Meeting
Welcome Dinner
On arrival at Nice’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach and travel west along an awesome coastline where the pre-Alps plunge almost sheer into the sea, to the port town of Menton. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Hotel Napoléon, Menton. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.

For the next 8 nights we stay at the 4-star Hotel Napoléon, located just across the road from the beach and only a ten-minute slow walk to the old town of Menton. In the hotel’s private off-street courtyard, an exotic garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières hides a small paved area. For Ossart and Maurières, hotel gardens “must be able to satisfy each client’s need for privacy and yet welcome people in groups. As much as the interior decoration, the gardens participate in the overall feel of the place and must be designed around an original idea or theme. Finally, they must be attractive in all seasons, whether as places to relax in or simply to be seen from windows”. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant overlooking Menton’s Garavan Bay. (Overnight Menton) D

 

Day 2: Monday 7 May, Menton

Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
Guided tour of Menton, including the Salle des Mariages
Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton
We start the day with a visit to the sub-tropical botanical garden of Val Rahmeh, laid out in 1905 for Lord Radcliffe, Governor of Malta. In 1957 Miss May Sherwood Campbell acquired the property and a second garden, now accessed by a bridge, and created a pond with water hyacinths, water lilies, and papyrus. In 1966 she donated her property to the nation, and today it is owned by The French Museum of Natural History. A guided tour will reveal a wonderful array of lush plantings.

Menton occupies a natural amphitheatre dominated by Mount Agel and the Gorbio and St. Agnes Heights. Ruined fortresses clinging to its surrounding cliffs testify to the town’s deep, turbulent history. Here we shall study the work of one of the coast’s greatest creators, the famous artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. Cocteau first came upon Menton in 1955 while vacationing at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He fell in love with its high-cliffed coastal charms and began the next year, at the request of the mayor, to redecorate the town hall’s Salle des mariages with frescoes and furnishings all with a theme of ‘Love’.

Nearby we also visit the new Jean Cocteau Museum which includes 990 works by Cocteau. All of the artist’s key periods are represented, from the first self-portraits of the 1910s up to the “Mediterranean” period towards the end of his life. There are drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts and 172 photographs relating to Cocteau. There are also works by fellow artists Picasso, Modigliani, Di Chirico and others. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 3: Tuesday 8 May, Menton – Coursegoules – Menton

Le Vallon du Brec (private garden, by special appointment)
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we travel to Coursegoules to visit Le Vallon du Brec, situated at an altitude of 1000 metres, in the backcountry of Nice. Designed by its owners, photographer and painter Yan and Jean Grisot, this 20,000-square-metre garden is divided in two parts. One, planted with botanical varieties from China, Japan, North America, contrasting with old roses and irises, is dotted with wooden sculptures. The second half is wild prairies on old farming terraces dating back to the 11th century. This large garden has been awarded the status of ‘Jardin Remarquable’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. We return to Menton for an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 4: Wednesday 9 May, Menton

Clos du Peyronnet, Menton (private garden, by special appointment)
Serre de la Madone, Menton
Dinner at Restaurant Mirazur, Menton
This morning we visit one of the garden highlights of the region, the Clos du Peyronnet. Created by Mr and Mrs Derick Waterfield (and still tended by their son’s nephew), the Clos du Peyronnet was established around a Belle Époque Italianate villa in the Garavan (gardé du vent: ‘sheltered from the wind’), on terraces between vertical cliffs and the sea. The villa façade has been engulfed by a Wisteria sinensus (Chinese wisteria). Oreopanax, catalpa and jacaranda give way to a wet grotto, terraces of heat-loving plants such as hibiscus and solanum, architectural cypresses, and a water garden designed to afford glimpses of the Mediterranean below.

This afternoon we visit Serre de la Madone, designed in the 1920s by Lawrence Johnston, creator of the world-famous Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds, England. Johnston was interested in acclimatising a large variety of exotic species to this inimitable environment. La Serre de la Madone is a secluded paradise with double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio and orangeries for tender exotic plants. Johnston employed 12 gardeners to tend his 7 hectares of terraces that boast an almost bewildering variety of plants from throughout the world.

This evening we dine at the Restaurant Mirazur, which enjoys spectacular views of Menton’s old town and harbour. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco excels in original Mediterranean-style dishes, using wild herbs, edible flowers and the freshest vegetables obtained from the restaurant’s garden. (Overnight Menton) BD

 

Day 5: Thursday 10 May, Menton – Villefranche-sur-Mer – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Menton

Chapelle Saint-Pierre by Jean Cocteau, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villa Ephrussi, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Villa Grecque Kérylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer
This morning we drive out to Cap-Ferrat, a narrow peninsula extending far out to sea. Our first visit is to the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, painted by Jean Cocteau at Villefranche. The ornamentation of the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, a jewel of the modern symbolist art, was a dream cherished for a long time by Cocteau that he finally realised in 1957. He supervised the ceramicists and stonecutters who worked on his project. The chapel evinces a simple, humble fervor reminiscent of small Romanesque churches. It simultaneously represents St. Peter’s life, the village dear to Cocteau’s childhood, and the artist’s friendship for the fishermen to whom the chapel was dedicated.

The road to Cap-Ferrat offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean. The Cap itself was one of the most fashionable resorts of the twentieth century and is associated with such luminaries and eccentrics as Somerset Maughan, who lived in the Villa Mauresque, and Léopold II of the Belgians, who established the world’s most important private botanical gardens there. In 1926, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a site here for her enormous villa and garden – Villa Île de France. The eclecticism of her garden, named after the famous ship and tended during her residence by gardeners in sailors’ uniforms, reflects the syncretic mix of styles that made the Riviera an important avant-garde centre in the early twentieth century. We shall take a guided tour of the villa’s first floor that includes terracotta sculptures by Clodion, a Meissen China Room and a Tapestry Room whose furniture by Jacob is upholstered with Beauvais tapestries. We shall then tour the villa’s seven exquisite gardens, which include patios, waterfalls, ponds, floral borders, shady walks and rare species of trees. The garden ensemble comprises Florentine, Spanish, formal French and exotic gardens, as well as rose and rock gardens.

After lunch in the villa’s tearoom, we visit the Grecian Villa Kérylos, one of the most extraordinary sites on the French Riviera. It was built in the early 1900s, in the Belle Époque era, and is a unique and extremely luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling, complete with wall decorations and furniture. It was built as the tribute to Greek civilisation by two great Hellenophiles, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts, and the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who based the design on the remains of noble houses from the 2nd century BC on the Island of Delos. Everything inside, from the arrangement of rooms to the details of the décor, was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious Grecian villa. From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants: olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus which all help create a Grecian look and feel in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 6: Friday 11 May, Menton – Grasse – Châteauneuf-Grasse – Menton

Le Mas des Pivoines, Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at Restaurant Le Mas des Géraniums, Opio
Jardin de la Villa Fort France, Châteauneuf-Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)
Our first visit is to a garden located in the countryside near Grasse. Le Mas des Pivoines is owned by Marcel and Lucile Barrault, who have been developing this 1.5-hectare garden since 1998. The topography of the site allows a succession of different gardens: olive grove, lavender fields, mix-borders of Mediterranean plants, separated from each other by arbours covered with roses or vine creepers. Two large, flat areas are connected by a set of terraces. The dry stone retaining walls are lined up with iris and plants adapted to the dry conditions, leading to recently landscaped park. A creek runs at the lower part of the land. From mid-April, venerable tree peonies such as the double-pink Duchesse de Morny start blooming. These are followed by tree and herbaceous peonies such as the Golden Isles and Hana-Kisoi, roses, shrubs spring flowers, irises, perennials and so on. This is a constantly evolving garden where one can find some ancient remains including basins, canals, arbours, mass of fallen rocks, gazebos and big box-hedges.

We lunch among olive, fig and lime trees at Le Mas des Géraniums, a typical Provençal farm located on Opio’s hill. In this peaceful and beautiful setting, we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by the owners, Colette and Michel Creusot.

Just a short drive away is the garden of Villa Fort France. The original owners, Lady Winifred Fortescue and her husband, Sir John, an archivist and military historian, bought it in 1935. Lady Fortescue wrote a best-selling account of her struggles to create her home there entitled Perfume from Provence, which was illustrated by A.A. Milne. She followed this success with two further books written when she moved to Opio: Sunset House and Trampled Lilies (which recounts her time during the war years). The rose garden she created was expanded to form the current garden by Jeanne Gruniaux, who continued to advise the present owners, Pierre and Valérie de Courcels, until her death. The de Courcels have added their own deft, artistic touches to create a lovely garden full of colour, much of which comes from a superb use of annuals (poppies, larkspur, love-in-the-mist and aquilegia plus a sweet pea hedge). (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 7: Saturday 12 May, Menton – Tourrettes-sur-Loup – Saint-Paul de Vence – Vence – Menton

Domaine du Prieuré, Tourrettes-sur-Loup (private garden, by special appointment)
The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence
Today we drive through some of the finest scenery in the south of France. We first travel up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, where we visit the private garden of Joanna Millar, recently acclaimed as ‘the grand dame’ of Riviera gardening. Joanna’s roses will be in full flower, as will the irises that she grows in serried ranks among a fine collection of other native and exotic plants.

Then we drive to Saint-Paul de Vence, built on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by ramparts overlooking the coast. Fortified in the sixteenth century, it remained beautifully intact and began to attract artists such as Russian painter Marc Chagall who moved here in 1966. A host of famous artists and writers were drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area and its exceptional light. Later it also became a favorite ‘hangout’ of film directors and French and international stars such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

After some time at leisure for lunch and to walk around the narrow and picturesque streets of Saint-Paul de Vence, we visit the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation, which hosts an exceptional collection of twentieth-century works. André Malraux, then Minister of Cultural Affairs, inaugurated the Foundation on 28 July 1964. It is a unique example of a private European art foundation. This architectural ensemble was entirely conceived and financed by the Parisian art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght to display modern and contemporary art in all media. Painters and sculptors collaborated closely in the realisation of the complex with Catalan architect Lluis Sert by creating works, many of them monumental, that were integrated into the building and its gardens: the Giacometti courtyard; the Miró labyrinth with sculptures and ceramics; mural mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat; a pool and stained glass window by Braque, and a Bury fountain. We shall enjoy its collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works by artists such as Bonnard, Braque, Calder, Chagall, Giacometti, Léger, and Miró.

We return to Menton via the town of Vence, noted for its Chapelle du Rosaire, conceived and created by Henri Matisse. From 1943 to 1949, an ailing Matisse settled in Vence and employed a young nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who became his confidante and model. In 1946, the young woman entered the religious Order of the Dominicans and was ordained Sister Jacques-Marie and shortly after persuaded Matisse to design the chapel for her community. The result is a unique masterpiece, which Matisse worked on for 4 years (1948-1951) to elaborate the plans of the building and all the details for its decoration, stained glass windows, ceramics, stalls, stoup, cult objects and priestly ornaments. For Matisse this work was “the fruit of [my] whole working life. In spite of all its imperfections [I] consider it as [my] masterpiece”. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 8: Sunday 13 May, Menton – Cap d’Antibes – Antibes – Nice – Menton

Scenic drive, Cap d’Antibes
Château Grimaldi – Musée Picasso, Antibes
Provençal Food Market, Cours Masséna, Antibes
Matisse Museum, Nice
This morning we tour the Cap d’Antibes, a beautiful peninsula with a winding road that reveals stunning views around every corner; we shall take in the grand panorama at the highest point of the cape, the Plateau de la Garoupe.

We visit the port town of Antibes, which attracted many writers, such as Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as artists like Picasso. Our walking tour includes a visit to Antibes’ Provençal food market on the Cours Masséna. We also visit the Château Grimaldi, a mix of 12th and 16th-century architecture, which houses the Musée Picasso. Picasso used the castle as his studio for a time in 1946. In addition to his paintings, it holds a fine collection of the master’s ceramics.

After lunchtime at leisure in Antibes we drive to Cimiez, site of a small Roman city just oustide of modern-day Nice. It is more famous, however, for its museum devoted to France’s greatest modern painter, Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice from 1917 to his death in 1954. We shall view the paintings in the museum that span his career, from the very early Still Life with Books (1890) to his Rococo Armchair (1947) and Blue Nude (1952). (Overnight Menton) B

 

Aix-en-Provence – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Monday 14 May, Menton – Fréjus – Bouc-Bel-Air – Aix-en-Provence

Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre, Fréjus (private garden, by special appointment)
Jardins d’Albertas, Bouc-Bel-Air (private garden, by special appointment)
This morning we drive to Fréjus, built upon the remains of an ancient harbour where Octavian (Augustus) moored ships captured from Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium. Our main interest is not Fréjus’ Roman remains, however, but the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre of Madame Nicole Arboireau, chief exponent of the Provençal cottage garden. Nicole Arboireau’s garden contrasts vividly with the foreigners’ gardens you have hitherto encountered. She has set herself the task of nurturing the Provençal tradition of the small garden in which local plants are propagated. We will explore this lovely small domain, learning much about the traditions of gardening in this region, and enjoy a delicious Provençal buffet, prepared by Nicole herself. Nicole’s delightful book Jardins de Grands-Mères describes the gardens of grandmothers, with their special secrets revealed.

Following our visit, we continue to Aix-en-Provence, where we shall be based for the next three nights. En route we shall visit the Jardins d’Albertas at Bouc-Bel-Air. The city of Aix-en-Provence occupies a site previously inhabited by Celts, Greeks and Romans. It rose to prominence as capital of the County of Provence and then the royal city of the House of Anjou. Under René of Anjou it was a centre of Italian and French culture. Absorbed by the French monarchy at the end of the 15th century, it became the home of the Parlement de Provence, a status it lost during the French Revolution. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, first president of the Provence Audit Office, decided in 1751 to create a garden to the south of the city at Bouc-Bel-Air. The craze for gardening in mid-18th-century France meant that the domain was laid out before the house. In fact, this country retreat never gained its house. The garden, which includes a kitchen garden, is laid out somewhat like Villandry in the Loire. Its formal parterres have a profusion of sculpture set against powerful vistas. It has been maintained since the 18th century by the Albertas family, which has taken great pains to maintain its original state. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 10: Tuesday 15 May, Aix-en-Provence – Valensole – Aix-en-Provence

Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
Orientation walk of Aix-en-Provence
This morning we drive north of Aix to the Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole. This bastide was constructed in the first half of the 18th century. Jean-Baptiste de Villeneuve, seigneur of Esclapon, who was descended from an ancient Provençal family, laid out its basic form. His garden still occupies three terraces with seven basins and fountains from the 18th and 19th centuries. The late owner André de Villeneuve, has, over the last 30 years, created the present garden on the original terraces, around the early basins. Parterres planted in the tradition of the French formal garden, an alley of 100-year-old chestnut trees, a huge basin on the lowest terrace, and a view beyond to purple lavender plantations, form a magnificent ensemble, along with colourful roses and richly aromatic sage, thyme and other Provençal herbs. There are fruit and olive trees at every level, and remarkable walls constructed of round stones from the Valensole Plateau. Alain Sauvat, long-time friend of André de Villeneuve and manager of the property will show us the garden and host us for lunch. Mr Sauvat comes from a family of lavender growers. He will also guide inside his small museum of lavender, housed in a former 1925 lavender distillery.

In the afternoon we drive back to Aix to the Atelier Cézanne, which was the base from which this most careful and methodical of artists made excursions to paint in the countryside. When the weather was bad he worked in the atelier, painting his famous still lifes. One of the most interesting aspects of this museum is that it still has many of the objects Cézanne collected and used as subjects for these still lifes: a table, a short ladder, a high easel, a potbelly stove, a sofa, a few chairs, the items seen here were the only furniture present in the closed world of Cézanne. A few locally decorated vases, a ginger jar and an olive pot, a fruit bowl, a plate, a glass, a bottle of rum, three skulls, and a little plaster cupid by François Duquesnoy are among the smaller objects made so famous in his works that are in the atelier’s collection.

Dickens visited Aix, Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral went to school and Marcel Pagnol attended university there, and it was Émile Zola’s home town. As a boy he became friendly with Cézanne, and the two enjoyed long excursions where Paul would paint and Émile would write. Our day ends with a guided orientation walk of Aix. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 11: Wednesday 16 May, Aix-en-Provence – Cucuron – Aix-en-Provence

Pavillon de Galon, Cucuron (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at La Petite Maison de Cucuron, Cucuron
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we travel north of Aix-en-Provence to the Pavillon de Galon, a restored 18th-century hunting pavilion, surrounded by vines, orchards, cherry and olive trees. At the foot of the Luberon mountains and facing south, its grounds are secluded yet have stunning views all around. Its gardens, which boast a colourful mix of lavender and clipped hedges, have been awarded the status ‘remarkable garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment.

We next drive to the preserved medieval village of Cucuron in the heart of the Luberon National Park, home to La Petite Maison de Cucuron, a delightful restaurant run by Michelin-star Chef Eric Sapet, which has a reputation as one of the finest restaurants in Provence. Located on the central square in the shade of hundred-year-old plane trees, the Petite Maison serves traditional Provençal dishes made with fresh market produce. After lunch, we return to Aix, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Avignon – 6 nights

 

Day 12: Thursday 17 May, Aix-en-Provence – Ménerbes – Avignon

Le Clos Pascal, Ménerbes (private garden, by special appointment)
La Carméjane, Ménerbes (private garden, by special appointment)
In the Luberon hills, beneath the perched village of Ménerbes, we visit Clos Pascal, a little-known work by the famous Nicole de Vésian. Long, gentle terraces, cloud-clipped shrubs lead up to a potager garden and a small vineyard. La Carméjane, owned by Mr and Mrs Coxe, is located on the edge of the village. The rose-covered terrace reached from the house has amazing views of the rural landscape. The lower terrace has cherry orchards, a potager for the family and a new restored area planted with olive trees. In the late afternoon we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon (the name given to the western end of the range) to Avignon. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 13: Friday 18 May, Avignon – Sorgues – Avignon

Papal Palace, Avignon
Pont Saint-Benezet, Avignon
Afternoon at leisure in Avignon
Avignon, one of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful medieval cities, is sited majestically on the banks of the Rhône. Its historical importance and great monuments are due to its status as a papal city between the 14th and the 18th centuries; it reverted to the French crown in 1761.

This morning we will visit the castle that served as a palace fortress for the seven popes whose sojourn in France between 1309 and 1377 came to be called by opponents ‘the Babylonian Captivity’. For the following 400 years it was the residence of the papal legate. This massive complex has some rooms that are masterpieces in their own right, such as the grand hall, the great kitchen, with its single huge chimney spanning the whole interior, and the papal bedroom with its painted walls depicting a great vine set against a blue background.

Near the Papal Palace is the Pont Saint-Benezet, the famous bridge described in the popular children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon. Bridges were vital to medieval pilgrimage and Saint-Benezet, who built the bridge between 1177 and 1185, founded a company of bridge-builders to serve this purpose. Now missing a number of spans, the original 900-metre-long wooden structure was repaired and reconstructed – in stone – many times before half the bridge collapsed into the Rhône in the mid-1600s. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 14: Saturday 19 May, Avignon – Eygalières – Noves – Mouriès – Avignon

Mas Benoît, Eygalières (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier of Marc Nucera, Noves (by special appointment)
Gardens of the Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pierredon – designed by Dominique Lafourcade, Mouriès (private garden by special appointment)
Today we are privileged to meet with Marc Nucera, renowned tree sculptor and ‘shaper’. Marc started his career as the student and disciple of the professor, sculptor and then garden designer and Land Art practitioner Alain-David Idoux. Although Idoux died tragically young, he left behind a legacy of ground-breaking design.

Our day begins with a visit to the private gardens of Mas Benoît, located close to Eygalières, in the foothills of the Alpilles. The garden surrounding this traditional Provençal farmhouse, or ‘mas’, lies on a low hill with the magnificent backdrop of the Alpilles in the distance. It is considered a leading example of contemporary Mediterranean landscape art by Alain-David Idoux, with lavender wedge, almond spiral, rock river and oak groves sculpted by Marc Nucera.

We next travel to Noves, just south of Avignon, to meet Marc Nucera at his atelier and experimental garden ‘Le Terrain’. Son of a furniture maker, Marc Nucera trained as a tree pruner, commencing with the rehabilitation of old olive orchards. In the 1990s, working with land artist, Alain-David Idoux, Marc began to evolve his own style. Local garden designers, including the legendary Nicole de Vésian, creator of La Louve (She-Wolf) garden in Bonnieux, gave help and encouragement. Nucera’s love of trees is reflected in the way he brings out the existing character of each individual plant, highlighting their best features so that they both enhance and give coherence to the surrounding landscape. He sculpts living trees, favoring natives such as almonds, green and white oaks, and the remnants of cypress hedging often found on old farmsteads. He also gives new life to dead trees by turning them into furniture and sculptures, either still in the ground or positioned near their place of origin.

“A garden is first and foremost a work of art, with the gardener playing the roles of architect, sculptor, musician and painter in turn. A garden should move visitors, setting all their senses aquiver” – Dominique Lafourcade.

This afternoon is dedicated to visiting the gardens of the Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pierredon, one of Dominique Lafourcade’s best design. The recently renovated abbey is nestled in the heart of the regional national park of Alpilles. Amid cypresses, lavender fields, olive and almond trees sits the 12th-century Pierredon chapel with its bell tower, the last original bell-tower remaining in any of the abbeys founded by the Chalais monks. In 2004, Dominique Lafourcade laid out the gardens and created perspectives supported by lavender, roses and even edible flowers, planted in harmony with the natural environment. She introduced long wisterias to soften the austere lines of the abbey. (Overnight Avignon) BL

 

Day 15: Sunday 20 May, Avignon – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Gordes – Bonnieux – Avignon

Sunday Market, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Scenic drive to Gordes
Le Jardin de La Louve (She-Wolf), Bonnieux (private garden, by special appointment)
Château de Brantes, Sorgues: garden tour, Provençal dinner and classical music concert
We depart early this morning, and travel 30 kilometres west of Avignon to visit the Sunday market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This large market is a food market, flea market, and antique market where you can buy everything from olives to fine art. The town itself stretches across the Sorgue River, earning it the nickname ‘Venice of Provence’, and makes a very lovely backdrop to this large market with its shade-providing plane tress, babbling river, historic waterwheels, and flower-filled riverside cafés and restaurants. The town is famous for being a big hub for antique dealers and is the second largest antique centre in France (after Paris).

Having collected some ingredients for a picnic lunch, we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon. This scenic drive takes us to the village of Gordes, perhaps the most picturesque of the perched villages. The houses of Gordes rise in picturesque tiers above the Imergue valley on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau. The stone buildings built in tight against the base of the cliffs and those perched on the rocks above, including the 12th-century castle, are made of a beige stone that glow orange in the morning sun. A short drive across the valley takes us past Roussillon, a village that stands on the highest hill between the Coulon valley and the Vaucluse plateau. These striking hills, composed of ochre rock of 16 or 17 different shades featured in the local houses, enhance the beauty of the village and the surrounding countryside.

Continuing south through the Luberon mountain range, we reach the picturesque village of Bonnieux, set atop craggy cliffs, where we shall visit the garden La Louve (She-Wolf). Nicole de Vésian began restoring her Provençal terrace garden on the lower fringe of this medieval town in 1987. Here the former fashion stylist designed house and garden in harmony with the natural surroundings, producing a result with the concision, beauty and elegance of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house. Since Nicole’s death in 1996, this tiny spot has become one of the most photographed gardens in the world. While La Louve was already dearly loved, the publication of Louisa Jones’ book, Modern Design in Provence (2011), only fanned the flames. Nicole also created several other gardens which are less well-known.

In the late afternoon we make our way to the Château de Brantes, located just outside the village of Sorgues, for a special evening tour and reception. The garden, which has the oldest magnolia tree in France (1780), was designed by the Danish landscape architect Mogens Tvede in 1956. The château, listed as a historic monument in 1987, is surrounded by an extensive plane-tree wood, and features a series of basins through which flows the river Sorgues. After a guided tour through the park and garden, we enjoy an al fresco Provençal buffet dinner, followed by delightful classical music concert given under the magnolia tree by a duo of professional harp and flute musicians. (Overnight Avignon) BLD

 

Day 16: Monday 21 May, Avignon – Pont du Gard – Arles – Avignon

Pont du Gard
Museum of Antiquities (Musée de l’Arles Antique), Arles
Theatre and Amphitheatre, Arles
Saint-Trophime and its cloister, Arles
Today we travel a short distance to visit the Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved of all Roman aqueducts. Its survival testifies to the building skill of the Romans, for the massive blocks of which it is fabricated have remained in place despite the fact it is a dry stone construction (without mortar or cement).

Then we continue our travel to visit Arles and experience the fascinating history of this Provençal town with its Roman monuments. Our first visit is to the splendid Musée de l’Arles Antique. Inaugurated in 1995, the museum features a wonderful head of Caesar and a 31m-long Roman boat which was discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011.

Provence takes its name from the fact that it was the oldest non-Italic ‘province’ (provincia) of the Roman Empire outside Italy. Arleate (now Arles), a major Roman city, was built to protect the vital estuary of the Rhône. This colonia was given a typical gridded street plan that can still be traced in the centre of the city. It had an important amphitheatre, which in the Middle Ages became a castle but is now used for bullfights, and a theatre, now used for festivals. Arleate was a major centre of early Christianity and produced a number of very important martyrs who were buried in its great cemetery, Alyscamps. Among these was Saint-Trophime, whose Romanesque basilica has one of the finest porticoes in Provence, with a porch modelled on a Roman triumphal arch. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 17: Tuesday 22 May, Avignon – Saint Etienne du Grès – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Avignon

Le Petit Fontanille, Saint Etienne du Grès (private garden, by special appointment)
Mas Theo, the Provençal garden of Pierre Bergé at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (private garden, by special appointment)
Private garden designed by Dominique Lafourcade (by special appointment)
This morning we visit Le Petit Fontanille, the private garden of Mrs Anne Cox Chambers near Saint Etienne du Grès. Le Petit Fontanille is the work of several English garden designers, Peter Coates, Rosemary Verey, and, more recently, Tim Rees. The garden merges perfectly into the hills, the woods and olive groves of the surrounding countryside and its success lies in its combination of a profusion of native plants with exotics that are compatible with the climate. Here the design is all about lines; olive trees form a horizontal mass against the verticality of the Italian cypresses.

A highlight of our tour is a visit to Saint-Rémy where we visit Mas Theo, the town courtyards of fashion magnate Pierre Bergé, lifelong companion of Yves Saint Laurent. Named after the brother of Vincent Van Gogh (the artist lived for a year at the nearby asylum), the gardens were created in 1992 by Michel Semini, a sought-after landscape architect whose clients included many Parisian fashion and film people.

We end the day with a private visit with master landscape architect Dominique Lafourcade to one of her recent creations near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Florac – 3 nights

 

Day 18: Wednesday 23 May, Avignon – Uzès – Florac

Wednesday market of medieval village of Uzès
Dinosaur footprints, St-Laurent-de-Trèves
Our journey continues north-west of Avignon to the pretty village of Uzès, home to one of the most colourful markets in the south of France. The Wednesday morning market, located on the Place aux Herbes, specialises in produits du terroirs (regional products and specialties) where you can find creamy goat cheese, garlic olives, fragrant herbs, pots of thyme-flavoured honey, bread and even small jars of snail and shallot spread!

We then drive to our friendly family hotel in the picturesque village of Florac at the very centre of the Cévennes National Park, where we shall stay for the next three nights.

Our journey takes us past the little hamlet of St-Laurent-de-Trèves, situated on a rocky outcrop with magnificent views. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered here, dating back 190 million years, to the time when the region was a limestone swamp. A short walk around the site reveals a number of footprints, which are amazingly clear.

We dine in the hotel restaurant, L’Adonis, whose owner and chef Martial Paulet will serve dishes with the best local seasonal produce. The hotel is situated on the escarpments of the Causse Méjean close to the awesome Gorges du Tarn, Mont Lozère et du Mont Aigoual. Robert Louis Stevenson became enamoured of this awesome region and spent much time wandering through it. (Overnight Florac) BD

 

Day 19: Thursday 24 May, Florac – Mont Lozère – Finiels – Pont de Montvert – Florac

Orientation walk in Florac
Mont Lozère scenic drive
Pont de Montvert
We spend the next two days exploring the Cévennes National Park in the company of local expert mountain guide Anne Nourry, Vice-President of the Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cévennes, now a UNESCO-listed National Park, was and still is one of the wildest areas of France, with mountains and deep gorges. Nineteenth-century travellers like Robert Louis Stevenson visited isolated villages that seemed locked in the past, with a tradition-bound, conservative culture. Many peasants of the Cévennes, like much of the population of southern France, had converted to Protestantism in the 16th century. When Louis XIV revoked the Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes (1685), which had assured Protestants the right of free worship, the Huguenot Camisards of the region revolted (1704-1712); their revolt is called the Camisard Revolt. When Stevenson trekked through the area, Protestantism was again tolerated, but the deeply conservative people of each village adhered universally either to the Protestant or Catholic cause. Intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants was strictly forbidden and offenders would be cast out of both villages. Stevenson, a Scot, was himself a Protestant, and both the geography of the Cévennes with its barren rocky heather-filled hillsides, and the history of religious strife that lay over the land, were familiar to him.

Today’s program will combine coach touring with easy rambles through the countryside and to small, medieval villages. We shall be able to imagine the area as Robert Louis Stevenson saw it, with its wilderness scenery of rugged escarpments, deep valleys, small streams and a host of pretty wildflowers.

After an orientation walk in Florac, we take a scenic drive to the summit of Mont Lozère which is the highest peak in the Cévennes National Park. It offers some stunning natural scenery and is covered by coniferous plantations and ‘broom’ scrub moorland. A short walk will enable us to view the Pic de Finiels which rises at 1699m. The distinct geological zones that make up the Cévennes National Park sustain different types of landscape, which have all been shaped by human activity. Mont Lozère is a granite massif scattered with typical reliefs called felsenmeer (block fields). Water is omnipresent in springs, peat bogs and rivers. The bare crests are summer pastures for great flocks of sheep. Mont Lozère bears the signs of ancient human occupation: menhirs, Gallo-Roman vestiges, and so on.

Following our lunch in the small village of Finiels, we drive to the Pont de Montvert (870 metres in altitude), located at the base of the south-facing slopes of Mont Lozère. Le Pont de Montvert is a pretty granite village that is named for its hump-backed bridge (en dos d’âne) that spans in a single arch the swift-flowing Tarn. The bridge is guarded by a defensive tower at the village end, now with a less bellicose function: it holds the village clock. Medieval in aspect, the bridge and tower date to the 17th century. The bridge is well known as one of the places that Robert Louis Stevenson stopped during his famous Travels with a Donkey and now forms one of the stopping points along the popular trail that follows his original route. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 20: Friday 25 May, Florac – Gorges du Tarn – Gorges de la Jonte – Florac

Boat excursion, Gorges du Tarn
Belvédère des Vautours (Vulture Lookout), Gorges de la Jonte
Farewell Dinner
This morning we focus on the great Gorges du Tarn, an impressive canyon cut by the Tarn through the harsh limestone plateaux (causses) south of the Massif Central. We shall drive along the gorge and then take a boat excursion down the Tarn as it winds through the most spectacular section of the valley. Starting from La Malène, we board small flat-bottomed boats and make our way down the river in the crisp morning light through Les Détroits, the most beautiful and narrowest section of the canyon, between towering vertical cliffs of up to 400 metres, and end at the Cirque des Baumes (baume meaning ‘cave’), where the gorge widens forming a magnificent amphitheatre.

Following a picnic lunch we travel to the western edge of the park, where the Gorges du Tarn meets the Gorges de la Jonte. Here we visit the Belvédère des Vautours, an interpretive centre and viewing point for the many vultures that nest in the gorge, mostly Griffon vultures, but now also Black vultures. With the aid of national park officers, we may view their nests, and watch individuals and groups perched on the dramatic gorge walls. Two decades or so ago these giant airborne scavengers were almost extinct in the Cévennes. Now, thanks to a successful reintroduction program, some 75 pairs breed in the national park. Following a majestic aerial ballet performed by 30 or so vultures, we return to our hotel and enjoy a farewell meal together. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 21: Saturday 26 May, Florac – Nîmes TGV Station

Corniche des Cévennes
This morning we drive out of the Cévennes National Park along the scenic Corniche des Cévennes, past the village of Saint-Jean-du-Gard and on to Nîmes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to your airport or next French destination. B

 

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show 2018

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 with Richard Heathcote

 

Tour Highlights

This cultural garden tour of England led by Richard Heathcote combines a day at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show with some of England’s finest gardens such as Rousham, Hidcote, Kiftsgate, Bourton, Sezincote, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.

Immerse yourself in the lovely medieval city of Oxford and visit Magdalen College gardens.
Study the development of the English country house from 17th-century Rousham House to 20th-century Great Dixter.

Visit private gardens such as Througham Court Gardens and HRH The Prince of Wales’ Highgrove House Gardens*.

Make a special visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture.

Explore Australian Marylyn Abbott’s award-winning West Green House Gardens; and Ightham Mote, a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, perfectly located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland.

Wander through picturesque Cotswold villages including Stow-on-the-Wold.

Enjoy a farewell meal at the Kew Gardens Orangery Restaurant.

* Note: we are unable to confirm a number of the private garden visits until February 2018.

 

Tour Overview

Richard Heathcote leads this exciting program that combines a day at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show and visit to the Chelsea Physic Gardens with a tour to some of England’s finest country houses and gardens. Restored Bourton House won the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year Award’ in 2006. Sezincote’s oriental gardens complement S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating ‘Indian’ house. Scientist and architect Christine Facer Hoffman has appended to her 17th-century house her own experimental garden that creates spatial narratives based upon number sequences found in nature. Rousham’s interiors are extraordinarily well preserved; it’s been owned by the Dormer family since 1635 and has fine landscaped gardens laid out by William Kent. Great Dixter is famous for its plantings established by Christopher Lloyd and Sissinghurst is the beloved masterpiece of Vita Sackville West. At West Green House Gardens Marylyn Abbott has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Ightham Mote, meanwhile, is a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland. In these and other fine gardens we explore the initial influence of Italian formalism, 18th-century reactions against formal Italian and French modes by English landscape gardeners, the reversion to more formal styles in the second half of the 19th century, and the personal influences of that century’s famous garden designers. Special highlights include a planned visit to Highgrove, where HRH The Prince of Wales has created some of the most inspired and innovative gardens in the United Kingdom and a tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture. In Oxford we visit the Oxford Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in Britain (founded in 1621), featuring inspiring herbaceous borders and glasshouses, and the award-winning gardens of 550 year-old Magdalen College. We also enjoy lovely Cotswold villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold, stately Tunbridge Wells, and learn about the development of the English country house.

 

10 days in England

Overnight Oxford (5 nights) • Royal Tunbridge Wells (1 night) • London (3 nights)

 

Oxford – 5 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 16 May, London Heathrow – Oxford

Arrive London Heathrow and transfer to Oxford
Introduction & Welcome Evening Meal
On arrival at London Heathrow airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Oxford, home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the MacDonald Randolph Hotel. This evening there will be a short introductory meeting before dining at a local restaurant. (Overnight Oxford) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 17 May, The Cotswolds

Private visit of Sezincote House and Gardens
Market town of Moreton-in-Marsh
Guided tour of Bourton House Gardens with the Head Gardener, Paul Nicholls
Stow-on-the-Wold
Today we drive into the Cotswolds to visit two magnificent gardens located near the village of Moreton-in-Marsh. Our first visit is to Sezincote Manor, where an exotic oriental garden was created to complement the architect S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating 19th-century Regency house, which he designed in an Indian, Mogul style; Sezincote served as the inspiration for George IV’s Brighton Pavilion. Sezincote’s extraordinary eccentricities include a temple, not to any Grecian deity, but to the Hindu goddess Souriya; garden sculptures include a bronze serpent and Brahmin bulls, whilst minarets top the conservatory.

Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore high street which has many elegant 18th-century inns and houses including the Redesdale Market Hall.

In the afternoon we continue to the nearby award-winning three-acre gardens of Bourton House. The gardens had become overgrown and neglected when Richard and Monique Paice acquired them in 1983. Over the past 25 years, the ornamental garden with its 18th-century raised walk overlooking the rolling Cotswold Hills, the original kitchen garden, and Bourton’s orchard, have been transformed. The Paice’s achievement was recognised when Bourton House Garden was honoured with the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year’ award in 2006.

Our day concludes with a drive through the picturesque Cotswolds, including a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow-on-the-Wold was an important medieval market town and is now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) B

 

Day 3: Friday 18 May, Oxford – Througham Court – Highgrove – Oxford

Private Guided tour of Througham Court Gardens with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman
Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens (subject to confirmation in 2018)
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, Througham Court, a 17th-century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal/informal landscape overlooks a peaceful Cotswold valley. Christine Facer Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal ‘laboratory’ to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece, which features magnificent yew topiary and dry stone wall terracing. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. They recently featured in the RHS publication The Garden magazine and in Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets on BBC 2.

Mid-morning we make the short drive to Doughton village, where Highgrove House, the country home of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is located. The Prince purchased Highgrove in 1980, and has spent 30 years transforming its grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most brilliant and inventive gardens in the United Kingdom. “A series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the garden, with the house always visible in the distance. For the last 25 years the gardens and surrounding land have been managed to the organic and sustainable principles that His Royal Highness has for so long championed.” After lunch and our 2-hour guided tour of the gardens, we return to Oxford where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 4: Saturday 19 May, The Cotswolds

Hidcote Manor
Kiftsgate Court Gardens
Village of Bibury
Today we travel first to Chipping Campden and the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is significant for its influential garden, designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of rooms of different character and theme, separated from each other by walls and hedges.

At midday we continue to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, which tell the story of three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920s. From the mid-fifties Diany Binny added the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigned the white sunk garden. One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new water garden whose composition is ‘abstract modern’.

Our day concludes with another drive through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 5: Sunday 20 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton

Rousham House and Gardens
Guided tour of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with Dr Alison Foster, Senior Curator
Magdalen College and its award-winning gardens
This morning we drive north of Oxford to Steeple Ashton to visit another stately home of very different aspect. Rousham House has remained the property of the Dormer family since its construction in 1635. The house retains much of its original panelling, staircases, furniture and art works. Several alterations were made in 1876 when the north side of the house was added, but for the most part Rousham remains a stunning example of 17th-century architecture and decoration. The gardens are of particular importance as they represent the first phase of English landscape design and have undergone few changes since being laid out by William Kent.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we shall enjoy a walking tour of the magnificent University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with senior curator, Dr Alison Foster. Finally we shall visit the award-winning gardens of 15th-century Magdalen College. Magdalen’s extensive grounds include its own deer park, wildflower meadow and a riverside walk. For Oscar Wilde, who matriculated at Magdalen in October 1874, ‘The Magdalen walks and cloisters’ were the ideal backdrop for reading Romantic poetry! (Overnight Oxford) B

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells – 1 night

 

Day 6: Monday 21 May, Oxford – West Green House Gardens – Sevenoaks – Royal Tunbridge Wells

West Green House Gardens: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 60kms south to the Hart District of Northern Hampshire to visit West Green House Gardens that surround a lovely 18th-century house. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. One could possibly call this a ‘biographical garden’ in the sense that it is a very personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and grandmother when she was growing up in Australia (Marylyn masterminded the famous Australian garden, ‘Kennerton Green’). At West Green House she has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Marylyn is a prolific writer; her latest book The Resilient Garden, in keeping with her experience reconciling very different gardening environments, discusses a collection of plants that will acclimatise to both Mediterranean and cool temperate gardens. Her gardens appear in many publications, in one of which (The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Finder 2007) Charles Quest-Ritson has stated:

“West Green House Gardens has many original features. A grand water staircase provides the focal point to the Nymphaeum fountain designed by Quinlan Terry. By the house is a charming small topiary garden where water lilies flourish in small water tanks sunk in the ground. It runs up to a handsome aviary with unusual breeds of bantams and chickens. Beyond, are a dramatic new Persian water garden in a woodland glade, a newly restored lake, more follies and fancies, new walks and massive plantings of snowdrops, daffodils and fritillaries.”

Lavishness is a hallmark of the Abbott style – 10,000 tulip bulbs are planted every year – but Marylyn also emphasises the importance of drama, colour, innovation and humour in her garden.

Following a light lunch, we continue our journey east to Ightham Mote, a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, perfectly located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland. Dating from the 14th century, this house has seen many changes but each subsequent section has been preserved in extraordinary condition. Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians have all contributed sections to Ightham Mote. Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985. We shall walk to the house, enjoying its rural setting, before exploring its beautiful interior. Of special note is the chapel with its perfectly preserved interior, pulpit and tester. We shall also enjoy the gardens, with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks.

In the late afternoon we travel a short distance to Royal Tunbridge Wells, a town that rose to prominence when it became a spa in the late 17th century. Tonight we shall dine together at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells) BLD

 

London – 3 nights

 

Day 7: Tuesday 22 May, Royal Tunbridge Wells – Great Dixter – Sissinghurst – London

Great Dixter House & Gardens
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Today is a day of superb gardens. The Lloyd family developed Great Dixter early in the 20th century from an original design by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Today it is more famous for the plantings established by Christopher Lloyd documented in his many classic gardening books. The residence comprises a mid 15th-century hall house, typical of the Weald of Kent, to the south side of which a second, early 16th-century yeoman’s house was grafted. Lutyens enjoyed using local materials and retained farm buildings like oast houses, cowsheds, barns and outbuildings. Around these he designed his garden, featuring a sunken garden, topiary and yew hedges. Christopher Lloyd managed Great Dixter from the 1950s and was noted for his innovative approach and introduction of concepts like the mixed border and meadow garden, and his replacement of the rose garden with schemes using less fashionable plants like cannas and dahlias. We will investigate his full range of planting schemes. Although Lloyd is no longer present in the garden his gardener Fergus has achieved what some consider even better results in recent years.

We next drive to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of England’s greatest garden delights. Sissinghurst was the garden of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, journalist, MP and diplomat, and is possibly the most influential of all 20th-century gardens. Built around the remnants of an Elizabethan castle, of which the tower remains a central garden feature, the garden is divided into distinct spaces where a formality established by Nicolson is clothed by a romantic planting style pursued by Sackville-West. The garden retains its original charm and romance with such delights as its parterre, white garden, cottage garden, nut walk and orchard. We shall explore Sissinghurst’s many hidden corners, sumptuous planting combinations and the view from the top of the tower, always a good starting point for those who wish to understand the garden’s layout.

In the late afternoon we travel to London where we shall spend the next three nights at The Bailey’s Hotel London, a 4-star hotel set in an elegant 19th-century town house and centrally located in Kensington. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 8: Wednesday 23 May, Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show (Members Day)
The Chelsea Physic Gardens
Today is dedicated to the Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s best-known flower show. Located in the grounds of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital (1689), the Show is held annually in May and attracts more tourists to London than the Wimbledon Championships! We will therefore arrive early in order to enjoy the remarkable displays before they become too crowded. All of the gardens on display are constructed in the two weeks prior to the show and, following the event, are dismantled and the grounds reinstated. Around the periphery of the grounds are display gardens, sponsored by newspapers and magazines, major stores and insurance companies, whilst inside the giant marquee are exhibits by plant growers. Here you will see perfect displays of everything horticultural from bonsai to bulbs, rhododendrons to roses. This visit has been designed so that you are free to wander through the event at your leisure, not forgetting the botanical art and floral displays. This is a visual feast that all gardeners will want to enjoy at least once in their lives!

In the late afternoon we visit the nearby Chelsea Physic Gardens, a charming retreat from the crowded Chelsea Showground. Leased by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673 as a centre for medicinal learning, it was later handed over to them by Sir Hans Sloane on condition that they keep it “for the manifestation of the glory, power, and wisdom of God, in the works of creation”. There is a statue of Sir Hans Sloane by Rysbrack (1737). Today it is home to a garden design school. It also continues its traditional purpose of growing plants of medicinal value, with more than 5,000 taxa cultivated within the small garden area. The rock garden is made from unusual masonry debris from the Tower of London and Icelandic lava brought to the garden by Sir Joseph Banks. With an extraordinary micro-climate due to its location in central London, both olives and grapefruit crop regularly, Chilean Wine Palms prosper and we will note many Australian plants, including Banksias and Callistemons. (Overnight London) B

 

Day 9: Thursday 24 May, London

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture
Farewell lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
Afternoon at leisure
Today is a unique opportunity to explore the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with Richard Barley, who was appointed Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture in April 2013. With his knowledge based on the day-to-day management of the site, Richard will give deep insights into these world-renowned gardens. The original gardens were created for Augusta, Princess of Wales around her home, Kew Palace. Today it contains the largest collection of plants in the world with tropical and sub-tropical plants being kept in appropriate conditions in magnificent Victorian glasshouses. The variety of plants is overwhelming but Kew has a magic far above the ordinary run of Victorian plant collections, perhaps because of its size and the underlying but unobtrusive formality of its structure. The Queen’s Garden is a faithful copy of a 17th-century garden with parterres, sunken garden and pleached alleys. A new treetop walk by Marks Barfield Architects (who designed the London Eye) opened in May 2008.

Our day concludes with a farewell lunch at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent 18th-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the gardens. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 10: Friday 25 May, London, Tour Ends

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in London. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in London. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

 

Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

 

May 19, Friday – Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport
May 20, Saturday – Farleigh Wallop, Stonehenge
May 21, Sunday – Cothay Manor, Plaz Metaxu
May 22, Monday – Iford Manor, Special Plants Nursery, Veddw
May 23, Tuesday – Daylesford House, Broughton Grange, Pettifers
May 24, Wednesday – Hidcote, Kiftsgate
May 25, Thursday – Olympic Park, Chelsea Flower Show
May 26, Friday – Sissinghurst, Great Dixter
May 27, Saturday – Departure for home or continue travels on your own

 

 

FULL ITINERARY

 

Day 1, May 19, Friday – ARRIVE IN LONDON

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Heathrow Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Thursday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, May 20, Saturday – FARLEIGH WALLOP, STONEHENGE

Our tour begins with a visit to the private garden at Farleigh Wallop. This three-acre walled garden was redesigned in the 1980’s by Georgia Langton and has been described as “an exemplary modern garden in the classic tradition.” We’ll stroll through an ornamental kitchen garden, a formal rose garden, and a wild rose and sculpture garden. We’ll also want to wander through the greenhouse filled with exotic treasures and check out the mirror pool at the end of a serpentine yew-lined walk. By the time we leave, perhaps we’ll know what the English mean by “modern” and “classic” and this knowledge may spark insights into other gardens on our tour.

Next we’ll visit Stonehenge which dates back to prehistoric times and has fascinated archaeologists and the general public for centuries. Who built the circles of monumental, upright, standing stones — some sarsens and some bluestones — and for what purpose? The builders left no known written records, so speculation abounds. In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth theorized that Stonehenge was a memorial to Britons killed by Saxons – and that the wizard Merlin had the stones brought from Giant’s’ Ring, a stone circle with magic powers located in Ireland. Others thought Stonehenge was erected as a Druid temple, and still others believe it was an astronomical computer used to predict eclipses. And then there’s the contingent who are certain it’s a landing pad for ancient space aliens. We’ll end the day with a fascinating discussion, for sure. Dr. Spock, anyone?

 

Day 3, May 21, Sunday – COTHAY MANOR, PLAZ METAXU

Today, we’ll start at Cothay Manor which is thought by many to be the finest example of a small, moated, medieval manor house in England. The gardens surrounding the house were originally laid out in the early 20th century but were completely remade into a series of rooms by the current owners Alistair and Mary-Anne Robb in the 1990’s. The result is a magical, plantsman’s paradise.

Our next visit is to Plaz Metaxu, a garden created by its owner, Alasdair Forbes. It is among the most unconventional gardens you’ll ever see. Situated in a small valley, the garden has been described as a meditation on the valley as a landform expressed through references to Greek myths. It’s intellectual, provocative, symbolic, and one of the most unusual modern gardens in the UK or anywhere else. Garden critic Tim Richardson has written, “Plaz Metaxu is one of the very few gardens that is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the late Ian Hamilton’s Little Sparta in Scotland.” High praise, indeed!

 

Day 4, May 22, Monday – IFORD MANOR, SPECIAL PLANTS NURSERY, VEDDW

Lovely Iford Manor, an Italianate garden in the beautiful countryside near Bath, is our first garden today. It was created in the early 20th century by the architect Harold Peto who had made Iford Manor his home. Peto recognized that the surrounding steep valley made an ideal backdrop for the kind of garden architecture he liked. Using the topography, he created ascending terraces with every level having its own mood enhanced by handsome statues and ornaments collected on his travels to Italy. We’ll make sure to pause on each level to take in the bucolic views over the countryside.

Veddw House Garden is a must-see Welsh garden designed by a husband and wife team, writer Anne Wareham and photographer Charles Hawes. Using traditional hedging to create structure, Wareham and Hawes have infused these intimate spaces with modern ideas and plantings. A visual highlight is the Pool Garden with its dark water reflecting the undulating hedges rising up the slope. A definite photo op you won’t want to miss.

 

Day 5, May 23, Tuesday – DAYLESFORD HOUSE, BROUGHTON GRANGE, PETTIFERS

Our visit to Daylesford House will give us a peek into a traditional well-run English estate. Known for being perfectly maintained and organic, the gardens have most recently been augmented by Rupert Golby, one of those rare designers who is little known in the gardening world (he has no website) but highly sought after as satisfied clients spread the word about his excellent designs. We’ll want to spend time in the walled garden, a true potager that Golby redesigned and which provides the produce for the estate’s products. Seeing the Secret Garden for tender exotics is a must, as well as the Anglo-Indian orangery and it’s companion sculpture, a line of full size woven elephants. There are also glasshouses, lakes, waterfalls, a scented walk, a pool garden, and a woodland. We’ll be sorry to leave such a gorgeous estate.

At Broughton Grange, we’ll explore a captivating design by Tom Stuart-Smith. Part of a larger 19th century garden, a major renovation in 2000 transformed a former paddock into an ambitious 6-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s 21st century design is a bold step away from typical English garden rooms. Elsewhere at Broughton Grange is a knot garden, a huge arboretum, a spring walk, a woodland, a stumpery, a bamboo grove, a rose garden…… and don’t forget to see the Mediterranean plantings!

We end our day at Pettifers, a stylish, townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little gardening experience, Price started in the early 1990s with a conventional, old fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today Pettifers is known for it’s innovative plant choices, remarkable plant pairings, and vivid color combinations, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials Movement but says she couldn’t have a garden without English prettiness. This is a garden that’s sure to please.

 

Day 6, May 24, Wednesday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

Starting in 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be a masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways that eventually lead to lawns and views to the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants, many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s noteworthy that Hidcote with its themed garden rooms changed how gardens were made in England and is still influencing garden makers today.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how 3 generations of women in one family have shaped the garden and made it into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920s by Heather Muir who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s, Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden by introducing a semicircular pool to the lower level, commissioning sculptural features, and opening Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, shapes the garden. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century.

 

Day 7, May 25, Thursday – OLYMPIC PARK, CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

This morning we’ll visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Our visit will focus on the gardens near the permanent sporting venues where plantings were based on native plant communities and arranged in a style similar to the naturalism of Dutch planting master Piet Oudolf. This innovative approach is now being emulated by gardeners and designers around the world.

Each year the Chelsea Flower Show attracts gardeners and designers from every corner of the world. Held in the middle of London at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the show consistently displays design excellence with its competitions for Best in Show, Best Fresh Garden and Best Artisan Garden. Listen to Andy Sturgeon, last year’s Best in Show winner, talk about his show garden in this short video. Not to be missed is the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best and newest in international horticulture. We’ll be tired but inspired when we return to our hotel.

 

Day 8, May 26, Friday – SISSINGHURST, GREAT DIXTER

We begin our last day together at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. These gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicolson. In the 1930s, he laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Suggest change to two sentences as: Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why thousands of garden lovers consider a pilgrimage to Sissinghurst an absolute must.

We end our tour at Great Dixter, perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Head gardener Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation that Lloyd started. Although the structure of this garden is early 20th century, the spirit of the plantings is most certainly contemporary. Under Garrett’s leadership, the garden is being developed and maintained to such a high level that you are unlikely find any other garden like it. Great Dixter is a visionary, exuberant, plant lover’s haven. Expect to see contemporary planting design at its best.

 

Day 9, May 27, Saturday – DEPART OR CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 7:30 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take the train or taxi on your own from hotel to the airport.

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

 

Tour Highlights

Enjoy the magic of northern lakeside and island gardens including Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello, Isola Bella and Isola Madre.

Meet Paolo Pejrone, student of Russell Page and currently Italy’s leading garden designer. With him, view his own garden ‘Bramafam’ and, by special appointment, the private Agnelli Gardens at Villar Perosa – one of Italy’s most splendid examples of garden design.

View Paolo Pejrone’s work during private visits to the estate of the Peyrani family and the beautiful Tenuta Banna.

See the work of Russell Page with an exclusive visit to the private gardens of Villa Silvio Pellico.

Visit intimate urban gardens in Florence and Fiesole including Villa di Maiano (featured in James Ivory’s film A Room with a View), the Giardini Corsini al Prato, and Cecil Pinsent’s ‘secret’ parterre garden of Villa Capponi.

Ramble through the historical centres of lovely old cities like Turin, Lucca, Siena, Florence and Perugia.

Gaze out onto the Mediterranean from the spectacularly situated Abbey of La Cervara.
Encounter masterpieces of Italian art in major churches and museums.

Enjoy delicious meals in the verdant surrounds of a number of private Tuscan and Umbrian villas including Villa di Geggiano and Villa Aureli; and at Ristorante Sibilla in Tivoli.

Explore the great Renaissance garden designs at Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato; and Villa Gamberaia at Settignano, described by Edith Wharton in her book Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904).

Marvel at the meeting of culture and nature during an exclusive visit to Paolo Portoghesi’s stunning gardens at Calcata.

Appreciate historic masterpieces like Villa Lante, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, and the Giardini di Ninfa.

Take a private tour of the gardens of Palazzo Patrizi at Castel Giuliano and delight in its variety of roses.

Visit the gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia with designs by Dan Pearson and Stuart Barfoot, considered one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens.

Experience Russell Page’s San Liberato, which will open exclusively for our group. Enjoy a farewell lunch in this magical setting overlooking Lake Bracciano and take a private tour of the gardens with the Curator.

 

23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy

Overnight Moltrasio (2 nights) • Stresa (2 nights) • Turin (4 nights) • Lucca (2 nights) • Florence (4 nights) • Siena (2 nights) • Perugia (1 night) • Viterbo (1 night) • Rome (4 nights)

Moltrasio – 2 nights

Day 1: Monday 30 April, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio

Introductory Meeting
Light (2-course) Dinner, La Cascata restaurant
On arrival at Milan’s Malpensa airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge; please contact ASA for further information.

Grand Hotel Imperiale is situated on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. We meet in the evening for an introductory meeting, followed by a light dinner at the hotel’s La Cascata restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

Day 2: Tuesday 1 May, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
Welcome Dinner, Imperialino restaurant
This morning we cruise across Lake Como to 18th-century Villa Carlotta, a garden with a huge botanical collection and a traditional Italian formal design, unlike most lake gardens that were heavily influenced by the more fluid layouts of English landscape gardening; it thus has a wide variety of architectural features – parterres, stairways, ponds, fountains, etc. In April and May Villa Carlotta offers a sea of multi-coloured azaleas shaped in high, rounded cushions alongside the garden paths.

During the lunch break there will be some time at leisure to visit Villa Melzi (optional).

Afternoon visit to Villa del Balbianello, an exquisite villa set in woods of pine, soaring cypress and oak with pollarded plane trees and manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Facing the promontory of Serbelloni, from the Lavedo point it boasts unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake. The first villa was built in 1540, but was later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding. Cardinal Durini erected a casino with a loggia in 1790, open to the sun and breezes; today it is trellised with Ficus pumila (creeping fig) and flanked by a library and music room.

This evening we meet in the hotel’s Imperialino restaurant for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Moltrasio) BD

Stresa – 2 nights

Day 3: Wednesday 2 May, Moltrasio – Bisuschio – Casalzuigno – Stresa

Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, Bisuschio
Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, Casalzuigno
Depart Moltrasio to visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, located on a steep hillside in the village of Bisuschio. Its garden looks out upon sweeping views, with a glimpse of Lake Lugano. Founded in the 15th century, the villa took its present form in the 16th century. The Cicogna family, who inherited it in 1580, still owns this lovely villa. The formal gardens rise on 7 narrow terraces and adjacent to them is a small sunken garden with formal box parterres and patches of lawn. We tour the villa residence, which houses a fine antique collection. Above the villa is a great terrace with Renaissance grottoes offering shade in summer, and a magnificent water stair. Flowing water was an essential feature of Italian formal gardens, offering a cooling spectacle and a lively, burbling sound.

After lunchtime at leisure we visit Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, which is unusual for Lombardy because its measured stately design is laid out upon a steep slope. Parterres, terraces with stone balustrades and grand stairways flanking fountains rise to an octagonal clearing, or theatre, surrounded by a thick ring of cypresses and woods. The perspective rises further to the villa, set to one side in order not to interrupt the silvan view. We continue to our hotel located on the shores of Lake Maggiore. (Overnight Stresa) B

Day 4: Thursday 3 May, Stresa – Lake Maggiore – Lake Orta – Stresa

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore
Orta San Giulio & Isola San Giulio, Lake Orta
We take the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Count Carlo Borromeo’s Isola Bella (1632), one of Italy’s most extraordinary Baroque gardens. Located on an island off Stresa, it appears to float like a palatial barge, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow from the reflecting waters. It shares the island with the Borromeo palace and its adjacent village.

We also visit Isola Madre, with semi-tropical plantings amongst which white peacocks roam. In 1845, Flaubert wrote, “Isola Madre is the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world”. It has a fine swamp cypress, citrus fruit trees, crape myrtle, hibiscus, leptospermum and acacias. The landscape woods have groves of native trees – aromatic cypress, bay and pine – interplanted with camphor, pepper trees and styrax. Its pathways are lined with magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

This afternoon we visit Lake Orta, to the west of Lake Maggiore, a tiny jewel surrounded by hills and mountains acting as a great natural theatre enveloping local towns and villages. The most beautiful of these is Orta San Giulio, whose town hall has a frescoed façade. Its narrow streets are lined with Rococo houses. We take a ferry to Isola San Giulio to visit the 12th-century Romanesque church whose pulpit is one of the outstanding masterpieces of medieval sculpture in northern Italy. (Overnight Stresa) B

Turin – 4 nights

Day 5: Friday 4 May, Stresa – Poirino – Turin

Tenuta Banna, Poirino (exclusive private visit)
This morning we make our way south from Stresa to Tenuta Banna. This private estate is owned by Marchese and Marchesa Spinola and is home to the Spinola-Banna Foundation for Art. In the 1990s Paolo Pejrone, leading Italian landscape architect and host of our program on Day 8 of our tour, designed a modern garden around the property’s large farmhouse and adjoining church and castle. He created a series of enclosed gardens ‘organised like a Persian carpet’; they include a secret garden planted with wisterias and peonies, a potager, and a rose garden with an abundance of colour and variety. Following lunch, we will drive to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy. (Overnight Turin) BL

Day 6: Saturday 5 May, Turin

Orientation walk of Turin, including guided visits to the Palazzo Reale, Cathedral & Palazzo Madama
Afternoon and evening at leisure
This morning we will enjoy a guided orientation walk of the city’s centre with a local guide. Our walk will include a visit to Turin’s Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), seat of the House of Savoy (1646-1859) and of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy (1860-1865). This grand palace, a major essay in Italian Baroque and Rococo, has sumptuous decorations and furniture from all periods. We will also visit Turin’s Palazzo Madama, a medieval castle behind a Baroque façade, with a major art collection that includes Antonello da Messina’s Portrait of a Man. This afternoon and evening we will be at leisure to explore Turin in greater depth. (Overnight Turin) B

Day 7: Sunday 6 May, Turin – Moncalieri – Turin

Villa Silvio Pellico – including lunch (exclusive private visit)
Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Today we visit Villa Silvio Pellico, a fine Neo-Gothic mansion (1870) with a Russell Page garden, arguably one of his three masterpieces. Page had gained an understanding of the Italian and French formal tradition of gardening from Edith Wharton and Geoffrey Jellicoe. On an ill-kempt hillside in the 1950s he created a fine terraced garden on two axes divided by pools; Page was particularly sensitive to the use of water in gardens. Symmetrical hedges create a series of ‘rooms’ of different designs, using diverse vegetation and ground patterns, as well as sculptures. The present owner, Raimonda Lanza di Trabia, daughter of the last Prince of Trabia (Sicily), and her husband Emanuele Gamna, will host us for lunch.

We return to Turin to visit the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Giovanni Agnelli was in 1899 one of the original founders of what became the Fiat motor company. The Agnelli family, ‘the Kennedys of Italy’, are also known for their ownership of Ferrari since 1969 and as majority owners of the Juventus Football Club. Donna Marella Agnelli, of the Italian noble house of Caracciolo, is a renowned sytle icon, garden designer, author and photographer, as well as art collector. The Pinacoteca, opened in 2002, displays 25 masterpieces from Giovanni and Marella Agnelli’s private art collection. We shall visit the gallery known as the ‘Scrigno’, or ‘treasure chest’, which houses twenty-three paintings and two sculptures, including works by Matisse, Balla, Severini, Modigliani, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Picasso, Renoir, Manet and Canova. The space itself is a work of art, having been designed by Renzo Piano inside Turin’s historic industrial complex of Lingotto. Our specially-arranged tour allows us a visit to the former Fiat test track on the building’s roof. Our viewing of the Agnellis’ remarkable collection is not only an experience in itself, but also a fitting prelude to tomorrow’s visit to the famous gardens of the Agnelli property at Villar Perosa. (Overnight Turin) BL

Day 8: Monday 7 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin

Program hosted by garden designer Paolo Pejrone (Gardens of Casa Agnelli & Bramafam)
Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2018)
Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s private experimental garden (exclusive private visit)
Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2018)
We are particularly privileged today to accompany Paolo Pejrone on two very special garden visits. This morning we visit the exquisite gardens of Casa Agnelli, set on a private estate which has been home to the Agnelli family since the early 1800s. In 1955 Marella Agnelli commissioned Russell Page and together they transformed the gardens. The swimming pool area was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti and other parts of the garden were developed by Paolo Pejrone. The grounds offer a range of styles: Italianate formal gardens; a water garden with interconnecting lakes; an English-style woodland walk, a romantic garden, sculpture gardens and more. We are particularly fortunate to have been granted a visit to this most extraordinary of gardens.

Paolo Pejrone will then accompany us on a visit to his own, very private garden, designed not so much for its aesthetics, but rather as a laboratory in which the master is constantly experimenting with new plantings. Set on a steep escarpment near a ruined medieval rampart from which ‘Bramafam’ takes its name, the garden and its owner’s discussions with you will give precious, unique insights into his ideas and practice.

We continue to Moncalieri to visit the private garden designed by Paolo Pejrone for Silvana and Alberto Peyrani. Pejrone surrounded their villa with extensive new gardens, including decorative orchards and a fine potager. We are very grateful that the Peyranis have graciously consented to allow us to explore their private domain. (Overnight Turin) B

Lucca – 2 nights

Day 9: Tuesday 8 May, Turin – Santa Margherita Ligure – La Cervara – Lucca

Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (La Cervara)
Group Dinner at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant
We drive southeast along the grand Ligurian coast to the magnificent Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino. Located in a strategic position atop a rocky headland that overlooks the Tigullio Gulf, it was founded as a Benedictine Monastery (1361). The monks’ former vegetable garden was transformed into what is now the only monumental Italian formal garden in the Liguria region. It extends over two levels connected by arbors and steps. On the lower level, hedges of boxwood (buxus sempervirens) are trimmed into ornate stepped cones, an important example of topiary art. The hedges surround a 17th-century marble fountain in the form of a putto, whose underlying basin is tinged with pink water lilies in summer.

After visiting this grand garden, we continue to Lucca and check in to the Hotel Ilaria, which occupies the restored stables of the Villa Bottini inside the city walls. In the evening we dine together at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant located near the hotel. (Overnight Lucca) BD

Day 10: Wednesday 9 May, Lucca

Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
Palazzo Pfanner
Afternoon at leisure
Italian Opera Evening at the Church of San Giovanni
Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of St. Martin, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb. The Church of San Michele has a spectacular façade made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. It was built in the ancient forum of the city; Lucca’s medieval street plan follows the original Roman plan. The oval Piazza del Mercato’s medieval palaces were built into the structure of Lucca’s Roman amphitheatre. San Frediano, meanwhile, has a distinctive façade mosaic and a unique baptismal font that was once a medieval fountain.

After lunch we visit the privately owned 17th-century Palazzo Pfanner, where parts of Portrait of a Lady were filmed (1996). The palace’s owner, Dario Pfanner, will introduce his palace and its Baroque garden, a fine example of an urban garden that includes various statues of Olympian deities and a fountain pond. Its elegant lemon house (limonaia) inflects a space defined by boxwood and laurel hedges. Bushes of peonies and hortensias, roses and potted geraniums gain shade from yews, pines, magnolias and an old camellia. Inside, the palace’s piano nobile (main reception room) features Pietro Paolo Scorsini frescoes (c.1720).

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to walk a section of Lucca’s 17th-century city walls, the best preserved in Italy. The Lucchesi planted trees atop these walls to form a promenade enlivened by small gardens and lawns. We attend an evening concert with a selection from Italian operas, including some by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), a native of Lucca, in the Church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B

Florence – 4 nights

Day 11: Thursday 10 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence

Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
Lunch at a Tuscan osteria
Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve
During the Renaissance, the wealthy merchant families of Tuscany built grand villas on the plains of Lucca. We visit 17th-century Villa Torrigiani, named after the camellia that was introduced to the gardens in the early 18th century. The garden’s Baroque layout, attributed to André Le Nôtre, features symmetrical reflecting pools in front of the villa. Most outstanding is the secret garden (Giardino di Flora), with regular beds, topiary and pools. The garden features 19th-century trees, magnificent magnolias, cypresses and umbrella pines. The 18th-century avenue of cypresses leading to the villa from the village of Borgonuova reflects the past grandeur of estates in this region.

We eat a traditional Tuscan lunch at nearby osteria before continuing our journey eastward toward Castello il Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve.

“Set on a hilltop in the Apennines north of Florence, a few kilometres west of San Piero a Sieve, Castello del Trebbio is one of the oldest villas built by the Medici, who came from the Mugello and chose their native region for their first villas. The head of the Medici clan, Giovanni di Bicci, owned the property from the late 14th century, and upon his death in 1428, the villa was inherited by Cosimo the Elder, who commissioned Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild the original castle.

Set in an excellent strategic position, dominating the Sieve Valley below and near a cross roads (Trebbio derives from the Latin trivium), the castle was surrounded by woods and a huge estate which bordered on the Cafaggiolo property. Although Vasari suggests otherwise, Trebbio was the first of the Mugello castles to be rebuilt by Michelozzo. Immediately after 1428, the building work began, incorporating the existing watchtower into a solid, compact defensive construction surrounded by a moat and drawbridge. The defensive role was necessary on account of the castle’s position, however novel features were also introduced to satisfy the requirements of the patron.

The walled garden set on two terraces to the right is noteworthy as it was among the first of its kind to be designed for a villa. The upper terrace of the well-preserved garden, a veritable hortus conclusus, is decorated with a long pergola made up of a double row of columns and sandstone capitals in various styles (ionic and decorated with foliage motifs), which support a thick covering of vines. As can be seen in the lunette painted by Giusto Utens between 1599 and 1602, there was a second pergola (now lost) on the lower terrace, which retains the original layout of a vegetable garden with a pond, as well as planting designed by Michelozzo to satisfy not only defensive requirements, but also Cosimo’s spiritual desire for a contemplative life.” (The Medici Villas: Complete Guide by Isabella Lapi Ballerini & Mario Scalini).

In the late afternoon we arrive at our hotel in central Florence. (Overnight Florence) BL

Day 12: Friday 11 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence

Villa Medici in Fiesole
Guided Tour, Villa di Maiano & Gardens
Parco Romantico & Botanical Garden
Early Dinner at Fattoria di Maiano
Unlike the grand villa gardens we have visited near Lucca, Florence and its vicinity have a number of small intimate urban gardens that we visit today. Many of these offer glimpses of the city, a counterpart to the spectacular views afforded by their grander Florentine counterparts. Such views offer a reminder that Florentine villas were seen as retreats from this metropolitan powerhouse. We make an early morning visit to elegant Fiesole in the hills overlooking Florence where Boccaccio set his Decameron, model for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Boccaccio’s protagonists told stories to while away their days in a Fiesole villa in which they had escaped from the plague ravaging Florence.

We first visit the garden of 16th-century Villa Medici in Fiesole. The garden, showing Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. We shall then transfer by coach to nearby Villa di Maiano.

The Villa di Maiano can count Queen Victoria among its guests; it has also provided the set for numerous films, including James Ivory’s A Room with a View and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini. Among the villa’s past owners are members of the famous Sforza and Pazzi families. However, it was wealthy Englishman Sir John Temple Leader who, after acquiring the property in 1844, renovated the villa, its gardens and the surrounding structures. Architect Felice Francolini, while in some respects keeping with the villa’s 15th-century appearance, made some radical changes, such as the addition of a Gothic-style keep with a loggia. The lower terrace’s large garden is bordered by boxwood hedges and the north side below the upper terrace has a limonaia. We take a guided tour of the Villa and Gardens, followed by a stroll in the Tuscan countryside on a guided visit to the adjacent Parco Romantico and Botanical Garden. We finish the visit with an early dinner together at the Fattoria di Maiano’s restaurant. (Overnight Florence) BD

Day 13: Saturday 12 May, Florence

Villa Capponi
Giardino Corsini al Prato
Afternoon at leisure
We begin our day with a visit to the 16th-century Villa Capponi and its secret gardens, where the late Queen Mother spent holidays as a girl. Cecil Pinsent’s influence is evident; he added a library and created a hidden swimming pool area.

Our next visit is to the Giardino Corsini al Prato, a Florentine urban garden that illustrates the deep connection between nature, science and beauty in the Renaissance sensibility. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, conceived the garden. Unable to finish his residence, he was forced to sell the property to Filippo di Lorenzo Corsini, who completed the Italian garden that remains unchanged to this day. Completely concealed from the street by the façade of the palazzo, this urban garden reveals pink and red rock roses, peonies, cherry trees and lavender along with elegant lemon urns and a central axis of solemn marble statues. After our tour of the gardens, Princess Giorgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments.

The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

Day 14: Sunday 13 May, Florence

San Lorenzo: Medici Chapel
Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Afternoon at leisure
On a visit to San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel we explore Michelangelo’s Medici tombs, masterpieces of 16th-century sculpture showing a transition from classical High Renaissance values to a Mannerist mode.

Near San Lorenzo we visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the small Magi Chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes representations of Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape, which forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive. We have another afternoon at leisure to enjoy Florence. (Overnight Florence) B

Siena – 2 nights

Day 15: Monday 14 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)
Optional evening excursion to Siena’s town centre
We drive to Siena via two famous Tuscan villas. At Settignano we visit the Villa Gamberaia, with arguably the most famous of Florentine villa gardens. The Capponi family initiated the present garden in 1718. In 1896, Princess Ghika of Serbia created the main water parterres in front of the villa. The Marchi family has recently restored the garden. It features magnificent topiary, two fine grottoes, and wonderful old cypresses and pines. By special arrangement, we also tour the interiors of the villa which combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa.

This afternoon we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces the garden. Lunch features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, various locally cured meats and Pecorino cheeses, followed by plum jam tart, all washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. For those wishing to dine in Siena, there will be an optional evening excursion into the city centre. (Overnight Siena) BL

Day 16: Tuesday 15 May, Siena

Orientation tour of Siena, including Palazzo Pubblico, Cathedral & Museum
Afternoon at leisure
Siena is the quintessential medieval city. We explore Lorenzetti’s fascinating paintings of Good and Bad Government in the Civic Museum, located in the Palazzo Pubblico, and Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà, in the Cathedral Museum. We examine Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit in Siena Cathedral. We also visit medieval quarters (contrade) dominated by palaces still occupied by the families who built them. The contrade compete in the famous palio horse race twice a year. Protected by the Virgin Mary, Siena is a city of Trinitarian symbolism. Built on three ridges, it has three major sectors (terzi) that each elected three members of the city council, and interpreted its very architectural fabric in such symbolic terms. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Siena’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Siena) B

Perugia – 1 night

Day 17: Wednesday 16 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia

Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment)
Private gardens of Villa Aureli, Castel del Piano Umbro
Orientation Walk, Perugia, including Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore
We drive south to the Renaissance Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Origo’s two autobiographies, Images and Shadows and War in Val d’Orcia, vividly describe life on the estate in the mid-20th century. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting. Now a centre for cultural and artistic activities, it hosts the distinguished Incontri chamber annual summer music festival in the Castelluccio, a medieval castle on the property.

Count Sperello di Serego Alighieri, a descendent of Dante, will host us for a light lunch and show us his lovely Villa Aureli. Shaded by lime trees and oaks and decorated with many late antique vases containing citrus trees, the villa dates to the middle of the 18th century, when a Perugian nobleman and artist, Count Sperello Aureli, transformed a 16th-century tower into his country residence. Of particular note is the orangery, whose high roof is reminiscent of the hull of an upturned ship.

We continue to Perugia for a gentle orientation walk to include its Cathedral and Fontana Maggiore. We spend two nights in the luxury Hotel Brufani Palace, located on a hilltop within Perugia’s historic core. (Overnight Perugia) BL

Viterbo – 1 night

Day 18: Thursday 17 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo

Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia
Villa Lante, Bagnaia
We begin by viewing masterpieces, including works by Perugino, in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria before departing Perugia to visit the great Villa Lante and its garden.Villa Lante is the consummate example of Italian Mannerist garden design. Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s exemplary essay in fine scale and proportion centres on a fountain and water parterre. Vignola was influenced by the Vatican gardens, the Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s marine theatre and the Boboli Gardens (Florence). Its theme, humanity’s descent from the Golden Age is based upon Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Water flows from the Grotto of the Deluge at the summit down a stepped cascade and through a channel at the centre of a vast stone table used for banquets, inspired by Pliny’s description of an imperial garden table using water to cool wine and fruit. In the late afternoon, we drive a short distance to our hotel located in the countryside outside Viterbo. (Overnight Viterbo) BD

Rome – 4 nights

Day 19: Friday 18 May, Viterbo – Vignanello – Calcata – Rome

Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello
Group Lunch at Cantina degli Artisti
Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi, Calcata
Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. Our visit will be complemented by lunch in the wine-cellars near the palazzo, which specialise in the cuisine of Vignanello.

This afternoon we visit the gardens of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The gardens reinterpret Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuse geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 20: Saturday 19 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome

Giardini di Ninfa
Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia
We depart this morning at approximately 8.00am for the Giardini di Ninfa. The magnificent gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, are some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Today, their gates will open for a special private visit for our group. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate its ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Foundation Caetani that maintains the wonderfully atmospheric gardens. Today plants weave themselves over ruined towers, ancient archways and churches, while ducks and swans glide on the castle’s moat. Highlights include a walled garden, small orchard and diverse plantings in which roses, banana trees and maples thrive together in this unique and beautiful landscape.

Nearby, we enjoy a picnic lunch and visit the dreamy gardens of Torrecchia, one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens. Nestled against the crumbling ruins of a medieval village and castle, perched on a volcanic hilltop just south of Rome, they command spectacular views of the unspoilt 1500-acre estate. Owned by Carlo Caracciolo (the late owner of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso) and Violante Visconti, the gardens were originally designed by Lauro Marchetti, the current curator of the Giardini di Ninfa, and further developed by the English garden designer Dan Pearson and later by Stuart Barfoot. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 21: Sunday 20 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome

Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Group Lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, Tivoli
Time at leisure in Rome
Set among the hanging cliffs of the Valle Gaudente, the Villa d’Este and its surrounding gardens and waterworks has undergone a series of innovative extensions in layout and decoration, including those of Bernini in the late 17th century. This UNESCO world heritage site boasts an impressive concentration of nymphaea, grottoes and fountains, including the famous hydraulic Organ Fountain that still operates. The Villa d’Este’s use of water and music became the definitive model for Mannerist and Baroque gardens across Europe.

We remain in the town of Tivoli for lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, a famous restaurant specialising in regional dishes. Marble plaques on the walls list the members of royalty and other famous people who have come here to dine for more than 250 years. After lunch, we return to Rome to enjoy time at leisure. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 22: Monday 21 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Bracciano – Rome

Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2018)
San Liberato Giardini Botanici (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2018)
Farewell Lunch at San Liberato, overlooking Lake Bracciano (to be confirmed in 2018)
The estate of Castel Giuliano, surrounded by a beautiful century-old park, occupies the site of an Etruscan and Roman settlement at the foot of the Tolfa Mountains. The Patrizi family has owned it since 1546 and its present owners have restored its ancient buildings and park to their former splendour. On its wide, gently sloping turf terraces, pines, cluster oaks, and century-old Lebanon cedars tower above sweet-scented herbs and flower-laden bushes, contrasting unruly nature with human interventions. The park has numerous Etruscan tombs and ruins of Roman walls covered in ferns and lichen. Truly unique, it is one of Italy’s most important private rose gardens; in May it hosts the famous ‘Festival of the Roses’. Climbing roses soften the austere lines of the ancient castle walls, which are surrounded by combinations of shrubbery and foxglove, myrtle and pale blue ceanothus.

We finish our tour with a very special visit to the gardens of San Liberato, designed by the famous English landscape designer Russell Page. Page assisted the Count and Countess Sanminiatelli to create San Liberato between 1965 and 1975. With panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside, chestnut woods, a formal rose garden, informal flower beds like small islands dotting the green lawns, and borders of silver and grey plants, the garden also has a modern version of the ‘Orto dei Semplici’, a late medieval physic garden of monastery pharmacies – situated next to the extraordinary church of San Liberato (c.1000 AD). Page himself wrote of San Liberato in 1979:

“No garden is more magic than this one. There is a great atmosphere of tranquillity, the right balance between trees and woods, the lake, the hills, the sky, the simple gardens and the sloping fields, where even the details and most cultivated areas are made of silent harmony”. If I consider this garden particularly beautiful is because we, the proprietors and I, have always paid great attention at the nature of the place when placing the plants. We have created paths, green field and flowerbeds to frame and underline, to enhance and polarise the visible presence incarnated in the features of the lake.”

Today, the gardens open exclusively for our group. We shall toast the end of our tour with a farewell meal in the Giardino degli Ulivi (Olive Garden), overlooking Lake Bracciano, and take a private tour of the gardens with the Curator, Carlo Palermo. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 23: Tuesday 22 May, Depart Rome

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Rome. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Gardens of the Atlantic – Portugal and Madeira

Gardens of the Atlantic – a garden tour Portugal and Madeira with Julie Kinney

 

After typically cool and wet winters, springtime in Portugal arrives with a burst of colour and greenery. On this tour, prepare for a sensory feast as you explore the grand historic gardens and palaces of the Portuguese mainland cities of Lisbon and Porto, and the verdant sub-tropical Atlantic island of Madeira. Gain exclusive access to some of the most charming and lush private gardens and estates in all of Europe, and enjoy the history, culture and cuisine of this captivating country in an unspoiled corner of Western Europe.

 

AT A GLANCE…

Marvel at the grand palaces of Lisbon and atmospheric Sintra and admire the sweeping Villar d’Allen, Aveleda and Palheiro estates (‘quintas’)
Enjoy exclusive, locally-guided visits to a number of private gardens and estates
Leisurely explore the charming cities of Lisbon, Porto and Funchal
Attend Madeira’s famous annual flower festival and discover the island’s quaint mountain villages and farmers’ markets
Savour local Portuguese wines and unique regional cuisines

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 24 APRIL 2017 / DEPARTURE FROM AUSTRALIA
Suggested departure from Australia on Qantas/Emirates flights (via Dubai) to Lisbon. Renaissance Tours can assist you with these travel arrangements.

 

TUESDAY 25 APR / ARRIVE LISBON
Early afternoon arrival in Lisbon and check-in to your hotel.

This evening, join Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

 

WED 26 APR / LISBON
Begin your exploration of Lisbon with an orientation walking tour of the Baixa area, the commercial heart of Lisbon. Totally rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755 the Baixa is one of Europe’s first examples of town planning. The area contains magnificent plazas, connected by wide avenues lined with grand 18th-century buildings.

Visit the Alfama neighbourhood, Lisbon’s oldest district and Bairro Alto, the city’s bohemian haunt of artists and writers.

Travel to Belém, at the mouth of the Tagus River. After lunch, visit the Torre de Belém (1515-21), the ornately decorated fortress, from which many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of discovery.

Finish with a visit to the National Coach Museum which has one of the world’s finest collections of historical carriages. (BLD)

 

THU 27 APR / LISBON
This morning, enjoy a guided tour of the celebrated Calouste Gulbenkian Museum with its impressive art collections spanning Egyptian and classical antiquities, European old and modern masters, as well as Oriental and Islamic treasures.

Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

FRI 28 APR / LISBON
Enjoy a full-day tour to Sintra, the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family for several centuries due to its temperate ‘hill-town’ climate and ambience. In addition to its royal residents, Sintra has attracted the aristocracy and the wealthy from Portugal and abroad who in the 19th century built grand mansions, villas and gardens.

Begin with a visit to Monserrate, built in 1858 in the eclectic Romantic-Orientalist spirit. The English-inspired park gardens contain waterfalls and plants ranging from roses and conifers to tropical tree ferns, and at least 24 species of palms.

Continue to Quinta da Regaleira, built in the early 1900s. Regaleira consists of a palace and chapel in a mixture of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architectural styles, surrounded by a luxurious park featuring lakes, tunnels, grottoes, wells, and fountains.

In the afternoon, visit Quinta dos Lagos a private home and garden, rarely opened to visitors. The estate boasts a woodland garden, which includes traditional Portuguese features such as azulejos (painted tiles), a glasshouse fernery, terraces and the lakes for which it is named. (subject to confirmation) (BL)

 

SAT 29 APR / LISBON
Today, visit two palaces and their gardens in the environs of Lisbon.

Begin with a visit to the privately owned Palacio Fronteira. Built in 1640, it is still one of the most beautiful residences in Lisbon, containing splendid rooms with 17th and 18th century decorative tiles, frescoed panels and oil paintings. However, it is most famous for its formal gardens with some of the country’s finest tiles, depicting hunting, battles and religious scenes.

Continue to the National Palace of Queluz for lunch followed by a tour of the grounds. Built as a royal palace in the 1750s, it is one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe and is often referred to as the ‘Versailles of Portugal’. The gardens feature a large topiary parterre, canals, a grotto and cascade, formal terraces, statuary, fountains and avenues of magnolias and mulberry trees.
(BL)

 

SUN 30 APR / LISBON – PORTO
Depart Lisbon for a full day’s drive to Porto.

En route visit Quinta Santo Antonio, a private 17th century country estate, set on 22 hectares with a variety of garden rooms, woodlands, olive orchards and an olive oil factory. Enjoy a guided tour of the estate and museum by the owner followed by lunch.

Late afternoon arrival in Porto. Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

MON 01 MAY / PORTO (MAY DAY)
Located on a magnificent site near the mouth of the Douro River. Porto is an ancient port city steeped in history and tradition.

Begin with a walking tour of the historic centre, a feature of which is the buildings whose interiors and exteriors are magnificently decorated in tiles. Visit the São Bento station, whose atrium consists of around 20,000 tiles alluding to the history of transport and of Portugal.

In the afternoon visit Quinta de Villar d’Allen, one of the few surviving leisure manors that surrounded the city of Porto in the 18th and 19th centuries. Enjoy a guided tour by the owner, followed by afternoon tea in the gardens. (B a/t)

 

TUE 02 MAY / PORTO
Drive out of Porto to the Quinta da Aleveda wine estate. The gardens of Aveleda are a fine example of the romantic garden created in Portugal at the end of the 19th century and feature a woodland of oak trees sheltering large rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, eucalyptus and sequoias, a lake, numerous pavilions and fountains and wonderful vistas across the 300-year old wine estate.

Enjoy lunch followed by a tasting of the estate’s much-prized wines. Return to Porto in the mid-afternoon. (BL)

 

WED 03 MAY / PORTO – FUNCHAL (MADEIRA)
Transfer to Porto airport for a flight to Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira.

On arrival in Funchal, transfer to your hotel located at the top of sea cliff providing superb views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

THU 04 MAY / FUNCHAL
Begin with a cable car ride up into the hills to Monte Palace Gardens, renowned for its exotic plant collection from all over the world. One of the highlights is the large collection of tile panels placed along the walkways.

In the afternoon continue to the gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, also known as the Blandy’s garden. The gardens boast magnificent trees, sunken topiary gardens and exotic flower borders.

Dinner tonight at the hotel. (BD)

 

FRI 05 MAY / FUNCHAL
Today, travel to the north of the island, stopping at Pico do Ariero, the third highest summit on the island with commanding views over the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Continue to Ribeiro Frio and enjoy a walk following the levada’s (mini canals) to ‘Balcoes’ (1 hour return walk).

Conclude with a visit to the Boa Vista orchid garden and nursery. This family-run garden is dedicated to the preservation of many species of plants and flowers, some which are close to extinction. (BL)

 

SAT 06 MAY / FUNCHAL
This morning, begin with an early visit to the ‘Mercado dos Lavradores’ the city’s lively Saturday morning farmers market. Enjoy the celebrations, as the streets of Funchal make way for the morning Children’s Parade, made up of hundreds of children with colourful allegorical floats covered with natural flowers.

Later, enjoy old-world charm with afternoon tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace, followed by a guided tour of its renowned sub-tropical gardens.
(B a/t)

 

SUN 07 MAY / FUNCHAL
Today, attend the colourful annual Madeira Flower Festival. The splendid parade with floats adorned with blooms fill the streets with music, colour and soft floral aromas.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner. (BD)

 

MON 08 MAY / DEPART FUNCHAL
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. If you are returning to Australia today, we recommend you fly with TAP airlines to Lisbon, connecting with Emirates/Qantas flights via Dubai. Arrival in Australia on Tuesday 09 May or Wednesday 10 May (depending on connecting flights). Renaissance Tours can assist you with all tour travel arrangements. (B)

 

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise – Scotland, Ireland, Wales & England

 

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrive Edinburgh and Embark Ship
On arrival in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the port of Leith. Board the MS Hebridean Sky after 4.00pm, your home for the next 10 nights. After settling in to your suite, enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Ten Nights: the MS Hebridean Sky (D)

Day 2. Aberdeen and Crathes Castle
Cruising along Scotland’s east coast, over the waters of the North Sea, today you’ll arrive at Aberdeen. Disembark and travel by coach through Royal Deeside, the picturesque valley of the River Dee. Absorb the lovely scenery as you head to Crathes Castle, a 16th-century castle that’s famous for its splendid landscaped grounds and gardens. Return to your ship for lunch before enjoying an afternoon visit to Pitmedden Garden. (BLD)

Day 3. Inverewe Gardens
Today your ship will drop anchor and you’ll enjoy a Zodiac ride to one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe. This botanical garden in the north-west Highlands, presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. After a tour, return by Zodiac to your ship and set off during lunch across The Minch and past the Isle of Skye. (BLD)

Day 4. Isle of Mull, Duart Castle, Isle of Iona, Freedom of Choice
After breakfast, set off to the Isle of Mull where you have two touring options. The first option is to visit a quaint private garden and the second option is Duart Castle, a 13th century clifftop castle set in the Millennium Wood and home to the MacLean clan. Later cruise to the Isle of Iona, a place of tranquility where more than 40 Scottish Kings, as well as Kings from Ireland, France and Norway are buried. (BLD)

Day 5. Isle of Gigha, Isle of Jura and Whiskey Distillery
This morning visit the beautiful Isle of Gigha. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, the landscape consists of heather-covered hills, deserted sandy beaches, clear green seas and just the one single-lane road, which meanders between quaint cottages and farms. Here, you’ll enjoy time to wander the gardens of Achamore House. Laid out by Sir James Horlick from 1944, this stunning garden boasts a wonderful collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and exotic plants. Returning to your ship for lunch, you’ll then cruise to the Isle of Jura, where you’ll enjoy the opportunity to visit the 200 year-old single malt Scotch whisky distillery. (BLD)

Day 6. Belfast and Mount Stewart, Freedom of Choice.
This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Belfast. This afternoon you can choose from two options, either the Titanic Exhibition or Mount Stewart, an 18th century house and garden in County Down. Planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, the gardens today are owned by The National Trust and are of significant international importance. Here, a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. Enjoy time to explore the gardens as well as the opulent house, which boasts a fascinating heritage and contains world-famous artefacts and artwork. (BLD)

Day 7. Portmeirion and Bodnant Garden, Freedom of Choice
This morning you’ll cruise into Holyhead to spend a full day exploring this spectacular part of Wales. Visit Portmeirion, an extraordinary Mediterranean-style village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Choose from a tour of the village and its gardens or the gardens of nearby Plas Brondanw, the family home of Williams-Ellis. Afterwards drive through the famous Snowdonia region to Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the United Kingdom. Spanning some 80 acres, the garden is set above the River Conwy and offers views to the Snowdonia range. Stroll through the Upper Garden, with its terraces and informal lawns, then continue into the Dell, the wild garden of the lower section formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. (BLD)

Day 8. Dublin, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Dublin Bay this morning and enter the mouth of the River Liffey. From here, you have a choice of three activities. First option is to travel by coach into the Wicklow Mountains and visit the gardens of Powerscourt, with its charming walled garden, striking terraces, fine statuary, varied trees, carefully designed walking paths and more. The second option is to travel to Mount Usher, a lovely romantic garden on the banks of the River Vartry. The third option is to visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon. Enjoy a lecture with BBC Presenter Monty Don and free time in Dublin. (BLD)

Day 9. Waterford, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Waterford on Ireland’s south eastern coast. From here, you will have the choice of two full day tours. The first option is to travel to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, and visit Kilkenny Castle and the design centre followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. The second option is to travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir and later return to County Waterford for a visit to Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland. (BD)

Day 10. Isles of Scilly and Tresco
Today will see you cruising amid the beautiful Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off Great Britain’s south western tip. Disembark on the island of Tresco, considered by many to be the most attractive of the islands. It is leased by the Dorrien-Smith family, who have created a wonderful 40 acre sub-tropical garden near their Tresco Abbey home. You’ll have the opportunity to go for a relaxing stroll along the traffic-free lanes and wander along one of the lovely white-sand beaches where the sea colour has more in common with the Aegean than the North Atlantic. Back on board for lunch and afternoon tea before a special Farewell Dinner. (BLD)

Day 11. Portsmouth and Arrive London
After breakfast this morning, you’ll disembark the MS Hebridean Sky in the English waterfront city of Portsmouth. From here, you’ll be transferred by coach to London, arriving at Heathrow Airport at around 12.30pm or the St James Court Hotel which is in Central London at around 1.30pm. (B)

 

Birdlife of the British Isles

While taking in the spectacular coastal scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by an ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home. This is the season when they are at their most prolific.

 

Small Ship (100 guest) Cruising with Botanica

As you uncover the delights of the British Isles, you’ll enjoy a truly intimate and unique small ship cruising experience with only 100 guests aboard the MS Hebridean Sky, with a décor like a grand English country hotel. Experience great hospitality from the moment you step on board and relax, knowing you only have to unpack once before unwinding in your spacious home-away-from-home. While taking in the spectacular coastal and other remote scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by expert onboard lecturers, including a dedicated ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home, as well as history and garden lectures.

 

Highlights

• Enjoy onboard lectures about the history of the British Isles and learn of the castles and gardens you are visiting
• Wander the grounds and landscaped gardens of 16th-century Crathes Castle
• Visit one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe, in the Scottish Highlands
• Experience the 13th century Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull
• Marvel at Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK
• Explore the Isle of Iona and the Isle of Gigha, plus Tobermory
• Visit Mount Stewart, a famous 18th-century house and garden in Northern Ireland
• Cruise around the Isles of Scilly and explore the picturesque Tresco Garden
• Visit Plas Brondanw and Portmeirion
• Try some whisky on the Isle of Jura
• Arrive at some gardens by Zodiac
• Learn about the local birdlife from the onboard ornithologist
• Explore Helen Dillon’s private garden in Dublin
• Explore Belfast and the Titanic museum

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director, Expedition Team and Botanical Guide
• Airport transfers on first and last day, as well as tipping and port taxes
• 28 Meals – 10 Breakfasts (B), 8 Lunches (L) and 10 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board
• Ten nights on the small ship, the MS Hebridean Sky, which holds
a maximum of 100 passengers
• Onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide, Historian and Ornithologist
• Freedom of Choice touring some days included in the price

 

Experiences: History, Gardens, Music, Birdlife

 

To book call 1300 305 202 in Australia or 0800 525 300 in New Zealand

Southport Flower Show

Southport Flower Show

 

Victoria Park, Southport, UK

 

Visit beautiful seaside Southport for the biggest independent garden show in the UK, now in its 88th year.

 

Southport Flower Show Display Gardens:

The Southport Flower Show has loads of inspirational display gardens (17 gardens in 2016), featuring from classical design to the latest trends, and designed by local landscape designers and landscape companies.

 

Southport Flower Show Plant Societies

Get all the best expert advice from a wide range of plant societies, including regulars like the Cottage Garden Society, British Fuchsia Society, Alpine Garden Society, National Dahlia Society and the Hardy Plant Society North West Group.

 

Southport Flower Show Garden Roadshow

Hear your favourite local garden experts giving advice and answering questions.

 

Southport Flower Show Amateur Growers

Every year, the Southport Flower Show hosts the biggest Amateur Grower’s Competition in the UK, with entries displayed in our 100m long competition marquee. Enter your best efforts in a wide range of categories, from floral design to baking and preserves. There’s 22 different classes of individual flower and plants to enter, with a central theme announced for each year.

 

Southport Flower Show Grand Floral Marquee

See the best of the North West’s growers showing all the latest varieties in stunning floral displays

 

Southport Flower Show Ladies Day

Each year there is also a special event Ladies Day on the Friday of the show, with an all-inclusive ticket for show entry, lunch and entertainment.

Gardens in Spanish Culture with Professor Tim Entwisle

Gardens in Spanish Culture with Professor Tim Entwisle

 

18 days in Spain

Overnight Seville (3 nights) • Córdoba (2 nights) • Ronda (1 night) • Granada (3 nights) • Toledo (2 nights) • Jarandilla de la Vera (2 nights) • Segovia (1 night) • Madrid (3 nights).

 

Tour Highlights

Travel with Professor Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Anneli Bojstad, author of Great Gardens of Spain.
Meet Spanish garden designer Eduardo Mencos, author of Hidden Gardens of Spain. Eduardo and his wife Anneli will show us their family country farm ‘La Lancha’, a landscaped working farm near Jarandilla de la Vera.
Study the work of award-winning landscape architect Fernando Caruncho at the private gardens of the Rosales, and the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ at Madrid’s Royal Botanical Gardens.
Visit a selection of private gardens hosted by their owners including: La Zarcilla, a rose garden in Madrid; Carlos Mayans’ garden, created by his late mother in Trujillo; the palace gardens of Marquès de Salvatierra in Ronda; the gardens of Marquesa of Casa Valdés, author of the acclaimed book Spanish Gardens; the garden of San Segundo in Ávila, owned by Juan Martínez de las Rivas; and Jardín de El Romeral de San Marcos, owned by Julia Casaravila Silva, widow of pioneering landscape designer Leandro Silva.
Meet Álvaro de la Rosa, an award-winning sculptor and landscape designer who will show us examples of his inspirational work.
Visit Córdoba’s delightful, hidden, Islamic-style courtyard gardens during the Festival de los Patios.
Tour the historic La Concepción garden in Málaga.
With a naturalist visit Monfragüe National Park, an outstanding site for the Eurasian Black and Griffon vultures, as well as the Spanish Imperial, Golden and Bonelli eagles.
Visit a number of the country’s greatest monuments: Granada’s Alhambra, Córdoba’s Great Mosque, Seville’s Alcázar and Cathedral, Trujillo’s castle and grand church of St Martín and Segovia’s Roman aqueduct
View the work of 17th-century masters like Velázquez and Goya, as well as German and Italian masterpieces, in the Museo del Prado.
Stay at several heritage hotels including the paradors of Ronda, Jarandilla de la Vera, and the Hotel San Juan de los Reyes.
Dine at paradors and local restaurants to feast on regional specialities; and conclude with a memorable evening dinner at the private home of art collector Sofía Barosso in Madrid.

 

Itinerary

The following itinerary describes a range of museums, patios, carmenes, cigarrales and gardens which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2017. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meals.

 

Seville – 3 nights

Day 1: Monday 8 May, Arrive Seville

Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
On arrival at Seville’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to our hotel, ideally located just 250 metres from Seville Cathedral. If you are travelling independently please meet the group at the Inglaterra Hotel.

Seville gained great importance and prosperity in the 12th century when the Almohad dynasty of North African Berbers made it the capital of Muslim Spain (al Andalus); and again in the 16th century, when it became the Spanish entrepôt for silver and tobacco from the Americas. Its major monuments and most important works of art date from these periods and from the 13th and 14th centuries, when Ferdinand III of Castile wrested the province from the Muslims in 1248. Seville therefore boasts fine Muslim, Gothic, Mudéjar and Baroque monuments (‘Mudéjar’ is the term which denotes buildings built for Christians by Muslim craftsmen). In the 17th century it vied with Madrid as the centre of Spanish sculpture and painting. Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo all worked in Seville and the city produced a fine school of polychrome wood sculpture, examples of which are still used in processions for Holy Week (Semana Santa). In the 19th century, Seville became a picturesque setting for Northern European Romantic novels, artworks and operas, because of the popularity of Murillo’s paintings of street urchins, Seville’s famous bullfights, and the magnificence of its celebrations during Holy Week. Just after Semana Santa, the city celebrates the colourful Feria de Abril, a popular festival begun in the 19th century, in which wealthy landowners ride through the feria grounds decked out in resplendent costumes, and people dance the ‘Sevillana‘ and ‘Seguidilla‘ in special pavilions set up by the wealthy. (Overnight Seville) B

Day 2: Tuesday 9 May, Seville

Introductory Meeting
Cathedral and Giralda of Seville
Alcázar
Santa Cruz Quarter
Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes
Welcome Evening Meal
This morning after an introductory meeting we visit Seville’s Cathedral. This huge building, which is the largest Gothic structure of its type in Europe, was built upon the foundations of the Almohad Friday Mosque by the Christian conquerors of the city. It retains the general plan and dimensions of the mosque and its courtyard that was used by the Islamic population for ritual ablutions. The courtyard, as its name – Patio de los Naranjos – suggests, is now dominated by a veritable forest of orange trees. Although now used primarily as a thoroughfare, the courtyard would once have provided Islamic students with a quiet shady place for the study of the Qur’an; plantings would have been more diverse at that time. The cathedral boasts what is arguably Spain’s greatest retablo mayore, a massive gilt and painted wood retable occupying the whole of the chancel wall. It also contains a number of major medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artworks and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

The cathedral’s bell tower, originally the minaret of the Almohad Friday mosque, is in the same style as those at Rabat and Marrakesh in Morocco. It is a monumental, square tower that houses seven superimposed rooms. Access is provided by a ramp up which the Imam once rode a donkey five times a day to call the faithful to prayer. The exquisite brick patterns on its four façades assured its survival when Seville fell to the Christians. Upon it they placed a belfry (bells are anathema to Islam) and a weather vane, or Giraldillo, which gives the tower its modern name, ‘Giralda’.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we visit Seville’s Alcázar, a fine Muslim palace built, not by the Islamic city’s Almohad dynasty, but by the Christian king, Pedro the Cruel, in the 14th century. This palace, its courtyards lined with fine stucco reliefs and coloured tiles, speaks of the cultural ambivalence of the Christian invaders who emulated the tastes of the vanquished Islamic princes. The Alcázar echoes the Alhambra (Granada) in its richness, and was, in fact, built in conscious imitation of that great group of mansions. Pedro saw in the architecture of the Alhambra a reflection of the sophistication of the autocratic Nasrid state of Granada, and by inserting his own emblem within a decorative scheme inspired by it was asserting his own status, authority and power. The complex grew beyond Pedro’s original palace and eventually included, for example, the Oratory of the Catholic Monarchs, with splendid early 16th-century polychrome tiles, a fine garden with a subterranean bath, and rooms in which expeditions to South America were planned. Appended to the palace is one of Spain’s greatest and most interesting gardens. These began as a typical Almohad ‘paradise’ garden, and although little remains of the original because of successive plantings by Christian monarchs (especially in the 19th and 20th centuries), much of the Mudéjar architecture (pavilions), the lovely discrete walled gardens near the palace, the ubiquitous pools and gently bubbling fountains, all reflect Spain’s cultural debt to the Muslims. Magnolia grandiflora, pittorosporum, palms, peaches, roses and bitter oranges share this garden with fascinating Central- and South American species brought back to Spain when Seville prospered as the country’s gateway to its colonies.

We next walk through the Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s medieval ghetto. Despite its narrow winding streets, this precinct grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats built small palaces here, without disturbing its original, picturesque street plan. A walk through this quarter, therefore, will provide us with a unique opportunity to discover the shape of old Seville.

We also visit the 17th century Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes. Originally one of Seville’s many charitable institutions, this is now a cultural centre. Of particular interest is its sunken courtyard, which is a fascinating fusion of a convent-cloister and a patio, a central court so characteristic of Spanish secular architecture. Arcaded galleries supporting the upper levels of the house surround this courtyard. Its design is a pleasant interplay of spaces of square and curved plan.

This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Seville) BD

Day 3: Wednesday 10 May, Seville

Casa de Pilatos
Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de las Bellas Artes)
Unlike their Parisian counterparts in that city’s aristocratic district, the Marais, Seville’s noble palaces are usually found, not in exclusive suburbs, but in the narrow streets of the city that in the past would have been inhabited by vendors, craftsmen, beggars, and Murillo’s street urchins. Their often bland façades, however, give on to lovely patios and gardens which, following Islamic tradition, are enclosed, secret paradises embedded in, but contrasting dramatically to, the noisy, dirty, smelly city outside the walls. Today we visit a Sevillian mansion of the late-15th and 16th centuries, the Casa de Pilatos. Built by Fabrique de Ribera in 1519, it owes its name to a legend that it was modelled upon Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. Processions during Holy Week used to leave this building, winding their way out of the city to the Cruz del Campo, the distance believed to be exactly that from Pilate’s Jerusalem Praetorium to Golgotha, where Christ was crucified. The house, organised around a great patio, is a fascinating mix of Mudéjar, Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance elements. An antique sculpture collection, adorning the main patio and the Jardín Chico (small garden), reflects the humanist tastes of its original owners. This garden also has a delightful pool, which was the water tank of the original house. This, and the Jardín Grande, have a marvellous variety of plants, including clusters of citrus and banana trees that thrive in Seville’s warm climate, and myriad flowers. The walls that enclose the gardens and their loggias are covered with brilliantly coloured bougainvillea and wisteria. Paths with yellow sand, also used in the bullrings of southern Spain, add yet more colour. Mature palms and figs give the gardens ample shade.

After some time at leisure for lunch, we visit the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, a large museum of Andalucian art which was refurbished for Expo ’92. The museum is located in the former convent of the Merced Calzada whose architecture exemplifies Andalucian 17th-century mannerism, designed around three patios and a large stairway. It opened its doors to the public in 1841 with the works from closed down convents and monasteries. Today it is one of the best fine arts museums in Spain, whose impressive collection extends from the medieval to the modern, focusing on the work of Seville School artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan de Valdés Leal and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. (Overnight Seville) B

 

Córdoba – 2 nights

Day 4: Thursday 11 May, Seville – Córdoba

Gardens of the Palace of Moratalla
Lunch at ‘Restaurante Monasterio de San Francisco’
Walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba
Today we drive from Seville to Córdoba, capital of the great Caliphate of Córdoba, the earliest Muslim State in Spain (712-1031). Our first visit between, Seville and Córdoba, is to the Gardens of Moratalla (‘the Moor’s Lookout’), near the Sierra Morena, the mountain range that separates the Guadalquivir Valley and Andalucia from the vast plain of La Mancha in New Castile. This was originally a 19th-century English landscape garden but has been transformed over the last 150 years, not least by the great French garden designer Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier, who fused a French grand vista with Neo-Arab elements, such as patios with brickwork, tiles and low fountains. Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens and Cupressus arizonica), oleanders and mimosas contribute to the (French) perspective that these Arab elements inflect. This garden, like the Casa de Pilatos, was a property of the famous Medinacelli family and the present proprietor, the Duke of Segorbe, takes a very dynamic approach, constantly transforming it. He believes the garden to be a living world and therefore a place where constant transformations may be made. He was a friend of Salvador Dalí, with whom he shared an interest in philosophy. The fruits of this friendship are seen in garden details like the spiral pool; the spiral is an age-old image of unity and infinity.

After visiting this lovely garden, we take lunch at the nearby Restaurante Monasterio de San Francisco, a religious foundation founded by the seventh Lord of Palma in the late 15th century. The monks from this monastery are purported to have founded settlements in California that have grown to be cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles!

We next drive to Córdoba and spend the early evening exploring its patios. This tour has been timetabled to visit Córdoba during the recently inaugurated festival of the patios. This city has some of the loveliest small urban gardens in Spain, located in the courtyards of old Córdoban houses. Some of these houses are very, very old; everywhere in the ancient city core are to be found the fragments of Muslim dwellings built before the end of the 11th century. Even if houses were constructed later, they follow earlier plans because their foundations (and many of their cellars) are the walls of older houses. Once a year, Córdoba opens its patios in an Andalucian version of our open garden scheme; prizes are given to the best exhibits. Many of the previous prize-winners are in the San Basilio district of the city near our hotel. (Overnight Córdoba) BL

Day 5: Friday 12 May, Córdoba

Synagogue, Córdoba
Great Mosque, Córdoba
Alcázar Gardens
Afternoon at leisure
Palacio de Viana and Córdoba Patios
After breakfast at our Córdoba hotel, which is in the Jewish Quarter (Judería) of the city, we visit Córdoba’s delightful small synagogue. The Jews arrived in Córdoba before the Muslims and almost immediately made it a centre of learning. They established the Jewish Quarter after the city had become the capital of Muslim Spain. Its 14th-century synagogue is one of three surviving medieval synagogues in Spain. It has a women’s gallery, and the upper reaches of its walls are in the Mudéjar stucco style, with Hebrew inscriptions. These stuccoes, like those of many mosques, alternate geometrical and vegetal motifs.

We continue our morning program with a visit to the great mosque of Córdoba. The mosque (c.786-986), one of the earliest and finest still standing, was constructed by successive members of the Ummayad dynasty. Its outer façades boast exquisite geometrical and floral patterns set in the tympana of horseshoe arches and in panels above them. Within the prayer hall is a forest of columns supporting superimposed tiers of polychrome arches thought to have been modelled upon the Roman aqueduct at Merida. The mihrab (prayer niche) is adorned with exquisite abstract designs in mosaic executed by a school of Byzantine mosaicists from Constantinople. These mosaics, and those of the domes above the mihrab, give meaning to Allah’s prescription to the prophet concerning images: that they should be act as a simile to nature, not an abstraction of it; and that they should convey by their delicacy the notion that nothing material has meaning or permanence. The mosque is punctured by a huge cathedral; its minaret became the cathedral bell tower.

Our tour also takes in the Alcázar Gardens. The latter have been planted in the old castle and administrative centre of the Islamic city; typically, the Alcázar was close to the Friday Mosque (Great Mosque) where the whole male community gathered each Friday to pray and to hear the Friday sermon. The Alcázar gardens stand on the oldest garden site in Spain (9th century) and, although the present gardens are from the 19th- and 20th centuries, they are sensitively designed to evoke the feel, if not the exact form, of the original. They constitute a fine orchestration of hedges and clipped orange trees, roses and gentle pools.

Following an afternoon at leisure, we remeet in the early evening and continue to explore the patios of Córdoba. Our tour includes a visit to the Palacio de Viana. Located on the northern edge of the old town, this traditional Andalusian mansion features twelve patios covering the Renaissance and Baroque periods with fountains, formal parterres, citrus trees, date palms and roses with a profusion of pots, pebbled floors and elegant arches. (Overnight Córdoba) B

 

Ronda – 1 night

Day 6: Saturday 13 May, Córdoba – Ronda

Puente Nuevo, Ronda
Bullring, Ronda
Casa del Rey Moro, Ronda
This morning we depart early for the magnificent Andalusian ‘white town’ of Ronda, dramatically sited on sheer cliffs above a deep ravine, with grand panoramic views framed by mountains. The early 19th century artists David Roberts and J.F. Lewis both painted the picturesque view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the deep ravine, ‘El Tajo‘, separating the two parts of Ronda, the old Muslim town and the Christian district, the Mercadillo. The Guadelvin River cut this ravine, and the high bridge which spans it was built in the late eighteenth century. Of Roman origin, Ronda became an almost impregnable Muslim fortress city until the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella took it in 1485. It retains another Roman bridge that those who wish may cross to visit the Muslim baths, a reminder of its Islamic history.

In 1493, eight years after the Christian capture of the city, the Maestranza, a Company of Knights, was formed here for the supervision of bullfighting. Ronda’s bullring, the second oldest in Spain after that of Seville, was built here in 1794. In the 18th century Ronda’s greatest matador was Pedro Romero, who is believed to have developed the classical bull-fighting style of the School of Ronda. We shall visit the bullring in the Mercedillo.

The old town preserves its Muslim street plan. Here we visit the Casa del Rey Moro, the Moorish King’s House. The present 18th-century palace purportedly occupies the site of a palace of one of the petty Muslim kings of Ronda, and has a fine garden with steps leading down to the river below. The splendid small Hispano-Moresque garden (hortus conclusus) was originally designed by the great 19th-century gardener Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier for the house’s owner, the Duchess of Parcent. Forestier (1861-1930), a botanical and forestry expert, town planner and garden designer, was extremely influential in Spain, Cuba and Central America. He became conservateur of the promenades of Paris and developed an arboretum at Vincennes and the gardens of the Champ-de-Mars below the Eiffel Tower. He also influenced the layout of Havana and Buenos Aires. He is renowned for his innovations, including the ‘Neo-Arab’ or ‘Neo-Sevillian’ garden. His own gardens and those inspired by his innovations are to be found throughout Spain, amongst them are the Park of María Luisa in Seville and Montjuïc in Barcelona. His gardens in Ronda combine Islamic features like ceramic tiles with the formality of a European garden. A wide variety of carefully combined trees such as palms, laurel, cedar, oleander and myrtle form a verdant canopy under which a profusion of flowers gives colour and fragrance.

Tonight we sample Andalusian cuisine together in the restaurant of the Parador de Ronda. (Overnight Ronda) BD

 

Granada – 3 nights

Day 7: Sunday 14 May, Ronda – Málaga – Granada

Garden of Palacio de Marqués de Salvatierra, Ronda (by private appointment)
Lunch at El Carambuco
Historical-Botanical Garden La Concepción, Málaga
This morning we visit the Palacio of Marqués de Salvatierra, an 18th-century renovation of an earlier 16th-century building, gifted to the family by the Reyes Catolicos. Its impressive Baroque entrance displays sculpted figures believed to represent natives of South America. The current Marqués of Salvatierra, Rafael Atienza, has kindly agreed to give us a tour of his garden which includes a rare, 200-year-old pinsapo (evergreen fir). Abies pinsapo is a species of fir native to southern Spain and northern Morocco. Related to other species of Mediterranean firs, it is considered the Andalusian National Tree. In Spain, it appears at altitudes of 900–1,800 metres in the Sierra de Grazalema in the province of Cádiz and the Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra Bermeja, both near Ronda in the province of Málaga.

We next drive through the hills above the Mediterranean coast to Finca Carambuco, a cortijo (Andalusian country estate) located south of Málaga. Owned by the Baroja family (Pío Baroja is one of the most important Spanish authors of the 20th century) the estate features a subtropical garden with an outstanding Phytolacca dioica tree and an alley of Peacan trees. Here we enjoy lunch, tour the garden and learn about the estate’s literary history.

Nearby we visit Málaga’s La Concepción garden, begun in 1889 by Thomas Livermore, who was British consul in this city. La Concepción, which at one point commands views down over the city, is an important example of a Mediterranean coastal garden, and affords interesting comparisons to gardens on the Catalan coast north of Barcelona.

We continue our drive through the Sierra Nevada, which acted as a barrier protecting the Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, from Christian incursions. You will gain a strong feel for the way the mountains isolated Granada from the grand views you will encounter along this road. We arrive in the late afternoon at the great capital of this Muslim kingdom and check into our hotel in the centre of town. (Overnight Granada) BL

Day 8: Monday 15 May, Granada

Alhambra and Generalife
Dinner at ‘El Huerto de Juan Ranas’
This morning we visit the Alhambra (1354-1391) and Generalife (summer palace and villa of the Nasrid rulers) to study the architecture and garden design of Nasrid Granada. We visit palaces and villas in the complex that centre upon the Court of the Myrtles and the Court of the Lions, and the Generalife. The first complex – comprising the Patio de Machuca, the Mexuar, the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, and the Patio de Comares (Court of the Myrtles) – gives a sense of the disposition of an Islamic palace, the discrete, hermetic spaces of which bespeak Islam’s emphasis on privacy. This complex combines areas where the ruler sat in court or received ambassadors with a harem designed to isolate the royal household from the outside world. In essence the palace is introverted, its main façade secreted within the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, rather than turning outwards to announce to the outside world the palaces within, in the way of a Western façade. The Hall of the Ambassadors is an example of the spatial rhetoric of power, while the Patio de Comares used a great pool and trees (later replaced by hedges of myrtle) to create a paradisal, secluded core to the complex. Next to this group is the villa of the Nasrids, built about the Court of the Lions, whose fine stucco arches and slender columns are, some scholars argue, the architectural evocation of an oasis. Here we find rooms decorated with exquisite detailing, such as the Abencerrajes Gallery, the Sala de los Reyes, and the Sala de las Dos Hermanas, two of which have extraordinary stucco domes reproducing star bursts in the desert sky. Beneath this villa there is yet another villa, to which are attached the Royal Baths.

We then walk out across the pine-forested hills of the Alhambra Mountain to the Generalife, an exquisite villa retreat and hunting lodge of the Nasrids. Here we see gardens to rival the Villa d’Este, outside Rome, with fine fountains whose sounds were intended to provide a poetic counterpoint to the architectural aesthetics of the Arab palace or villa.

Lastly, we shall visit the Alcazaba, the fortress of the Alhambra, which has a broad panorama of the Sierra Nevada. The Alhambra and Generalife complexes sit within what could almost be termed a ‘forest’ that covers their hills. Watered by conduits from the Sierra Nevada, this lush environment enabled not only the inimitable orchestration of buildings and plants in the main complex, but also a proliferation of carmenes around it.

Tonight we shall dine together at the restaurant ‘El Huerto de Juan Ranas’, which enjoys one of the best views of the Alhambra from the Albaicín and serves delicate Arabic influenced dishes. (Overnight Granada) BD

Day 9: Tuesday 16 May, Granada

Corral del Carbón
Capilla Real
Cathedral
Muslim Baths
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we shall visit Muslim and Christian sites in the centre of Granada. We shall start our tour at the market centre of Islamic Granada where we shall visit the Corral del Carbón, a 14th century warehouse and inn (caravanserai) for merchants, which is the only one of its type to have survived in Spain. Despite recent restoration, the ground plan, the central water trough for animals, and the delicately carved brick and plaster gateway date to the Middle Ages. From here we shall make our way through the Alcaicería, an area of narrow gridded streets which were once part of the covered market (Arabic, al-Qaysariyya) of the Muslim rulers of Granada.

Nearby we visit the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), built in flamboyant late Gothic style, which houses the magnificent Renaissance tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, their daughter Joan ‘the Mad’ and her husband Philip ‘the Handsome’. In the adjacent Sacristy is a dazzling collection of royal regalia and Flemish paintings. We then walk to the cathedral, one of Spain’s last, which was envisaged by its founder, Charles V, as a model of the heavenly Jerusalem.

After visiting the centre of Granada we shall explore its most important residential quarter, the Albaicín, which nestles below the Alhambra. The Albaicín was the last refuge of the Muslims of Granada and traces of its Islamic heritage remain to be discovered, including a beautiful and tranquil bathhouse, and fragments of minarets converted into church towers. The afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight Granada) B

 

Toledo – 2 nights

Day 10: Wednesday 17 May, Granada – Toledo

Toledo Cathedral
Santo Tomé Church
Museo El Greco
Today we drive north, through the Siera Morena, into the vast, arid plain of La Mancha, famed for its association with Don Quixote, and for its dry wine and Manchego cheese. Toledo, located on a promontory created by a bend in the River Tagus or Tajo, is another Spanish city with a multi-layered past. Inhabited at least from Roman times onwards, Toledo (Toletum) was a provincial town until the Visigothic period when it became an important ecclesiastical centre, and in the mid-6th century AD, the Visigothic capital. Visigothic Toledo was dominated by its castle, and although it is long gone, the Alcázar, its successor, stands on its original site.

Toledo was conquered by Arabo-Berber armies in 712 AD and became part of the Umayyad state of Córdoba. The inhabitants of the city regularly revolted against their Umayyad masters and in the early 11th century when the Umayyad Caliphate collapsed Toledo, like many other cities, became the seat of a Ta’ifa (petty) kingdom. During this period, Toledo became the centre of the Mozarabic Church, whose Visigothic rituals and liturgy were deeply influenced by Muslim culture. It also played an important cultural role in transmitting the rich syncretic literary and scientific heritage of al-Andalus to the Christian north of the Iberian peninsula and on to northern Europe. Toledo was captured by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085 and was thus one of the first major Muslim cities to fall to the Christians.

Culturally, however, Toledo remained ‘Islamic’ for centuries after the imposition of Christian rule. Large Muslim and Jewish subject communities remained, and they were employed by their new Castilian rulers to emulate earlier Muslim art and architecture, creating a distinctively Toledan Mudéjar style. This style is a blend of Roman, Visigothic, Umayyad and later Almohad styles characterised by decorative screenwork realised in brick on the exteriors of churches and bell towers. Toledan Mudéjar can also be found in the former synagogues of the Judería (ghetto), Santa Maria la Blanca and El Tránsito, which contain stuccowork decoration that mimics Almohad and Nasrid styles respectively. The cathedral, built on the site of the great mosque, also bears many traces of Toledo’s multi-cultural character, whilst the narrow twisting streets of the old city and its absence of open squares and public spaces perpetuate Muslim urban-planning. Despite Toledo’s strong tradition of cultural eclecticism, the growth in Castilian Catholic militancy in the 15th and 16th centuries changed the city’s form and culture forever. After the unification of Aragón and Castile to form the nucleus of modern Spain in the 15th century, and the fall of Granada in 1492, the monarchs of Spain became less tolerant towards Jewish, Muslim and Mozarab culture. The Counter-Reformation and its Inquisition, a tool to root out Crypto-Jews and Muslims, confirmed Spain’s close association with Catholicism, a change most dramatically stated in Toledo in the cathedral, the most richly decorated of all Spain’s Gothic edifices and a trenchant architectural expression of Christianity triumphant. When Toledo lost commercial status to Seville, the hub of New World commerce, and political status to Madrid, Philip II’s capital from 1561, parochial conservatism replaced her old cosmopolitan style. In the 16th and 17th centuries a pious aristocracy emerged in the city numbering many mystics in its ranks. Many aristocrats, influenced by the Counter-Reformation’s emphasis on good works, spent vast amounts of money adding monastic foundations to the urban fabric, creating an imposing ecclesiastical cordon around the medieval core of Toledo.

This afternoon, we begin our tour of this splendid city with a visit of Toledo’s Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral modelled upon Bourges Cathedral in France. The construction of the cathedral began two centuries after Toledo’s capture by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, and until its construction the Christians worshipped in the re-dedicated great mosque of the city. In the 14th century the great mosque was finally torn down and a Gothic cathedral constructed on its foundations implicitly celebrating the Catholic triumph not only over Muslim culture but also over the syncretic culture of the Mozarabs of Toledo, upholders of an Arabised Visigothic church tradition rejected by northern Iberian Catholics. However, even this self-consciously Gothic Catholic cathedral has distinguishable Mudéjar elements, and is still one of the few places where the Visigothic liturgy is on occasion recited. Later monarchs and state dignitaries embellished the cathedral by the addition of a rich choir, decorated with reliefs recounting the conquest of Granada, and sumptuous chapels. We shall look at both the exterior and interior of the cathedral, noting in particular the opulent retablo mayor, the choir and the lateral chapels.

We shall also visit the Cathedral Museum which holds a range of works by El Greco, Titian, Zurbarán, and Ribera, and the Almohad banners captured by the Castilians at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In the treasury we shall see an illuminated manuscript given by St Louis of France to Alfonso X and a massive Gothic gold monstrance in the shape of the intricate flèche of a cathedral. We also visit the El Greco museum, which displays a great collection of the painter’s works, and the Church of Santo Tomé, which houses El Greco’s famous The Burial of Count Orgaz. (Overnight Toledo) B

Day 11: Thursday 18 May, Toledo

El Tránsito
Santa Maria la Blanca
San Juan de los Reyes Monastery
Palacio de Galiana: visit and drinks
Cigarral de los Menores
This morning we continue our guided tour of Toledo with visits to the two former Mudéjar synagogues of Santa Maria la Blanca and El Tránsito. Santa Maria la Blanca is a 13th century building which bears a strong similarity to contemporary Almohad architecture further south, whilst El Tránsito is a 14th century structure with stucco panels of a similar style to those in the Alcázar of Seville and the Alhambra. El Tránsito also houses a small museum dealing with the history of the Jews in Iberia.

We also visit San Juan de los Reyes, a Franciscan monastery originally intended, before the capture of Granada, as the mausoleum of Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile. The monastery has a beautiful two-storey cloister, a typically Spanish form, with exquisite flamboyant tracery. The mausoleum church itself will remind you of the Capilla Real in Granada. On the walls are intricate Gothic reliefs with the coats-of-arms of the Christian monarchs. One façade of this chapel is hung with the chains of Christian galley slaves bought from the Muslims by charitable individuals and organisations; a charitable act among both Christians and Muslims was to buy the freedom of co-religionists enslaved by the devotees of the other faith.

We will then travel just outside Toledo to visit a lovely garden as a guest of its owners. It is known as the Galiana Palace, but its owners prefer to call it Galiana Castle. The hills surrounding Toledo on the opposite banks of the River Tagus command stunning views of the medieval walled city and are dotted with private estates called cigarrales, the Toledan equivalent of the carmenes of Granada. Some believe that these country houses owe their name to singing cicadas (cigarras in Spanish) found here in summertime. Each cigarral consists of a large, several-storey home with garden and orchard. The style of the house is usually quite humble and somewhat rustic. Many have white walls and are surrounded by terraces and patios that cascade down the steep hillsides. Often planted with lilacs, lilies and irises, these gardens and the houses they surrounded were the equivalent of Italian villas, affording citizens and minor clergy relief in summer from the hot, narrow, smelly, crowded streets of the old city. They were often used as places in which to recuperate from illness. They invariably commandmagnificent views of the great city. The forty-year-old garden of Galiana Castle was created round the ruins of a Mudéjar villa built by Alfonso X, ‘the Wise’. He was a great patron of culture, and it is during his reign that Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars in Toledo translated many Islamic classics into Romance languages. Alfonso’s palace occupied the site of an earlier Muslim establishment called the ‘Pavilion of the Water Wheel’; a water wheel, used by the Muslims to lift water from the Tajo, has been reconstructed nearby. Such medieval inventions, brought by Muslims from the Middle East, introduced vital irrigation technology to Spain. Carmen Marañón and her husband Alejandro Fernández Araoz reconstructed the ruined palace sensitively in the late 1950s and 1960s. In order to avoid compromising the original structure, they built a home for themselves elsewhere. The garden, which is a masterpiece, was inspired by the Alhambra and Generalife in Granada. For example, as in the Generalife, Cypresses are used as a sculptural element; the garden has a strict formality that gives it an ascetic feel.

We next meet Maria Marañón, who will accompany us to visit her own family home, the Cigarral de Menores. Dating from 1617, the Cigarral de Menores has been in the ownership of the Marañón family since the Toledan writer Dr. Gregorio Marañón acquired it in 1922. We shall explore its charming garden, surrounded by olive groves and orchards, and featuring little beds edged in box and myrtle hedging, fountains, a pool and a glasshouse.

Tonight we will enjoy a meal in a local restaurant. (Overnight Toledo) BLD

 

Jarandilla de la Vera – 2 nights

Day 12: Friday 19 May, Toledo – Trujillo – Jarandilla de la Vera

Visit of olive grove and olive oil production workshop
Private garden of the late Olga Mayans & buffet lunch, Trujillo
Exploring Trujillo’s rich heritage
This morning we are joined by leading Spanish landscape designer, filmmaker and photographer Eduardo Mencos, who will accompany us to Jarandilla de la Vera. From Toledo in Castile, we head to the western frontier region of Extremadura, famous for its conquistadors like Francisco Pizarro, who conquered much of South America. We travel through an area of undulating hills where traditionally the noble Trujillanos had their olive groves and vines producing oil and wine for their own consumption. Today the region of Extremadura produces approximately 3.3% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. The types of olives that are cultivated in this region for the production of oil include Cornicabra, Carrasqueña and Morisca. Eduardo will take us to visit a local olive grove and oil production workshop.

In the very centre of Trujillo, Pizarro’s home town, Eduardo Mencos’ close friend Carlos Mayans will welcome us to his late mother’s beautiful garden built around the ruins of the medieval city’s old castle. Our visit will include a light tapas lunch hosted by Carlos.

This afternoon we explore the rich heritage of Trujillo. Among the most important monuments are the Castle (Alcazaba), the church of Santiago, the church of Santa María la Mayor, the church of San Francisco, the Church of San Martín, the Plaza Mayor, and beautiful palaces like the palace of the Marquis of the Conquest, the palace of the Orellana-Pizarro family, the palace of the Duques de San Carlos, Marquesado de Piedras Albas, the house of the strong Altamirano, Palace Chaves (Luis Chaves Old)..

Tonight we stay at the nearby countryside Parador of Jarandilla de la Vera. Housed in a 14th-century castle, this parador retains many historic features including Gothic galleries, a fireplace specially built for Emperor Charles V, and an ancient garden featuring a fountain famous for bringing good fortune. We shall dine at the Parador’s restaurant, which offers a delightful selection of Extremaduran cuisine. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BLD

Day 13: Saturday 20 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Monfragüe National Park – Jarandilla de la Vera

Monfragüe National Park
Visit and lunch at ‘La Lancha’ – private farm of Eduardo Mencos & Anneli Bojstad, Jarandilla de la Vera
We spend the morning exploring Monfragüe National Park, a UNESCO listed Biosphere Reserve. Accompanied by Eduardo and a local naturalist, we shall study the many species of Mediterranean plants and trees, and visit a number of observation blinds located along the course of the river Tagus in order to view (with the aid of telescopes) the park’s magnificent variety of birds of prey. Monfragüe is an outstanding site for raptors, with more than 15 regular breeding species, including the world’s largest breeding concentration of the Eurasian Black Vulture, a large population of Griffon Vultures, and several pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle. During our tour we shall also view a number of the park’s geological and cultural landmarks including the ‘Bridge of the Cardinal’ the ruined Castle of Monfragüe; and the Penafalcon, an impressive rock face carved by the river Tagus.

Over the past 10 years Eduardo and Anneli have shown much generosity in opening their family’s gardens to our group members, including their 30-hectare country farm ‘La Lancha’ that we visit this afternoon. On the grounds of ‘La Lancha’, Eduardo has produced his version of an 18th-century ‘ornamental farm’ – a landscaped working farm with decorative features such as arbours, antique wells, water reservoirs, ruins. You won’t see a single wire or a water deposit (they are hidden underground). Here Anneli and Eduardo grow organic olives and raspberries and breed Merino sheep which roam free around the property. Their free range hens supply fresh eggs and solar panels produce the electricity. We shall explore the farm and enjoy a light lunch as guests of Eduardo and Anneli.

In the late afternoon we return to Jarandilla de la Vera to enjoy another meal at the Parador’s restaurant. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BLD

 

Segovia – 1 night

Day 14: Sunday 20 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Ávila – Segovia

Ávila’s city walls
Garden of San Segundo, Villa Winthuysen
Early this morning we depart for Ávila, one of the many Spanish towns which began life as a Christian frontier post located in the medieval marches between al-Andalus and the tiny northern Christian kingdoms. The architecture of Ávila reflects the martial and entrepreneurial spirit of its early inhabitants (soldiers of fortune, aristocrats of modest means and peasants) who were prepared to risk everything to profit from the freedom and opportunities afforded by life on the frontier. The town is encircled by strikingly complete late 11th-century walls, whilst inside, the small fortified palaces of its late medieval inhabitants reflect the same desire for a good life as the late medieval houses of the Italian urban classes. Ávila also possesses several fine Romanesque churches and later monasteries, including the Convento de la Encarnación, where Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (Teresa of Ávila), the co-patron saint of Spain, lived for 27 years in the 16th century. It was here that she experienced the spiritual ecstasies that she described in a language so vivid that it has influenced Spanish literature ever since. On arrival, there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore a section of Ávila’s city walls. Declared a National Monument in 1884, in addition to its obvious defensive function, the wall controlled the entrance of provisions and merchandise, guarded it against the potential outbreak of a plague or epidemic elsewhere. Its plan is an irregular rectangle, defended by crenellated towers and round turrets. Nine gates provided access to the city, of which the most spectacular is Puerta del Alcázar (Gate of the Fortress). A walk along the top of the walls provides spectacular views of the town and countryside.

We then visit the Garden of San Segundo, owned by good friend of Eduardo Mencos, Juan Martínez de las Rivas, Spanish Grandee Marqués del Salar. In Eduardo Mencos’ important book Hidden Gardens of Spain the garden is described as “a miracle of colour, fragrance and joy protected from the outside world by the longest city wall in Europe, like the walled fortress of the Alhambra in Andalucia”. In 1920, the Viscount of Güell bought a number of houses and an adjacent vegetable garden and commissioned the Spanish master Javier de Winthuysen (also a painter and a writer on gardens) to design him this garden. Winthuysen had an international reputation, and is known for his contribution to the world famous garden of Villandry in the Loire Valley. San Segundo’s garden has kept Winthuysen’s legacy. His design drew inspiration from secluded monastery and Islamic gardens; the lovely small house acts as an adjunct to the garden rather than dominating it, as in the Islamic style. The present owner, who is a gardener, author, and published scholar on garden history, will show us his garden and discuss its design with you.

In the late afternoon we drive to Segovia, where we shall dine at the Parador’s restaurant. (Overnight Segovia) BD

 

Madrid – 3 nights

Day 15: Monday 22 May, Segovia – Madrid

Segovia’s Old Town
Lunch at Mesón de Cándido restaurant
Romeral of San Marcos, Segovia
Evening reception at the private home of art collector Sofía Barroso
Evening lecture by sculptor and landscape designer Álvaro de la Rosa ‘Water Features in Contemporary Spanish Gardens’
We spend the morning exploring Segovia, a city settled since Roman times. During the early Islamic period, Segovia stood in the marches between the Kingdom of the Asturias and Umayyad Córdoba and may have been temporarily deserted. In the 10th century, the Umayyad caliphs constructed a frontier fortress here. Segovia subsequently became part of the Ta’ifa kingdom of Toledo. Segovia became Castilian after the fall of Toledo. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Muslim fortress was rebuilt as a Christian castle and in the 16th century, a Gothic cathedral with unusual Classical domes was constructed. Segovia’s Roman aqueduct, a remarkable dry-stone structure, was partially destroyed in the Middle Ages and rebuilt by Isabella of Castile in the 15th century.

Midday we dine at Mesón de Cándido to feast on the town’s local speciality, roast suckling pig.

Before departing the city, we visit the beautiful Romeral de San Marcos, situated below limestone shelves on the Eresma river at the foot of Segovia’s great castle. The famous landscape architect, Leandro Silva, created this, his intimate half-acre garden to echo the paradisal feel an old Segovian huerta (orchard or market garden). Its sheltered position creates a microclimate that protects a wide variety of plants that would not normally prosper in the tough Segovian climate. At times, this small garden bursts into colour provided by a feast of different flowers. After exploring this beautiful garden we drive to Madrid.

This evening we are hosted by Sofía Barroso who will show us her Madrid-based office, which houses an impressive private art collection. Sofía Barroso was born in London, the daughter of Spanish diplomats, and has a degree in art history from Madrid Universidad Complutense. She is an art collector and has been involved in the Spanish art and museum scene as well as with historic gardens and the new Spanish school of landscape design. Tonight, we meet the award-winning sculptor and landscape designer Álvaro de la Rosa, who will deliver a talk on ‘Water Features in Contemporary Spanish Gardens’. (Overnight Madrid) BLD

Day 16: Tuesday 23 May, Madrid – Guadalajara – Madrid

‘Terraza de los Laureles’, Royal Botanical Gardens, by Fernando Caruncho
Landscape Design Projects by Álvaro de la Rosa
La Zarcilla, private garden and lunch
Jardin Rosales designed by Fernando Caruncho
Today, Álvaro de la Rosa will show us examples of his work (Álvaro’s projects include designs for patios, terraces and urban houses). He will also accompany us to the Royal Botanical Gardens, where in 2005 a modern addition designed by well-known Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho, with architect Pablo Carvajal, was commissioned to house the extensive bonsai collection of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González. The new garden called the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ consists of an elevated avenue, a central square with a pond and a small greenhouse, and provides a grand panorama of the historic gardens below.

La Zarcilla, located in the residential quarter of La Florida, is a landscaped rose garden owned by Blanca De Rueda. Considered a ‘rose expert’ and an exceptional cook, Blanca specialises in painting botanical motifs on ceramics and porcelain. We shall tour the rose beds and enjoy lunch in the gardens.

Our final visit for today allows us to view another design by Fernando Caruncho. The garden is featured in Mirrors of Paradise: The Gardens of Fernando Caruncho, edited by Monacelli Press: “Renowned internationally for serene compositions based on timeless principles of natural forms and geometry, Caruncho has recently completed two landscapes in the United States, one in the rolling farmland of New Jersey and the other in Florida. Caruncho draws inspiration from a wide spectrum of precedents –the garden-academies of ancient Greek philosophers as well as important historic gardens in Spain, Italy, France, and Japan …. Caruncho’s gardens range from small urban spaces to grand country estates, and his design trademarks include geometric grids, rolling waves of the shrub escallonia, refined and playful pavilions and gazebos, calm reflecting pools, and vistas that capitalize on the contrasts inherent in his plant palette. In their inventive and evocative fusion of the historic and contemporary, Caruncho’s garden designs are masterful compositions that exemplify the formal garden for the new millennium”. Jardin Rosales was one of Caruncho’s first projects, designed for his parents-in-law, Mr & Mrs Rosales in the 1980s. Also located in the residential quarter of La Florida, this beautiful garden is minimalistic and features waves of escallonia. (Overnight Madrid) BL

Day 17: Wednesday 24 May, Madrid – Guadalajara – Madrid

Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, CaixaForum, Madrid
Prado Museum
Private gardens and Farewell lunch hosted by Eduardo Mencos’ family
We begin today with a brief visit to Madrid’s CaixaForum where we may view an example of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens. This is not only the first to be installed in Spain but also the largest implemented to date on a façade without gaps, as it has a planted surface area of 460 m2. The result is a surprising, multicoloured ‘living painting’ that, in addition to being visually attractive, also acts as an effective environmental agent. The vertical garden forms an impressive natural tapestry made up of 15,000 plants of 250 different species that have transformed one of the buildings adjoining the developed area of the CaixaForum Madrid into a surprising garden.

We spend the remainder of the morning visiting the Prado. One of the gallery’s key collections comprises the works of Hieronymus Bosch and the Flemish School from the collections of Philip II. The extraordinary apocalyptic visions of Bosch were once housed at the Escorial in the Philip II’s private apartments, but were stored away during the Enlightenment because they were considered too extreme. It was Goya who revived interest in them. We shall also look at the collections of Dürer, Titian and Rubens before moving on to the works of the Spanish Baroque. Our encounter with works by Velázquez and Zurbarán, El Greco and Goya will explore the strange mix of realism and fantastic distortion which distinguishes the Spanish tradition. We shall study the grand portrait tradition, works by Velázquez, such as Las Meninas, and the extraordinary mystical visions of El Greco. We also trace Goya’s development from the early tapestry cartoons through the royal portraits, and horrific visions of the war with the French, to the so-called ‘Black Paintings’ of his old age.

This afternoon we enjoy a very special highlight of our tour with visits to the private gardens of one of Spain’s great gardening families. Here we explore how they have changed the arid meseta near the nation’s capital with their distinctive gardens. We first drive across the empty plains of Guadalajara province and through the sun-baked olive-covered hills of La Alcarría, to reach the garden created by the Marquesa de Casa Valdés, Eduardo Mencos’ grandmother and author of the seminal book Jardines de España (Gardens of Spain), which has had a profound influence on modern Spanish gardening. Against the advice of many, the Marquesa de Casa Valdés created her garden in 1945 in a particularly arid terrain subject to extreme temperatures. It became a triumph in tempering the environment and a landmark in the development of modern Spanish gardens. The garden now belongs to Beatriz Valdés Ozores (Condesa de Bornos), one of the author’s daughters. The Condesa, along with her sisters María and Micaela (Eduardo’s mother), who also welcome us to visit their own gardens nearby, will kindly host our Farewell Lunch. (Overnight Madrid) BL

Day 18: Thursday 25 May, tour ends, Madrid

Departure transfer to Madrid’s Airport for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Madrid. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Spain. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Chatsworth Flower Show

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2017

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show location

Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The extensive grounds surrounding Chatsworth House were landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and also Joseph Paxton.

Chatsworth House
Bakewell
Derbyshire
DE45 1PP

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show dates and times:

Wednesday – Saturday 10am to 6.30pm

Sunday 10am to 5pm.

 

Chatsworth Flower Show highlights

With a theme of ‘Design Revolutionaries’, the new Chatsworth Flower Show will celebrate the many landscape designers who broke the mould and developed new ideas about gardens and garden design. But it’s not all about the past, as the show will also be a place for new and innovative designers to bring their ideas to the gardening public.

A new garden show category, called ‘FreeForm’ will encourage designers to stretch their imagination and create exciting conceptual gardens without conventional design constraints.

There is also a new competition for students and new and emerging designers called ‘Gardening in a Changing World’ which will highlight the new RHS ‘Science Strategy’. Winning designs will be developed as 3D models for display.

The Great Conservatory will recreate Paxton’s Great Conservatory which was in the grounds of Chatsworth from 1840 to its demolition in 1920. Nursery displays inside will feature everything from jungle to Mediterranean, and trees to bonsai.

Unlike most RHS shows, the Chatsworth Flower Show will be spread out around the beautiful Chatsworth grounds, taking advantage of the shape of the landscape and its wonderful views.

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

 

Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London SW3 4SL

The first two days of the Chelsea Flower Show are reserved for RHS members so if you’re planning a visit, it’s well-worth joining the RHS to widen your choice of days. And all tickets sell out very quickly! There are also reduced price late-afternoon entry tickets.

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Show Gardens

See a wondrous selection of around 15 large landscape show gardens designed by the world’s best designers. Chelsea Flower Show regularly features such designers as Andy Sturgeon (Winner 2016 Best in Show), Cleve West, Jo Thomson, James Basson and Diarmuid Gavin.

Many of these gardens are designed to explain or highlight a cause or a charity, from animal welfare to the plight of those stranded in war-torn countries, to habitat lost and environmental degradation, and those suffering from debilitating diseases and coping with long-term disabilities.

From a design point of view Chelsea’s gardens are at the forefront of coming trends, whether it’s a new popular flower or a colour scheme, or greater themes like formal versus informal design, plant shaping and management, mass versus intermingled planting and gardens versus outdoor entertaining areas.

Chelsea’s show garden judging is very plant-centric so you can be sure to see some wonderful and innovative plantscapes using a wide range of ornamental and edible plants.

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Artisan Garden

Chelsea’s smaller Artisan gardens are smaller display gardens but no less exciting. Popular regulars in this category include renown Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara of the Kazuyuki Design Laboratory but many others are new-comers, looking for their first taste of Chelsea fame.

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Fresh Gardens

The Fresh Garden category displays what are often conceptual and experimental gardens. It’s a great place to see our next generation of up-and-coming young designers.

 

The Great Pavilion Floral Marquee

Nobody can forget the wonder of first entering this immense marquee, filled with luscious displays of flowers. Every year the UK’s top nurseries vie for the top prizes. See spring bulbs and perennials, clematis, bonsai, elegant specimen trees, cacti and succulents, bromeliads, flowering shrubs, orchids, alpine plants and roses.

 

Garden products

Every year Chelsea features brand new products and art for you to discover for your garden, including furniture, sculpture, pavers, pavilions, garden wear and lots more.

Each year the RHS awards a Chelsea Garden Product of the Year.

Malvern Autumn Show

Malvern Autumn Show 2016

 

Open 9am-6pm each day

 

Malvern Autumn Show main attractions

There will be plenty to do and experience for people of all ages at this year’s Malvern Autumn Show
As a show celebrating everything rural, there are plenty of attractions encompassing every type and element of country life and the land based industries.

 

Grow it in the Good Life Pavilion – There are few things more satisfying and rewarding than growing your own fruit and vegetables and you can be inspired by the feature gardens, talks in The Good Life Pavilion, the growing competitions and the produce available at the show. Hear celebrity gardeners, plus see the impressive UK National Giant Vegetable Competition and also a range of flowers that featured at RHS shows for sale.

 

Orchard Pavilion and Hopyard – all the help you need to grow your own fruit, make and brew drinks, plus preserving.

 

Harvest Pavilion – meet all the experts from more than 30 National Plant Societies and hear talks by plant experts on a wide range of topics including growing vegetables, carnivorous plants, succulents and growing tender plants.

 

RHS Flower Show – featuring a huge range of nurseries all vying for the coveted RHS Gold Medal. Includes new exhibitors like Wack’s Wicked Plants. See Reg Moule at The Potting Bench and visit the RHS team for all your gardening questions.

 

Vintage Village – head back in time for a bit of sentimentality and to recapture the past! Go ahead and while away some time in the Vintage Village, harking back to days gone by, with vintage vehicles from steam engines to lawn mowers, ride the vintage carousel, and also take the chance to look at historic skills and industries such as forestry and wood turning. There’s even a 1940s-50s dance hall!

 

Gourmet food and drink – The show’s expansive food and drink areas will tantalise your taste buds. From cheeses to pastries, there will be the best of local and regional produce on offer as well as incredible ingredients that are available to take home from the market. Visit the Westons Cider Garden, There will also be a range of demonstrations from knowledgeable experts and celebrity chefs like Mark Diacono, Tom Kerridge and Seren Evans Charrington.

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

 

Oxford – 5 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 17 May, London Heathrow – Oxford

•   Arrive London Heathrow and transfer to Oxford
•   Introduction & Welcome Evening Meal
On arrival at London Heathrow airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Oxford, home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the MacDonald Randolph Hotel. This evening there will be a short introductory meeting before dining at a local restaurant. (Overnight Oxford) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 18 May, The Cotswolds

•   Private visit of Sezincote House and Gardens
•   Market town of Moreton-in-Marsh
•   Guided tour of Bourton House Gardens with the Head Gardener, Paul Nicholls
•   Stow-on-the-Wold
Today we drive into the Cotswolds to visit two magnificent gardens located near the village of Moreton-in-Marsh. Our first visit is to Sezincote Manor, where an exotic oriental garden was created to complement the architect S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating 19th-century Regency house, which he designed in an Indian, Mogul style; Sezincote served as the inspiration for George IV’s Brighton Pavilion. Sezincote’s extraordinary eccentricities include a temple, not to any Grecian deity, but to the Hindu goddess Souriya; garden sculptures include a bronze serpent and Brahmin bulls, whilst minarets top the conservatory.

Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore high street which has many elegant eighteenth-century inns and houses including the Redesdale Market Hall.

In the afternoon we continue to the nearby award-winning three-acre gardens of Bourton House. The gardens had become over grown and neglected when Richard and Monique Paice acquired them in 1983. Over the past 25 years the ornamental garden with its 18th-century raised walk overlooking the rolling Cotswold Hills, the original kitchen garden, and Bourton’s orchard have been transformed. The Paice’s achievement was recognized when Bourton House Garden was honoured with the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year’ award in 2006.

Our day concludes with a drive through the picturesque Cotswolds, including a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow-on-the-Wold was an important medieval market town and is now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) B

 

Day 3: Friday 19 May, Oxford – Througham Court – Highgrove – Oxford

•   Private Guided tour of Througham Court Gardens with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman
•   Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens (subject to confirmation in 2017)
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, Througham Court, a 17th century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal/informal landscape overlooks a peaceful Cotswold valley. Christine Facer Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal ‘laboratory’ to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece, which features magnificent yew topiary and dry stone wall terracing. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. They recently featured in the RHS publication The Garden magazine and in Alan Titchmarsh’s Gardens Secrets on BBC 2.

Mid-morning we make the short drive to Doughton village, where Highgrove House, the country home of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is located. The Prince purchased Highgrove in 1980, and has spent 30 years transforming its grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most brilliant and inventive gardens in the United Kingdom. “A series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the garden, with the house always visible in the distance. For the last 25 years the gardens and surrounding land have been managed to the organic and sustainable principles that His Royal Highness has for so long championed.” After lunch and our 2-hour guided tour of the gardens, we return to Oxford where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 4: Saturday 20 May, The Cotswolds

•   Hidcote Manor
•   Kiftsgate Court Gardens
•   Village of Bibury
Today we travel first to Chipping Campden and the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is significant for its influential garden, designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of rooms of different character and theme, separated from each other by walls and hedges.

At midday we continue to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, which tell the story of three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920s. From the mid-fifties Diany added the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigned the white sunk garden. One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new water garden whose composition is ‘abstract modern’.

Our day concludes with another drive through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 5: Sunday 21 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton

•   Rousham House and Gardens
•   Guided tour of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with Dr Alison Foster, Senior Curator
•   Magdalen College and its award-winning gardens
This morning we drive north of Oxford to Steeple Ashton to visit another stately home of very different aspect. Rousham House has remained the property of the Dormer family since its construction in 1635. The house retains much of its original paneling, staircases, furniture and art works. Several alterations were made in 1876 when the north side of the house was added, but for the most part Rousham remains a stunning example of 17th-century architecture and decoration. The gardens are of particular importance as they represent the first phase of English landscape design and have undergone few changes since laid out by William Kent.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we shall enjoy a walking tour of the magnificent University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with senior curator, Dr Alison Foster. Finally we shall visit the award-winning gardens of 15th century Magdalen College. Magdalen’s extensive grounds include its own deer park, wildflower meadow and a riverside walk. For Oscar Wilde, who matriculated at Magdalen in October 1874, ‘The Magdalen walks and cloisters’ were the ideal backdrop for reading Romantic poetry! (Overnight Oxford) B

 

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells – 1 night

Day 6: Monday 22 May, Oxford – West Green House Gardens – Sevenoaks – Royal Tunbridge Wells

•   West Green House Gardens: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
•   Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 60kms south to the Hart District of Northern Hampshire to visit West Green House Gardens that surround a lovely 18th-century house. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. One could possibly call this a ‘biographical garden’ in the sense that it is a very personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and grand mother when she was growing up in Australia (Marylyn masterminded the famous Australian garden, ‘Kennerton Green’). At West Green House she has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Marylyn is a prolific writer; her latest book The Resilient Garden, in keeping with her experience reconciling very different gardening environments, discusses a collection of plants that will acclimatize to both Mediterranean and cool temperate gardens. Her gardens appear in many publications, in one of which (The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Finder 2007) Charles Quest-Ritson has stated:

West Green House Gardens has many original features. A grand water staircase provides the focal point to the Nymphaeum fountain designed by Quinlan Terry. By the house is a charming small topiary garden where water lilies flourish in small water tanks sunk in the ground. It runs up to a handsome aviary with unusual breeds of bantams and chickens. Beyond, are a dramatic new Persian water garden in a woodland glade, a newly restored lake, more follies and fancies, new walks and massive plantings of snowdrops, daffodils and fritillaries.

Lavishness is a hallmark of the Abbott style – 10,000 tulip bulbs are planted every year – but Marylyn also emphasizes the importance of drama, colour, innovation and humour in her garden.

Following a light lunch we continue our journey east to Ightham Mote, a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, perfectly located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland. Dating from the 14th century, this house has seen many changes but each subsequent section has been preserved in extraordinary condition. Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians have all contributed sections to Ightham Mote. Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985. We shall walk to the house, enjoying its rural setting, before exploring its beautiful interior. Of special note is the chapel with its perfectly preserved interior, pulpit and tester. We shall also enjoy the gardens, with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks.

In the late afternoon we travel a short distance to Royal Tunbridge Wells, a town that rose to prominence when it became a spa in the late 17th century. Tonight we shall dine together at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells) BLD

 

 

London – 3 nights

Day 7: Tuesday 23 May, Royal Tunbridge Wells – Great Dixter – Sissinghurst – London

•   Great Dixter House & Gardens
•   Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Today is a day of superb gardens. The Lloyd family developed Great Dixter early in the 20th century from an original design by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Today it is more famous for the plantings established by Christopher Lloyd documented in his many classic gardening books. The residence comprises a mid-15th century hall house, typical of the Weald of Kent, to the south side of which a second, early 16th century yeoman’s house was grafted. Lutyens enjoyed using local materials and retained farm buildings like oast houses, cowsheds, barns and outbuildings. Around these he designed his garden, featuring a sunken garden, topiary and yew hedges. Christopher Lloyd managed Great Dixter from the 1950s and was noted for his innovative approach and introduction of concepts like the mixed border and meadow garden, and his replacement of the rose garden with schemes using less fashionable plants like cannas and dahlias. We will investigate his full range of planting schemes. Although Lloyd is no longer present in the garden his gardener Fergus has achieved what some consider even better results in recent years.

We next drive to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of England’s greatest garden delights. Sissinghurst was the garden of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, journalist, MP and diplomat, and is possibly the most influential of all 20th century gardens. Built around the remnants of an Elizabethan castle, of which the tower remains a central garden feature, the garden is divided into distinct spaces where a formality established by Nicolson is clothed by a romantic planting style pursued by Sackville-West. Thgarden retains its original charm and romance with such delights as its parterre, white garden, cottage garden, nut walk and orchard. We shall explore Sissinghurst’s many hidden corners, sumptuous planting combinations and the view from the top of the tower, always a good starting point for those who wish to understand the garden’s lay-out.

In the late afternoon we travel to London where we shall spend the next there nights at St Martins Lane Hotel, a 5-star design hotel located near Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square in the heart of the city. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 8: Wednesday 24 May, Chelsea Flower Show

•   The Chelsea Flower Show (Members Day)
•   The Chelsea Physic Gardens
Today is dedicated to the Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s best-known flower show. Located in the grounds of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital (1689), the Show is held annually in May and attracts more tourists to London than the Wimbledon Championships! We will therefore arrive early in order to enjoy the remarkable displays before they become too crowded. All of the gardens on display are constructed in the two weeks prior to the show and, following the event, are dismantled and the grounds reinstated. Around the periphery of the grounds are display gardens, sponsored by newspapers and magazines, major stores and insurance companies, whilst inside the giant marquee are exhibits by plant growers. Here you will see perfect displays of everything horticultural from bonsai to bulbs, rhododendrons to roses. This visit has been designed so that you are free to wander through the event at your leisure, not forgetting the botanical art and floral displays. This is a visual feast that all gardeners will want to enjoy at least once in their lives!

In the late afternoon we visit the nearby Chelsea Physic Gardens, a charming retreat from the crowded Chelsea Showground. Leased by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673 as a centre for medicinal learning, it was later handed over to them by Sir Hans Sloane on condition that they keep it “for the manifestation of the glory, power, and wisdom of God, in the works of creation”. There is a statue of Sir Hans Sloane by Rysbrack (1737). Today it is home to a garden design school. It also continues its traditional purpose of growing plants of medicinal value, with more than 5,000 taxa cultivated within the small garden area. The rock garden is made from unusual masonry debris from the Tower of London and Icelandic lava brought to the garden by Sir Joseph Banks. With an extraordinary micro-climate due to its location in central London both olives and grapefruit crop regularly, Chilean Wine Palms prosper and we will note many Australian plants, including Banksias and Callistemons. (Overnight London) B

 

Day 9: Thursday 25 May, London

•   Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture
•   Farewell lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
•   Afternoon at leisure
Today is a unique opportunity to explore the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with your leader, Richard Barley, who was appointed Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture in April 2013. With his knowledge based on the day-to-day management of the site, Richard will give deep insights into these world-renowned gardens. The original gardens were created for Augusta, Princess of Wales around her home, Kew Palace. Today it contains the largest collection of plants in the world with tropical and sub-tropical plants being kept in appropriate conditions in magnificent Victorian glasshouses. The variety of plants is overwhelming but Kew has a magic far above the ordinary run of Victorian plant collections, perhaps because of its size and the underlying but unobtrusive formality of its structure. The Queen’s Garden is a faithful copy of a 17th century garden with parterres, sunken garden and pleached alleys. A new treetop walk by Marks Barfield Architects (who designed the London Eye) opened in May 2008.

Our day concludes with a farewell lunch at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent eighteenth-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the gardens. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 10: Friday 26 May, London, Tour Ends

•   Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in London. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in London. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

 

Each July, the grounds of the historic Tudor-built Hampton Court Palace in East Molesley, Surrey, become a showpiece of the latest in garden design and innovative landscaping.

Over 30 gardens in a range of sizes and categories: show gardens, summer gardens, water gardens and conceptual gardens feature lush planting, new products, and an abundance summer flowers.

Visit the majestic floral pavilion, enjoy a wide range of presentations and workshops, buy garden products and latest plant releases, and indulge your tastebuds at the Market Deli.

Local retailers along nearby Bridge Rd get into the Hampton Court spirit with wonderful garden and window displays.

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

 

A show for all the family, RHS Flower Show Tatton Park brings you the best of high summer’s flowers, fabulous display gardens, loads of gardening products, plants and spectacular floral displays in the Floral Marquee.

If you want to see the latest in contemporary and conceptual garden design, you will be wowed with our new Evolution Gardens. Our popular Water Gardens return as does the perfect ideas hub for everyone with a small garden – the Back To Back garden category with its tiny 6m x 4m plots.

In 2017, for all those starting out in the industry, there’s the prestigious RHS Young Designer of the Year Competition, RHS Young Landscaper of the Year, RHS Young Plantsperson of the Year and the RHS Future Florist competition.

 

Other special features include:

•  Blooming Beds

•  Garden Hideaways

•  children’s activities

•  The Vineyard, dedicated to English wine

•  entertainment in the Bandstand

 

RHS Tatton Park Opening times

Thursday-Saturday – 10am to 6,30pm

Sunday – 10am – 5pm

 

 

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

 

NOW 15% off special offer – BOOK TODAY!

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

August 16, Tuesday – Arrive in The Netherlands at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
August 17, Wednesday – Jac. P. Thijssepark, Vlinderhof
August 18, Thursday – Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature, Private Garden designed by Noel van Mierlo
August 19, Friday – Oudolf/Hummelo, Peter Janke’s Hortvs
August 20, Saturday – Het Loo Palace & Garden, Kröller-Müller Museum
August 21, Sunday – Priona Garden, Mien Ruys Gardens, Cruydt Hoeck
August 22, Monday – Lianne’s Siergrassen, Jakobstuin, Dewit Garden Tools
August 23, Tuesday – Village of Zaanse Schans, Boon Garden, Tuin aan het Weeltje
August 24, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, August 16, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

•   Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Saturday.

 

Day 2, August 17, Wednesday – TOUR STARTS, JAC P. THIJSSEPARK, VLINDERHOF

•   What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wildflowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.”

•   We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings. Read blogger Michael King’s enthusiastic post after a recent visit.

•   The Vlinderhof, or Butterfly Garden, is nestled in Maxima Park in Utrecht, and the garden plan is by acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf. Residents in the area asked Oudolf to design a garden within the park, to be maintained by volunteers. Now, over 15,000 plants of 97 different varieties in a naturalistic setting attract not only butterflies, but also bees and many other beneficial insects.

 

Day 3, August 18, Thursday – KASTEEL GELDROP, VAN NATURE, NOEL VAN MIERLO

•   We’ll start the day by visiting Kasteel Geldrop, a 14th century castle, to see the work of planting designer John Schoolmeesters. He came to this garden in 2005 to turn the walled fruit and vegetable garden into a contemporary naturalistic perennial and grass garden. The end result is a prime example of a post Dutch Wave garden with an emphasis on color, texture, and shape. Schoolmeesters is also a very good photographer and chronicles the development of this garden daily on Facebook.

•   Van Nature is a post Dutch wave display garden and nursery, started in 2013, bylandscaper Frank van der Linden, nursery woman Caroline van Heeswijk, and garden designer Frank Heijligers. Here we’ll see ornamental grasses and perennials that are difficult to find but are low maintenance & good in all seasons. That’s a tall order but it will be fascinating to see what combinations they recommend.

•   Our final garden for the day will be a private garden by Noel van Mierlo. Known for his naturalistic style, Van Mierlo is a three-time winner of the National Garden of the Year Award plus the Most Sustainable Garden, Netherlands and the Most Natural Pool. Getting a chance to see a garden by such an accomplished designer is a treat we’ll long remember.

 

Day 4, August 19, Friday – OUDOLF/HUMMELO, HORTVS

•   Piet Oudolf’s private garden at Hummelo has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of followers from around the world. As the master designer of the New Perennials style of naturalistic planting (which, of course, started as Dutch Wave), Oudolf’s garden is a place of experimentation and testing and therefore, constant change. Enclosed by typical Dutch hedges, the interior garden explodes with familiar and new plants in an exuberant, unconventional display. Oudolf has said, “What I try to do is build an image of nature.” Here we’ll see his current image of nature and draw inspiration from Oudolf’s own innovations. This will be a garden experience we’ll never forget.

•   Our only garden in Germany is Hortvs, the private garden of designer and author Peter Janke, considered a rising star in the German landscape design world. The design is inspired by the work of British designer, Beth Chatto, with whom Janke studied in England. We’ll see meadows, a gravel garden, a woodland garden with simple mulched paths, and a wild, abundant herb garden. It’s geometric and organic, a beautiful mixture of classic and modern styles.

 

Day 5, August 20, Saturday – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

(Today we take a break from Dutch Wave gardens and visit two places that are important to Dutch culture. One is historical and the other is modern.)

•   At Het Loo Palace, we’ll see an example of 17th century formal Dutch garden design, heavily influenced by the French – about as far away as one could get from Dutch Wave. The Great Garden in the back of the palace was designed by a nephew of André Le Nôtre and has a symmetrical axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres, statuary, fountains, and raised walks. In the 18th century, the original Baroque garden was destroyed to make way for a landscape park but it was restored for the palace’s 300th anniversary in 1984. There continue to be renovations. Recently the boxwood in the parterres were pulled out due to boxwood blight and replaced with a cultivar of Ilex crenata.

•   The Kröller-Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden set in a national park. We’ll spend some time here at the museum itself, seeing the second-largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and works by Picasso, Gauguin, Mondrian, and Seurat among many other artists. We’ll also want to see the sculpture garden, which has an equally renowned collection of modern sculptures in a beautiful park setting. Then, if there’s time, we’ll walk along the Ecological Walking Route or perhaps take advantage of the free bikes and cycle around the 75 acre national park.

 

Day 6, August 21, Sunday – PRIONA, MIEN RUYS, CRUYDT HOECK

•   We begin our day at Priona, the home garden of the late Henk Gerritsen, one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave. Gerritson is credited with developing the main principles of Dutch Wave design and it shows throughout the garden. Wild and cultivated plants grow next to each other. Weeds and pests are tolerated in the name of naturalism. Gerritson said his design principle is simple: “What is straight should be curved, what is curved should be straight.” We’ll discuss what that means after our visit to this garden which author Noel Kingsbury has described as “magical and entertaining … wild and zany.”

•   Our second garden of the day is the important Tuinen Mien Ruys. Here we’ll pay homage to the woman many call the “Mother of Modernism,” landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904-1999). She made these gardens over 70 years and they’re a reflection of her amazing creativity. Her style is distinctly architectural but the plantings are loose and naturalistic. There are 28 gardens in all, incorporating old and new styles while using unusual materials and perennial introductions from her father’s internationally renowned nursery. Above all, Ruys was experimental. Never afraid to try new things, her garden was an inspiration to the founders of Dutch Wave as it has been to designers from all over the world from many years.

•   Our final stop of the day is Cruyd-Hoeck, the seed nursery started by the late Rob Leopold, a specialist in wildflower seeds and one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave movement. Leopold established the nursery in 1978 to preserve the biodiversity of wild plants, bees, butterflies, and other animals, offering seed mixtures for native wildflower plantings and flower meadows. His influence continues today. A connection with Leopold’s work can be made to the much acclaimed landscaping done with seed mixtures at the recent London Olympics.Since Leopold’s death in 2005, the nursery continues under the leadership of Jasper Helwinkel and Jojanneke Bijkere, designers who are experts in Dutch Wave principles.

 

Day 7, August 22, Monday – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, JAKOBSTUIN, DEWIT GARDEN TOOLS

•   The theme of today’s first garden could be summarized simply as “Plants, Plants, Plants!” Lianne’s Siergrassen is a well respected Dutch nursery that specializes in Dutch Wave ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only has the owner, Lianne Pot, indulged her passion and brought together a virtual living encyclopedia of grasses, she has also created a demonstration Prairie Style Garden arranged in curving beds with over 12,000 dynamic plants. There’s probably not one moment in the year that this garden isn’t beautiful.

•   We continue our tour at Jakobstuin, a garden that falls somewhere between Oudolf’s current style and Prairie Style. The owner and designer, Jaap de Vries, calls Jakobstuin an “Ode to the Dutch Wave.” In addition to warm season grasses typical of the North American Prairie, de Vries also uses many perennial selections favored in the New Perennial movement and arranges plants in the currently popular matrix pattern. Look carefully and you’ll notice that he pays particular attention to texture, form, and light, which is probably the reason his daily photo posts on Facebook are loved by hundreds of followers.

•   The Dutch are known for making some of the finest garden tools in the world so we’re very fortunate that DeWit Garden Tools has invited us to visit their factory and maybe even get a chance to make our own tools! The company was started by Willem de Wit in 1898, and today, the 4th generation of the family is running the forging operation. You’ll note the old-fashioned, top-notch quality, along with innovative designs.

 

Day 8, August 23, Tuesday – ZAANSE SCHANS, BOON, TUIN AAN HET WEELTJE

•   On our final tour day we’ll start with a visit to the village of Zaanse Schans. This is where you’ll get to explore traditional wooden windmills in a working community dating from the 18th & 19th centuries. Have your cameras ready because this is a photo op to text to your friends back home.

•   On our final tour day, we’ll start with the Boon Garden, a private garden near Amsterdam designed by Piet Oudolf in 2000. It combines all the advantages of an urban location but displays the harmony and tranquility of nature. The bold, modern house is open to the landscape and seamlessly transitions to lush outdoor plantings. In the back, we’ll see the iconic infinity edged pool surrounded by a beautiful mass planting of the native Dutch grass, Deschampsia cespitosa.

•   The final garden of our tour is Tuin aan het Weeltje, another private garden designed by Piet Oudolf. Large groups of grasses are combined with delicately colored perennials making a rich, waving tapestry. Here will be our chance to see how Oudolf’s ideas fit into a home garden with typical Dutch landscape elements of water, reed, and ancient willow trees. Maybe we’ll pick up some tips to apply to our own gardens when we get home.

 

Day 9, August 24, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

•   Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to airport in the morning. Or you can take the train or taxi from Central Station to the airport.

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Arrive Bordeaux, Embark Ship
On arrival, transfer to your river ship, docked on the Garonne River. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner.
Seven Nights: an APT Aria River Ship (D)

Day 2. Cadillac, Sauternes or Water Lillies. Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a morning sail through French villages and landscapes. From Cadiallac travel to Le Temple-sur-Lot to see a unique water lily garden where Claude Monet discovered his obsession with water lilies and painting them. Founded in 1280, the walled village of Cadillac offers a wealth of historic treasures and sights. Others may choose to visit Château de La Brède in Sauternes for a tour with its English Gardens. This well-preserved castle was once the home of the great philosopher, Montesquieu. Afterwards, head to Château Smith Haut Lafitte for a tour which includes a tasting of Sauternes’ world-famous dessert wines. (BLD)

Day 3. Pauillac
Today, you will enjoy a tour of the lovely village town on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary known as Pauillac. Situated in the famed Médoc AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée, a government controlled designation of origin which signifies where grapes are grown), Pauillac’s gravelly soils are renowned for producing some of the world’s finest Bordeaux wines – especially those made from the Merlot grape variety. You’ll be able to dabble in local blends this afternoon at an authentic Médoc wine tasting and learn the art of barrel manufacture as a family cooperage. (BLD)

Day 4. Blaye, Cognac and Chateau Gardens. Freedom of Choice
Today you can choose to spend a full day visiting Chateau gardens in the Charente-Maritime region including the well known Chateau La Roche Courbon also known as ‘Sleeping Beauty’s Castle’ and its magnificent French formal gardens that pre-date those at Versailles.
Alternatively step ashore to discover the town of Blaye, including a walk along its 17th century citadel, and World Heritage-listed fortress and tunnels. In the afternoon, perhaps journey to Cognac for a tour and a tasting at Château de Cognac, a French cognac house founded in 1795. Or, sail to the town of Bourg and discover the town centre, medieval ramparts and harbor on a tour. (BLD)

Day 5. Bergerac, Libourne and Saint-Émilion. Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a relaxing morning cruising then explore the picturesque and historic village of Bergerac on the northern bank of the Dordogne River with a visit to nearby Les Jardins de Sardy, one of the best gardens in the Dordogne area with its Italian style yet English garden feel. Alternatively alight in Libourne and travel to World Heritage-listed Saint-Émilion. Explore its remarkable network of cellars and tunnels that stretch for three kilometres under Saint-Émilion. The owners, Les Cordeliers, have been using these underground passages to make and age their exclusive sparkling wines since the 19th century. After a guided tour, enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and a selection of Saint-Émilion’s traditional macarons. (BLD)

Day 6. Libourne, Caviar and Gardens. Freedom of Chocie
Enjoy a guided tour of Libourne, during which you’ll visit a caviar estate for a tour and a tasting. Alternatively you can spend a full day discovering Les Jardins de L’Imaginaire ‘The Gardens of the Imagination’ that displays in 13 different areas the myths and legends of the history of gardens and another delightful French Chateau with its formal style offering stunning views over the Vezere river. We sail to Bordeaux this evening where we will dock and indulge in a spectacular Farewell Dinner with your Captain. Later on, take in the brightly-lit sights on an illuminations cruise of this magical city. (BLD)

Day 7. Bordeaux. Freedom of Choice
You will see the elegant port city of Bordeaux on foot. The breathtaking capital of the wine world is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, with over 360 historic monuments within its borders, it is also classified as a “City of Art and History.” An optional tour will also be available for those that wish to see Bordeaux and the Botanical Gardens that have being recognized as one of the most progressive projects of landscape architecture. Enjoy a free afternoon in Bordeaux. (BLD)

Day 8. Disembark Ship, Depart Bordeaux
Disembark your ship for the final time after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

 

Highlights

• Enjoy strolling the grounds & gardens of beautiful French Chateaux with your botanical guide
• Explore Les Jardins de L’Imaginaire with 13 display gardens
• Sample French tasting experiences with your Gourmet Guide
• Experience the rich history & culture of Bordeaux on a walking tour
• Sightseeing tour in Pauillac with a Medoc wine tasting
• Admire the view of the impressive Gironde estuary from the 17th century citadel
• Visit the wine making region of Libourne and enjoy a tasting in a cave in St Emilion
• Bergerac village and Caviar tour and tasting
• Macaroon, Cognac & Sauternes tastings

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director and Botanical Guide
• Airport transfers on first and last day, as well as tipping and port taxes
• 20 Meals – 7 Breakfasts (B), 6 Lunches (L) and 7 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board
• Seven nights on a luxury APT Aria river ship, which holds
a maximum of 120 guests
• Onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide
• Freedom of Choice touring most days included in the price.

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Embark Ship, Athens
Embark the small boutique ship, Island Sky at 4pm at Piraeus Harbour and sail this evening towards the island of Crete. Enjoy a Welcome Dinner on board.
Eleven Nights: aboard MS Island Sky (D)

Day 2. Heraklion, Crete, Wildflowers
Step ashore this morning on the fascinating island of Crete and journey to Knossos, the ancient capital of the great king Minos. Discover the fantastic ruins of the ancient palace complex and then journey through the charming countryside of Crete and picturesque villages to one of the three great mountain ranges, Mt. Dikti where we hunt for spring flowering plants including wild tulips and anemones.
(BLD)

Day 3. Rethmynon, Crete Freedom of Choice
We visit the ancient Fortezza and enjoy a scenic drive to Gaios Kambos which is renowned for endemic Cretan plants and again we seek out the crown anemones, turban buttercups, narcissus tazetta, orchids, irises and Bulbocodium species, before a visit to the Monoan Cemetery at Armenoi. After lunch on board, you can enjoy a free afternoon to explore on your own or choose to take a scenic drive to a botanical park with 20 hectares of fruit trees, herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants to explore. (BLD)

Day 4. Peloponnese, Greece Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful and fertile Peloponnese countryside to Agios Nilona where there is a riot of springtime Euphorbia and wildflowers. At Areopoli, one of the most attractive traditional villages in Greece, we stroll the cobbled lanes that wind through the village. Alternatively choose to visit the ancient Greek site of Sparta where the warrior society ruled in the Achiac and Classical periods. (BLD)

Day 5. Kefalonia
Made famous by the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin this Ionian Island has great charm. See the capital, Argostoli including the famous lighthouse and then drive to the nearby Botanical Gardens. We continue to Mt Ainos National Park renowned for its dense forest of Kefalonian Fir trees and endemic flowers including orchids. This afternoon you can enjoy a free afternoon in Argostoli, soaking up the atmosphere of this interesting place. (BLD)

Day 6. Corfu. Freedom of Choice
A half day visit to the historical village of Gastouri and the Achilleion Palace, the former residence of Empress Elizabeth of Austria and later Kaiser Wilhelm the second. Explore the museum with its royal treasures and enjoy the splendor of the landscaped gardens. Then return to historic Corfu Town which is on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) for a tour and some free time before returning to the ship for lunch. Alternatively take a full day trip taking in Mon Repos, the birthplace of Prince Philip, enjoy the scenic beauty of Corfu Island including Mouse Island and have an authentic Greek lunch at Agios Yannis and explore the old town of Corfu. (BLD)

Day 7. Lecce, Italy
Often referred to as the ‘Florence of Southern Italy’ Lecce’s Roman heritage is evident in the Amphitheatre built to accommodate 20,000 spectators. Our tour will include the Santa Croce Basilica and the Piazza Duomo. Later, a visit to Palazzo Tamborino-Cezzi, a privately owned 15th century palace has been arranged. This afternoon we cruise to Sicily. (BLD)

Day 8. Catania, Sicily, Private Garden
After a relaxing morning at sea, we arrive at Catania in Sicily for an exclusive private garden visit at the invitation of Princess Borghese, who will personally take us around her beautiful garden and extend her welcome hospitality to us. (BLD)

Day 9. Syracuse, Sicily, Private Garden
Our tour will begin in the Archaeological Zone and include the well preserved Greek theatre. Paradise Quarry is now a garden and orange grove and is famous for the curious ‘Dionysus Ear’, a vast grotto with an amplifying resonance. After lunch we enjoy a private visit to the gardens of the Marquess of San Giulliano. See the Mediterranean, Arabian and Tropical Gardens which owes much to the head gardener, Rachel Lamb. (BLD)

Day 10. Taormina and Stromboli
We visit Taormina, a walled town lying in the shadow of Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. The town has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century and our guided tour will include walking the characteristic alleys before visiting the 15th century Palazzo Corvaja and the impressive Greek Theatre, from where there are marvellous views over the town and coast. This afternoon we sail towards Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, in time to see it lit up in the evening light. (BLD)

Day 11. Naples, Ischia, Herculaneum Freedom of Choice
Arrive this morning in Naples to the sight of the Norman castle that protects the port and the backdrop of Vesuvius in the distance. You may choose to spend the afternoon on the island of Ischia to see La Mortella, a wonderful garden designed by architect Russell Page for Lord and Lady William Walton. Alternatively, enjoy an afternoon visiting the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum or enjoy a free afternoon in Naples. (BLD)

Day 12. Naples, Ninfa, Rome
Disembark this morning. A transfer from Naples to Rome is available with a visit to the romantic garden of Ninfa, arriving in Rome by 5.00pm. (BL)

 

M.S. Island Sky

Enjoy the intimate and personalized atmosphere of this small boutique ship with just 100 guests on board.
The décor resembles a grand English style country hotel with two lounges where a traditional afternoon tea is served, plus a bar. There are two restaurants for you to choose from including a fine dining room complete with white table clothes or the more informal on deck, Lido Restaurant where you can enjoy the passing coastal scenery and the fresh sea air. There is a Beauty & Massage Parlor, plus a lift to all floors. The large suites with wood paneling and brass features are spread over four decks and all have outside facing views, en-suite bathrooms, a sitting area and television. The 70 crew will attend to your every need in a friendly and efficient way making your Botanica cruise very special.

 

Highlights

• Learn about the history of the regions from local guides
• Enjoy the comfort of small ship cruising – unpack once
• See historical sights & villages on Crete, Peloponnese & Sicily
• Visit the Greek Islands of Crete, Kefalonia and Corfu
• See the Botanical Gardens of Crete
• Learn about ancient civilization and architecture
• See the birthplace of Prince Philip
• Explore Paradise Quarry in Syracuse
• Private garden visit to Marquess of San Giulliano’s garden
• Private garden visit to Princess Borghese garden
• Visit the beautiful Sicilian walled-town of Taormina
• Explore the Island of Ischia & La Mortella garden
• Discover the fascinating volcanic ruins Herculaneum
• Have a choice of touring options in selected locations
• Learn about the plants and gardens from your Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director and Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave
• Airport transfers on first and last day, tipping and port taxes
• Meals – 11 Breakfasts (B) 11 Lunches (L) and 11 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board the ship
• Eleven nights on the boutique small ship, the MS Island Sky, with just 100 guests
• Learn about the Mediterranean plants with onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide
• Freedom of Choice Touring on some days at no extra cost

 

Experiences: Wildflowers, Private Gardens, History & Ancient Architecture

 

This tour can be combined with:

• Italian & French Gardens tour (BTIF9)
• Italian & French Gardens & Bordeaux Cruise (BTBIF16)

 

Chelsea Fringe – the alternative garden festival

Chelsea Fringe

 

Chelsea Fringe begin on Saturday 20 May and runs until 4 June 2017, at a host of different venues and settings across England and Scotland plus events in various locations around the world.

Building on the success of the previous Chelsea Fringe festivals, it will feature a wonderful mixture of public spectacles, horticultural happenings and community celebrations.

The Fringe is all about harnessing and spreading some of the excitement and energy that fizzes around gardens and gardening. The idea is to give people the freedom and opportunity to express themselves through the medium of plants and gardens, to open up possibilities and to allow full participation.

Entirely independent of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (though acting with its support), the Fringe explodes out of the showground geographically, demographically and conceptually. Its events encompass everything from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. Our open-access principle means that just about anything goes – as long as it’s interesting and legal, and on the subject of gardens, flowers, veg-growing or landscape.

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer 2016

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

July 19, Tuesday –  Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle)
July 20, Wednesday – Jardins d’Angélique, Château du Champ-de-Bataille
July 21, Thursday – Le Bois des Moutiers, Château de Miromesnil, Les Jardins Agapanthe
July 22, Friday – Visits to Honfleur, Calvados Distillery, and Omaha Beach
July 23, Saturday – Jardin de Valérianes, Le Jardin Plume
July 24, Sunday – Giverny Monet’s Garden, Versailles
July 25, Monday – Château de Sceaux, Parc André Citroën, Musée Rodin, Afternoon Free
July 26, Tuesday – Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, Musée du quai Branly, Promenade Plantée, Afternoon Free
July 27, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels on your own

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond our control or opportunities that would enhance the itinerary, adjustments may be necessary.

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, July 19, Tuesday  – ARRIVE IN PARIS
  • Tour participants will independently arrange travel to the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle) and have the opportunity to get settled into the designated hotel before the garden tour starts on Wednesday.

 

Day 2, July 20, Wednesday  – TOUR STARTS, JARDINS D’ANGÉLIQUE, CHÂTEAU DU CHAMP-DE-BATAILLE
  • Jardins d’Angélique was designed by the owners and features two distinct gardens. The North garden is a dreamy, informal, and flowing English-style garden with winding paths. The South garden is a serene, formal, and geometric Italianate garden featuring parterres filled to overflowing with masses of roses, perennials, and ornamental grasses. The gardens are home to a collection of over 2,000 rose varieties that create a visually rich and remarkable aromatic experience.
  • Château du Champ-de-Bataille is certain to delight anyone with a passion for formal design. Jacques Garcia, the French architect, interior designer, and garden designer, spent two decades restoring the château and its acres of gardens and waterworks to an opulence said to rival Versailles.

 

Day 3, July 21, Thursday  – Le BOIS des MOUTIERS, CHÂTEAU DE MIROMESNIL, LES JARDINS AGAPANTHE
  • The gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers offer a bit of England in France. This magical landscape reflects the successful collaboration between the owner, the English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the highly influential English horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll. This 116-year-old property is an example of a superbly maintained and mature landscape. As it slopes down to meet the sea, it features formal gardens, awe-inspiring 30-foot-tall rhododendrons, and blooming hydrangeas. Lutyens’ attention to detail is evident in the brick-built seating areas, paths of brick and stone, and exceptional clipped yew hedges.
  • Château de Miromesnil is a historic monument featuring a castle, chapel, and a 100-year-old beech grove. A treasure here is most certainly the classic potager (kitchen garden) surrounded by an old brick wall. It includes a floriferous cutting garden, which illustrates its use for pleasure as well as eating.
  • At the Les Jardins Agapanthe the possibilities of a small landscape infused with big ideas will inspire. Created over the last 30 years, the owner and landscape designer Alexandre Thomas has thoughtfully chosen a planting combination that highlights the cool colors of Agapanthus, Hydrangea and Wisteria in the older section, and a more Mediterranean plant palette in the newer garden.

 

Day 4, July 22, Friday  – HONFLEUR, CALVADOS DISTILLERY, and OMAHA BEACH
  • We’ll depart briefly from garden paths to savor the food, art galleries, and historic charm of the famous and picturesque Honfleur. Located where the Seine river meets the English Channel, Honfleur has been skillfully painted by Monet and other artists and is widely celebrated as the birthplace of Impressionism. Next we’ll visit a distillery and enjoy the chance to sip Calvados, the famous Norman apple brandy. And, lastly, we’ll experience the crisp air of the Norman coast and pay our respects as we visit the beach where the Allied invasion of German-occupied France took place during World War II.

 

Day 5, July 23, Saturday – JARDIN DE VALÉRIANES, LE JARDIN PLUME
  • A visit to the heart of the countryside will lead us to the the Jardin de Valérianes, where the owners’ passion for English cottage gardens is showcased through two unique gardens.The original and historic garden exudes a romantic and formal combination of roses and perennials while the newer garden offers a woodland paradise.
  • Le Jardin Plume is an exciting contemporary garden that skillfully combines French formality with strong linear structural elements alongside naturalistic planting schemes to create a stunning effect. Designed by owners Patrick and Sylvie Quibell, it is thought by many to be the finest modern private garden in France.

 

Day 6, July 24, Sunday  – GIVERNY MONET’S GARDEN,  VERSAILLES
  • Many of Monet’s most famous works were painted in his garden in Giverny. Here we’ll see the walled garden, the archways with climbing plants, the Japanese bridge, and the waterlily pond where the artist transformed his view into a series of world-renowned paintings that have been embraced by art lovers from around the globe.
  • At Versailles, we’ll be treated to one of the world’s most treasured gardens and the marvelous achievement of French landscape architect André Le Nôtre . Considered the crown jewel of formal French design, the landscape features iconic intricate parterres, long avenues of trees, a grand canal, and impressive fountains.

 

Day 7,  July 25, Monday  –CHÂTEAU DE SCEAUX, PARC ANDRÉ CITROËN, MUSEÉ  RODIN, AFTERNOON FREE
  • The Château de Sceaux is a country house situated in a park not far from Paris. It was designed by André Le Nôtre , the French landscape architect who first dazzled the world with his designs for Versailles. Here we will be awed by the expansive lawns that lead to the chateau, the grand canals, waterfalls, fountains, and the symmetrical structure that defines the traditional French design aesthetic.
  • The Parc André Citroën is a contemporary green space with a beautiful view of the Seine, a collection of exotic trees, many rare plants and impressive hothouses. We’ll visit the three themed areas: the Jardin Blanc, the Jardin Noir and the big central park area.
  • Musée  Rodin – Late in his life, the world-famous sculptor Auguste Rodin lived and worked from his studio in the Hôtel Biron. Newly restored, the 18th-century hotel houses a marvelous museum that includes 18 rooms and a spectacular sculpture garden dedicated to his works. Many of his bronze and marble sculptures, including his best-known masterpieces, are on display in the gardens. The Thinker and The Gates of Hell are situated in the museum’s rose garden, which is a highlight in its own right.
  • Afternoon Free – Enjoy an afternoon of unscheduled time to explore Paris as you choose.

 

Day 8,  July 26, Tuesday  – PATRICK BLANC’S VERTICAL GARDEN, MUSEÉ  DU QUAI BRANLY, PROMENADE PLANTÉE, AFTERNOON FREE
  • Around the world, majestic walls of plants are cropping up in urban settings and providing a welcome green oasis thanks to Patrick Blanc, the botanist and designer credited with popularizing the vertical garden trend. We’ll see the artistry of Patrick Blanc exemplified by a 40’ x 650’ green wall at the Musée du quai Branly(nicknamed MQB). We’ll also experience the work of Gilles Clément who designed the gardens at MQB to be the exact opposite of a traditional French formal garden. Instead of lawns, gates, and monumental stairways, Clément composed a masterpiece using small gardens, streams, hills, pools, groves, and a stunning combination of native French plants.
  • Our final destination will take us to the Promenade Plantée, where we will experience the marvelous transformation of a 19th-century railway viaduct into the world’s first elevated park. Plant combinations include fragrant cherry trees, maples, rose trellises, bamboo corridors and lavender. Situated three storys above ground, the Promenade provides a unique and impressive view of the surrounding architecture.
  • Afternoon Free – Enjoy an afternoon of unscheduled time to explore Paris as you choose.

 

Day 9,  July 27, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS
  • Our time together will come to an end, but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Coach transfer to the airport is included in the trip price and will depart in the morning. Participants can arrange an individual or shared taxi for approximately $50 or continue travels independently to your next destination.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

May 18, Wednesday – Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport
May 19, Thursday – Broughton Grange, Broughton Castle, Pettifers
May 20, Friday – Hidcote, Kiftsgate
May 21, Saturday – RHS Garden Wisley, Highgrove
May 22, Sunday – Folly Farm, Waltham Place
May 23, Monday – Sissinghurst, Gravetye Manor, Great Dixter
May 24, Tuesday – Hampton Court Palace, Olympic Park, Afternoon & Evening free
May 25, Wednesday – Chelsea Flower Show, Farewell Dinner
May 26, Thursday – Depart or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, May 18, Wedesday – ARRIVE IN ENGLAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Heathrow airport in London and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Friday.

Day 2, May 19, Thursday – BROUGHTON GRANGE, BROUGHTON CASTLE, PETTIFERS

We’ll start our tour by seeing a captivating garden at Broughton Grange by a designer many think to be the best working in England today, Tom Stuart-Smith. Part of a larger 19th century garden, this new 21st century addition transformed a paddock into an ambitious six-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s design is a bold step away from the typical English garden room.
Broughton Castle is a medieval, moated manor house, home of the Fiennes family. Among the garden highlights are the Ladies’ Garden, a walled enclosure on the South side of the castle created in the 1890’s. The crisp fleur-de-lys parterres are planted with ‘Heritage’ and “Gruss an Aachen’ roses. On the perimeter are beds with colorful shrubs, old roses, and herbaceous perennials. This will be our introduction to the classic, pretty English border.

Our third stop is Pettifers a stylish townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little experience in design, Price started in the early 1990’s with a conventional, old fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today, Pettifers is known for its innovative plant choices, remarkable plant combinations, and vivid color blends, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials movement but says she couldn’t have a garden without English prettiness. This is a pairing that’s sure to please.

Day 3, May 20, Friday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

From 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be an early 20th century masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways and eventually lead to views of the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants, many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s interesting to note the number of plants still used today that were introduced in this garden.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how three generations of women have shaped this garden into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920’s by Heather Muir, who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s, Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden and introduced a semi-circular pool in the lower garden, commissioned sculptural features, and opened Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, continues to shape the landscape. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century. At Kiftsgate, we’ll stroll leisurely along the Wide Border packed with perennials, and, with any luck, view the enormous blooms of the tree peony collection.

Day 4, May 21, Saturday – WISLEY, HIGHGROVE

We’ll first enjoy the famous Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley. This flagship garden spans 240 acres and features a diversity of garden types from model gardens to rock gardens to stunning borders. We can expect to see colorful May flowers such as rhododendrons and azaleas, tulips, allium, camassia, iris & peony in bloom. We’ll explore the Glasshouse, a recent addition to Wisley, and the nearby perennial borders created by influential planting designers Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith. There will be time to pause and reflect over afternoon tea or buy a memento in the shop.

Our second stop of the day is Highgrove. The Prince of Wales bought his estate in 1980 and has devoted great energy to establishing lush, organic gardens. He’s had the help of notable designers including Rosemary Verey and Julian and Isabel Bannerman. The results are thought by many to be enchanting. Just a few of the gardens we’ll see are dancing wildflower meadows, a fragrant Thyme Walk flanked by witty Yew Topiaries, and a fabulous, sculptural Stumpery in the woods.

Day 5, May 22, Sunday – FOLLY FARM, WALTHAM PLACE

We’ll begin the day at Folly Farm an outstanding example of the collaboration between celebrated 20th century garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and the great British architect Edward Lutyens. The best known areas are the canal garden and the sunken rose garden. Originally designed in 1912, the current owners have led a recent restoration and replanting with assistance from the influential contemporary English garden designer Dan Pearson. Not to be missed is Pearson’s bold, new planting in the Lutyens’ Sunken Pool Garden.

We continue on to Waltham Place where we will explore naturalistic plantings by the late Dutch designer Henk Gerritsen. Along with Piet Oudolf, Gerritsen is credited as a founder of the Dutch Wave movement. At Waltham Place, he transformed a square walled garden that dates back to the 17th century by using plantings that seem wild and unplanned. A cloud pruned caterpillar hedge snakes through the space, playfully contrasting with the looseness of the other plants. We’ll see other gardens here and have time to consider the contribution of Gerritsen to modern planting design.

Day 6, May 23, Monday – SISSINGHURST, GRAVETYE MANOR, GREAT DIXTER

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicholson. He laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. You can learn more about Sissinghurst right now by checking out its blog.

The gardens of Gravetye Manor, with their lovely views to the surrounding countryside, were created a century ago by writer, designer, and owner, William Robinson. Here he showcased his ideas about naturalism & wild gardening by dramatically contrasting untamed gardens with more structured areas close to the house. Today, Gravetye Manor is a country house hotel and the gardens have had an extensive restoration. But don’t expect to see a historic set piece. The current head gardener, having done a stint at Great Dixter, is adding experimental plantings, giving the garden a 21st century twist.

We end the day at Great Dixter perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Today, Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation. He welcomes visitors with horticultural interests from all over the world.

Day 7, May 24, Tuesday – HAMPTON COURT PALACE & GARDEN, OLYMPIC PARK, AFTERNOON & EVENING FREE

Hampton Court Palace sits on the banks of the Thames River and has 60 acres of formal gardens. You’ll want to search out the achingly beautiful Wisteria tunnel, get lost in the maze of a thousand yews, and be awed by the Victorian kitchen garden with its brilliant display of vibrantly colored tulips. Make sure you bring a camera because the gardens also have a grape vine planted in 1769 that is the largest in the world.

The gardens at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park were created for the 2012 Olympic Games to celebrate the participating countries by featuring plants from around the world. Praised for their intricate floriferous plantings that have the look of colorful meadows, the gardens have continued to draw much interest. This new park is an example of how urban plantings can help to make cities healthy and livable.

Afternoon & Evening Free – Enjoy an afternoon & evening of unscheduled time to explore London as you choose.

Day 8, May 25, Wednesday – Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show attracts garden designers and garden enthusiasts from every corner of the world. Held at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Chelsea Flower Show consistently displays design and horticultural excellence. There will be 17 show gardens along Main Avenue this year and the competition will be fierce. Last year’s Best of Show winner was Dan Pearson’s poetic interpretation of wildflower garden with a trout stream– a naturalistic tour de force. There will also be plenty of time at the show to explore the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best & newest plants from around the world.

Day 9, May 26, Thursday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end, but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Coach transfer to the airport is included in the trip price and will depart in the morning. You may also choose to take the Heathrow Express train or a taxi.

Festival des Architectures Vives

Festival des Architectures Vives (the Lively Architecture)

 

To face today’s economic mutations and technical, technological and societal changes, it is not enough to adapt – today we must innovate.

 

The Festival des Architectures Vives is an architectural path for the general public, who can discover or rediscover the historical landmarks of the city of Montpellier since 2006 and the city of La Grande Motte since 2013. The event invites visitors to go in contact this rich heritage by offering installations scattered around the city. In Montpellier, it takes place in the historic town and offers a path connecting mansions and courtyards, mostly private, that are usually not visible to visitors.

Then in La Grande Motte, the festival invites the visitor to discover a revisited contemporary architectural heritage, and sometimes rewritten by young architects. Thus, the city of La Grande Motte and specifically the architecture of Jean Balladur, recognized as the “Heritage of the twentieth century” is put into perspective by these ephemeral works.

Each installation created by architects teams allows to highlight the work of a younger generation which is inventing, experimenting and exploring new design of our environment fields. Thus, the festival offers them the opportunity to make a submission through an installation in the heart of the prestigious and remarkable setting offered courses and mansions and to confront qualitative urban spaces open to the great landscape in La Grande Motte. Each one opens a dialogue between heritage and contemporary architecture installations.

Since 2006, the FAV is organized annually by the association Champ Libre, chaired by Jacques Brion and Elodie NOURRIGAT, architects in Montpellier.

The access is completely free and open to all.

 

Royal Châteaux & Gardens in the Ile de France

Royal Châteaux & Gardens in the Ile de France

 

If you dream of exploring some of the world’s most enchanting gardens and castles in the countryside surrounding Paris, join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) in this unique 5-day tour designed for lovers of natural beauty.  For an authentic experience of the French garden style, we open the doors to award-winning private gardens where the owners take the time to explain their plant choices over afternoon tea or drinks.

 

Retrace the evolution of French garden design while visiting the royal castles and parks surrounding the City of Light with your specialist guide. Take advantage of your base in a legendary hotel in the heart of Paris to make daily excursions into the surrounding countryside.

Begin at the royal Château de Fontainebleau, a monumental palace built in a vast hunting forest and surrounded by a richly landscaped park. Its architectural decor spans over 400 years and bears the stamp of both Renaissance King François I and the Emperor Napoleon I. Strolling through its courtyards, you will discover a landscape of stylistic contrasts between the secluded Renaissance-style Garden of Diane – goddess of the hunt, the English Garden, and the terraces around the Bassin du Tibre.

At the nearby Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, discover the breathtaking gardens designed by André Le Notre who intended them to be a harmonious extension of the castle. These monumental jardins à la française constitute one of the earliest examples of this new classical garden style and was the precursor to Versailles. Vaux-le Vicomte was built in 1661 for Nicholas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister. The young king had him arrested on charges of embezzlement shortly after attending its lavish inauguration and then ordered its designers, including Le Nôtre, to enlarge the hunting lodge he had just inherited from his father at Versailles.

Explore the celebrated interiors and gardens of the Château de Versailles, the epitome of French classical design and the blueprint for royal castles throughout Europe for nearly two hundred years. Observe to what extent André Le Notre’s masterly garden design transforms nature to create a perfect harmony with Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart’s architectural design. The gods and goddesses of his richly sculpted fountain groups in the bosquets, closest to the palace, echo those in Le Brun’s magnificent painted ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors.

Tour the romantic Trianons and the bucolic Hamlet of Marie-Antoinette, where the naturalistic gardens are a poignant reminder of 18th century anglomania and a clear reaction to Le Nôtre’s formal jardins à la française. Visit the impressive Potager du Roi, the king’s vegetable garden, to better understand the importance the court attached to a royal menu composed of homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Make an excursion to the Château de St.-Germain-en-Laye to stroll along Le Nôtre’s monumental terraced walk high above the river Seine. Then, by appointment, stop to admire the exotic Desert de Retz, a pre-revolutionary example of a jardin anglo-chinois hidden in the forest of St. Germain-en-Laye and normally closed to the public. Discover the Château de Malmaison, where the Empress Josephine created a rose collection immortalized by the botanist Redouté, and admire its original Empire-style furnishings.

Then wander through the enchanting gardens of the Château de Chantilly comparing its 17th century formal water gardens designed by Le Nôtre with its 18th century natural landscape gardens adorned with rustic cottages. Inside the neo-Renaissance castle, a superb pastiche rebuilt by the Duc d’Aumale in the 19th century, take the time to admire its exceptional French painting collection, second in importance only to the Louvre.

This bespoke 5-day tour of the Royal Châteaux and Gardens in the Ile de France offers you a survey of the finest French châteaux and gardens with privileged access, luxury accommodation and transportation, a specialist historian/guide, the assistance of our Académie Hostess, and all reservations, entrance fees and taxes.

The exclusive AAV tour can be customized to meet your interests and requirements. Available all year, through April through October are best for optimal garden conditions. Price upon request.

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

 

St Helier, Jersey – 7 nights

Day 1: Friday 26 May, Arrive Jersey

Welcome Meeting
Short Orientation Walk (time-permitting)
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer from the airport to the hotel in St Helier on the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Pomme d’Or Hotel.

St. Helier stands in St Aubin’s Bay on the southern side of the island and is named after Jersey’s first and most famous saint, a 6th century ascetic hermit who was martyred on the island in c. AD 555. The town is the capital of Jersey and has a population of about 28,000 – roughly one third of Jersey’s total population. While St Helier has a distinctive British atmosphere, the town retains numerous French influences as attested by the many streets that carry old French names and numerous shop fronts still displaying the names of their island founders. Depending on arrival times, a short orientation walk of the town will be conducted before time at leisure for dinner. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 2: Saturday 27 May, Jersey

Walk around St Helier – Royal Square, Central Market & Church of St Helier
Le Clos du Chemin, St Peter
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with introduction by Lee McGeorge Durrell
Eric Young Orchid Foundation
Welcome Talk: An introduction to the unique ecology of the Channel Islands
Welcome Evening Meal
Today we begin with a short orientation walk around the cosmopolitan harbour town of St Helier. Our walk includes a visit to the Central Market where we may purchase ingredients for our picnic lunch. This Victorian covered market includes a stunning array of overflowing flower stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, wines and chocolates, dairy products made from the famous Jersey cow, and local specialties including des mèrvelles (small doughnuts), de nièr beurre (apple preserve) and cabbage loaf (bread baked wrapped in cabbage leaves). We also visit the Royal Square, where at its centre a stone commemorates the Battle of Jersey, which took place in 1781. We also visit the pink granite Church of St Helier, the largest of the parish churches. The seafront used to come right up to the church, and the square tower served as a useful observation post. The stretch of land between here and the sea was reclaimed from the end of the 18th century for town housing and warehouses.

Mid-morning we travel to St Peter to visit Le Clos du Chemin, the private garden of Mrs Susan Lea. Colour and texture reign in this garden, set on a hillside overlooking the bay. It features a glorious herbaceous border; a bed filled with plants in shades of silver; around twenty different types of magnolias, and an extraordinary ‘foxglove tree’ that sports vivid violet flowers in the spring.

We next visit the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, formerly the Jersey Zoo. Located in a 16th-century manor house and surrounded by 32 acres of park and farmland, Jersey Zoo was the realisation of a dream by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) to create a safe place for his animals. From the outset the Jersey Zoo was dedicated to breeding endangered species to ensure their survival. Many zoologists denounced Gerald’s early efforts at captive breeding but they are now universally acknowledged as an important weapon in the fight to save animals from extinction.

In 1963, Gerald turned his ‘zoo’ into a charitable trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has established breeding groups of many species of endangered mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and has pioneered the return of their progeny to the wild. In Jersey, in the 50 plus years of the Zoo/Trust’s operation, Durrell’s has achieved many major breeding firsts. These include: Alaotran gentle lemurs, Rodrigues and Livingstone’s fruit bats, Rodrigues fodys, Madagascan flat-tailed tortoises, Round Island boas and Montserrat mountain chicken frogs. While most of us think of Gerald Durrell in connection with his best-selling book, My Family and Other Animals, which documented his earliest animal adventures and the antics of his family on the island of Corfu, Durrell’s greatest legacy has undoubtedly been in the field of animal conservation and the Trust he created on Jersey.

Durrell met his second wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell, in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University where she was studying for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death. Lee will talk about her late husband and his life’s work.

We end our day with a visit to the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful parish of Trinity and sitting within its own wonderful landscaped garden, this nursery and display complex houses one of the world’s finest collections of orchids. Jersey orchid breeders are considered amongst the best and this collection has won many awards.

This evening we will have a special evening lecture that introduces the unique ecology of the Channel Islands. This will be followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel, where we will enjoy a taste of Jersey’s marvellous local produce. (Overnight St Helier) BD

 

Day 3: Sunday 28 May, Jersey

Wildlife walk with Mike Stentiford: Le Noir Pré Orchid Field
National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre, St Ouen’s Pond
Lunch at Restaurant Corbière Phare, St Brelade
Tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens with brother of Seigneur
The favourable climate of the islands, warmed all year around by the Gulf Stream, ensures that the Channel Islands have dynamic ecosystems, and each provides a sanctuary for a rich variety of flora and fauna. This morning we take an environmental wildlife walk with the ‘Birdman of Jersey’, naturalist Mike Stentiford who will introduce you to some of Jersey’s abundant flora and fauna. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2000 in recognition of the work he has done in promoting and introducing Jersey’s natural heritage to visitors to the island.

We begin early this morning with a visit to Le Noir Pré Orchid Field, whose meadows fringing St Ouen’s Pond, burst into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids. Often known simply as ‘the Orchid Field’, this unique site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), which also occurs in Guernsey, but is absent from the rest of the British Isles. In addition, three other species, the southern marsh (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), common spotted and heath spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata), occur at the site. The meadows also contain a wide variety of other plant species, many of which have become increasingly uncommon in Jersey. During May and June, the meadows are a riot of colour, with the stunning deep purple of the Jersey Orchids contrasting with the various shades of pink, through to white, of the remaining species. Other notable wildflowers include the ragged robin, yellow bartsia, parsley water-dropwort, common knapweed, square-stalked St. John’s-wort and tufted vetch. A wide range of insects can also be seen in the meadows, especially butterflies of various species, including the orange tip, whose caterpillars feed on cuckooflower, and dragonflies, including the spectacular emperor dragonfly. Small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews attract predatory birds, including the kestrel and the barn owl, and the rare marsh harrier can sometimes be observed hunting over the site.

We also make a visit to the new National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre. Overlooking La Mare au Seigneur (St Ouen’s Pond), the centre acts as both a state-of-the-art bird hide and a wetland interpretation centre. The nature reserve contains an incredible mosaic of wetland habitats including reedbed, fen, wet meadow, dune grassland and the largest area of natural open water in Jersey. In addition to wildflowers, small mammals and green lizards, almost 200 bird species have been recorded at the site. It is one of the best places to view the majestic marsh harrier. Normally quite shy birds, at St Ouen they come very close to the viewing areas, and while they are present at the pond throughout the year, spring is a particularly good time to view their dazzling courtship ritual.

Midday we enjoy lunch at Restaurant Corbière Phare, known for its tasty food using fresh local produce, and magnificent sea views overlooking La Corbière Lighthouse.

After lunch we take a guided tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens. The traditional home of the Seigneur of St Ouen, and the ancestral home of the de Carteret family since the 11th century, the garden features an ancient Colombier (traditional dovecote) and walled garden. The walled garden and landscaped gardens are surrounded by a moat and stream flowing down to a wooded valley. The dramatic entrance arch next to the lodge leads to an avenue of majestic trees with huge trunks of ash, beach and oak above green verges. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 4: Monday 29 May, Jersey

Introduction to Jersey’s Prehistoric Sites by archaeologist Olga Finch
La Hougue Bie: prehistoric mound and dolmen
La Hougue Bie Museum & the ‘Jersey Hoard’
Mont Orgueil Castle, Grouville
Jersey became an island at the end of the second Ice Age as the land that once linked it to France was flooded. Neolithic people from the Mediterranean started to move north through France up to the coast of Brittany and eventually settlements appeared around the coast of Jersey. These early settlers brought with them a megalithic tradition of erecting stone monuments, known as dolmens or menhirs. They also introduced ‘passage’ graves where a narrow entrance and passageway led to a burial chamber providing a focus for spiritual beliefs. This morning archaeologist Olga Finch joins us to explain what the various Neolithic sites on Jersey signified to the indigenous population.

We begin by visiting the 6000 year-old burial site at La Hougue Bie. This prehistoric mound and dolmen is one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Particularly significant at La Hougue Bie is the placement of its entrance; it points directly east and during the Equinox sunlight penetrates the passageway illuminating the chamber deep in the mound. The discovery of the Equinox alignment signified how important this time of year was to this past farming community and how critical cycles of nature were to its survival.

Nearby we will have the special opportunity to visit the La Hougue Bie Museum with one of the conservators who has been working on one of the newest and most important discoveries to be made in the Channel Islands – the Grouville Hoard. More commonly known as the ‘Jersey hoard’, this is a collection of over 10,000 Celtic and Roman coins that was found in 2012 by two metal detectorists. Work on the find is ongoing, but at this stage it is believed that the hoard belonged to the Curiosolitae tribe from Brittany who came to Jersey fleeing the armies of Julius Caesar in approximately 50 BC.

From megalith structures we next turn our attention to a medieval site, Mont Orgueil Castle. This iconic landmark commands a prime position overlooking the picturesque harbour at Gorey and the Royal Bay of Grouville. Blue Badge Guide Sue Hardy will guide our visit here, explaining how construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century after King John lost control of Normandy and how for 600 years Mont Orgueil Castle protected the island against French invasion. Although Elizabeth Castle replaced Mont Orgueil as the island’s premier defence station when it was decided an inland setting was safer to protect, Mont Orgueil remained the island’s secondary defence until it was decommissioned in 1907. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 5: Tuesday 30 May, Jersey

St Matthew’s Church, (Glass Church), Millbrook
Creux Baillot Cottage Gardens, Leovill, St Ouen
Grey Gables, St Brelade
We begin today with a visit to St Mathew’s Church at Millbrook. While the exterior of this church scarcely merits a second look, its interior is a work of such beauty that even the Germans took care not to damage it during their occupation of the island. Often referred to as the Glass Church, St Matthew’s has wonderful Art Deco glass fixtures and fittings designed in 1934 by René Lalique (1860-1945). The work was commissioned by Florence Boot, Lady Trent, Lalique’s neighbour in the South of France. Lady Trent’s principle residence, however, was in Millbrook on the island of Jersey and the work was commissioned to honour her late husband Jesse Boot, founder of Boots the Chemist. Opalescent panels, a magnificent altar cross, a glass font – perhaps the only one to be found anywhere – the Jersey lily motif, and Art Deco angels make the church one of the Island’s treasures and arguably some of the finest work Lalique ever produced.

Mid-morning we visit the private garden of Judith Quérée at Creux Baillot Cottage. Judith and her husband Nigel bought the traditional stone house over 30 years ago. They’ve gradually created a glorious garden, crammed with unusual species of plants that thrive in the mild local climate. There are strange flowers that drip nectar, roses the colour of clotted cream, a burgundy-coloured buddleia and a mysterious mandrake: ‘Folklore says you should only pull it up at night when the spirit of the plant is asleep,’ says Judith. Her garden is divided into different ‘rooms’, with a cool boggy area complete with a rowing boat, and a hot, dry border that attracts scores of butterflies. Hanging from a mature tree are some ropes – a playground for the local red squirrels, which still thrive on the island. This garden is featured in both Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands and 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.

This afternoon we visit the extensive gardens of Grey Gables, located in a peaceful, elevated position above La Haule Hill in St Brelade. Developed by the late Mrs Celia Skinner, the garden consists of a mixture of terraced and formal gardens with large areas of natural wood banks featuring many mature indigenous and specie trees including Australian tree ferns. There is also a well-stocked greenhouse, a herb garden and a vegetable area with fruit trees.

In the late afternoon we return to St Helier for an evening at leisure. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 6: Wednesday 31 May, Jersey

Jersey War Tunnels, St Lawrence
Batterie Lothringen, Noirment Headland
Paris Church and Fishermen’s Chapel of St Brelade’s Bay
Le Coin, St Brelade (to be confirmed in 2017)
This morning we visit some of the German fortifications built on Jersey during World War II. The five years of German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II has had a significant impact on islander psyche. This, along with the material legacies left by the German Occupation, is now reflected in tourism on the islands. During their occupation the Germans built hundreds of reinforced concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, anti-tank walls and tunnels – all constructed for an invasion that never came. Such was Hitler’s belief that England would try to regain the islands, he sent to the Channel Islands over 20 percent of the material allocated to the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ – a line of massive defence works which stretched from the Baltic to the Spanish frontier – to turn them into ‘impregnable fortresses’. Following Germany’s defeat, islanders began the job of decommissioning and destroying this legacy, but now they are recognised as important heritage sites and considerable energy and money has been expended on conserving and interpreting them.

The Jersey War Tunnels were originally constructed as an ammunition store and artillery barracks, but were converted into a casualty clearing station known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 (often abbreviated to Ho8) or the German Underground Hospital. A huge workforce was needed to build the 1km network of tunnels and this was supplied by the Organisation Todt. More than 5,000 slave labourers were brought over to Jersey – Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Spaniards. Conditions were terrible, although Russian and Ukrainian POWs were treated the worst, with cases of malnutrition, death by exhaustion and disease among them becoming common. Today the site is a museum, which through interactive displays tells the story of the Occupation.

Next, we head to the coast to Noirmont headland, the site of Batterie Lothringen, one of four naval artillery batteries installed by the Germans in the Channel Islands and bought by the States of Jersey after World War II as a permanent war memorial.

Following some time at leisure for lunch at St Brelade’s Bay, we visit the Parish Church and La Chapelle es Pecheurs (locally known as the Fishermen’s Chapel), which occupy the site of an original wooden church built by St Brelade in the 6th century. In the early centuries of Christianity it was common for a community, or a wealthy local family, to fund a chantry chapel. Here a priest could be paid to say prayers to keep the devil at bay and guarantee a path to heaven for the righteous. Originally it was thought that the name derived from the fishing guilds of the island, although it is also possible that pecheurs (‘fishermen’ in French) is a corruption of péchés (‘sinners’). A wooden structure may have existed on this site as the first church, however these churches were often burned down by pagan invaders. While the chapel appears older than the adjacent church, recent archaeological work suggests that it was constructed afterwards, probably during the 12th century. The chapel is built from the same material as was used in the parish church. Limpet shells from the bay were crushed and dissolved with boiling seawater. Until the 19th century, when the military fortifications were built in Jersey, it housed cannon for the local militia. It therefore survived the destruction of chapels at the time of the Reformation.

We end the day with a visit to the private gardens of Le Coin. Over the years Le Coin has been in the care of a number of notable owners including the Countess de Bretoy, who later bequeathed the property to Prince George Chasdervadzy. More recently it has been the home of the distinguished artist and collector Sir Francis Cook and his wife Lady Brenda. The grounds, which are entered via a magnolia tree lined driveway, extend over 5 acres and are based on the gardens of Monserrate in Portugal. They are also featured in Lynne Mary Jenner’s book Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 7: Thursday 1 June, Jersey

The Grove, St Lawrence (to be confirmed in 2017)
La Maison des Pres, St Peter
We spend today visiting two more private gardens. A unique and imposing mansion, The Grove, commands spectacular views down across its formal gardens to St Aubin and Les Minquiers Reef. Pathways and terraces lead to Mediterranean, Magnolia, Chinese and Japanese water gardens. With mature parkland trees, banks of rhododendrons and subtle planting, this is a truly remarkable garden to visit.

La Maison des Pres is the private garden of Lord and Lady Brownlow. Its fine selection of trees includes a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, and a Metasequoia (dawn redwood). A walk through the wildflower meadow allows us to note the lime trees around the border and the different windbreaks. After the informality of the meadow and orchard, there is a complete change as you enter the more formal garden. Here we find a giant Romneya coulteri (Californian tree poppy) and a delightful semi-circular summerhouse leading into Lady Brownlow’s ‘secret garden’, guarded by two actual-size reproductions of the celebrated terracotta warriors which were excavated in Xian, China. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7 nights

Day 8: Friday 2 June, Jersey – Guernsey

Fly from Jersey to Guernsey
Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / time at leisure in St Peter Port
This morning we depart Jersey and fly across to Guernsey, where we will be based for the next six days. From 933AD Guernsey was part of Normandy, forging a link between Britain and France that survives locally on the island in Norman Law, surnames and D’gernésiais, the local language. When in 1066 William of Normandy (‘William the Conqueror’) became King of England, Guernsey was linked to the English Crown. Guernsey remained an English possession after King Philippe Augustus of France took back the mainland of Normandy from King John in 1204. Guernsey prospered particularly from the 18th century when its port became free from British import duties. Wine and brandy were stockpiled here and taken to Britain in small quantities when prices were good. Referred to as ‘Free Trade’, the practice legitimated what was in effect little more than smuggling.

Our first visit this afternoon in St Peter Port is to Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s home when he lived in self-imposed exile on Guernsey between 1856 and 1870 and again in 1872-73. Hugo arrived in Guernsey after he was evicted from Jersey, where he had lived for three years, because of his loudly expressed Republican opinions. While the poet produced some of his best work on Guernsey, as a Frenchman who brought his mistress into exile, installing her in a house at 20 Hauteville St, while he lived with his wife in the nearby Hauteville House, Hugo did not really fit into Guernsey society. While living here, Hugo saw his most famous work, Les Misérables, published in 1862. His novel, Toilers Of The Sea, written during the author’s stay on the island, is set in the ancient parish churchyard around St Sampsons Harbour. Note: access to Hauteville House is limited to very small groups. For this reason our group will be sub-divided with half the group visiting the house today, and the other half tomorrow morning. (Overnight Guernsey) B

 

Day 9: Saturday 3 June, Guernsey

Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / time at leisure in St Peter Port
Sausmarez Manor Saturday Farmers Market, St Martins (time-permitting)
Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Gardens, St Martins
For those who visited Hauteville House yesterday afternoon, we begin today with some time at leisure to explore the lively atmosphere of Guernsey’s capital, St Peter Port. With its cobbled streets, and picturesque seafront, this is considered one of Europe’s prettiest harbour towns.

Mid-morning we journey to the parish of St Martins, hopefully in time to visit Sausmarez Manor’s Farmers Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings. Here, fresh vegetables, free range eggs, chutneys, honey, hams, exotic plants and shrubs, vegetable plants, bric-a-braque, bedding plants, homemade cakes, antiques, books and health foods can all be found.

Following a picnic lunch, David Richards (to be confirmed in 2017) will give us a guided tour of the Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Garden. Rich in subtropical and Mediterranean plants, it also features over 300 camellias in an ancient woodland and a sculpture trail. Much discussed in the media, the camellias range from old to new varieties, including a cutting grown from the first ever imported into Europe and one that flowers right on into August. (Overnight St Peter Port, Guernsey) B

 

Day 10: Sunday 4 June, Excursion to Alderney/Burhou

Boat to Alderney
Boat cruise of the Alderney Ramsar Site: including Burhou Island for puffin watching & viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac
Today we cross to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands, situated at the mouth of the Channel, 11 kilometres due west of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. From Alderney a boat trip takes us on a tour of the Alderney Ramsar Site (1500 hectares of important wetlands, accredited under the Ramsar convention in 2005) to view the Puffins on Burhou, as well as the impressive gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac and the Atlantic seal colony near Burhou Reef.

Burhou Island is just 2.25 kilometres northwest of Alderney. Despite being only about one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Burhou is a bird sanctuary which is home to 11 species of breeding birds. The island is best known for its colony of Atlantic puffins which may be viewed between March and July. The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the auks (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes guillemots, the razorbill and auklets. Today there are 143 pairs of Burhou puffins, having declined from a total of many thousand birds in the last twenty years. The puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean. They only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. On Burhou the puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Once they have made a nest the male and female return to the same nest every year. Eggs are laid in the burrows in late spring/early summer. Incubation usually takes between 36 and 45 days. Then, after the egg has hatched the parents will take turns leaving the burrow in search of food for the puffling chick. The puffling chicks spend between 34 and 60 days in the nest before they fledge and swim out to sea to join the puffin colony. Other nesting birds on Burhou include the oystercatcher, storm petrel, shag, greater and lesser black-backed gull and herring gull.

Les Etacs and Ortac rocks support more than 2% of the world’s gannet population. These colonies are the most southerly within the gannet’s range, with over 6,000 breeding pairs recorded. Gannets feed primarily on fish such as mackerel, sand eels and herring, which they find by diving to depths of up to 20 metres or scavenging along the surface of the sea. In the late afternoon we return to Guernsey, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 11: Monday 5 June, Day Excursion to Sark

Ferry to and from Sark
Guest talk by Dr Richard Axton on Sark’s prehistoric finds and Sark in the 16th century
Guest talk by the Seneschal of Sark (subject to confirmation in 2017)
La Seigneurie Garden and lobster lunch at Hathaways Brasserie
Tour of island by horse and carriage
This morning we take a 45-minute ferry ride to Sark. The island is only 5 kilometres long and a little over 1.5 kilometres wide, but boasts 64 kilometres of picturesque coastline. Although it has a population of just 600, Sark is a self-governing Crown Dependency and was the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008. The Head of Government is the Seigneur, an hereditary position dating back to 1565 and currently held by John Michael Beaumont.

Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark to the south: they are connected by a narrow, razor-edged isthmus called La Coupée, which is 90 metres long and has a drop of 100 metres on each side. Two bays flank the isthmus: La Grand Grêve to the west and Convanche Bay, part of Baleine Bay, to the east.

We will be given a talk on two periods of Sark’s history – the Prehistoric era and the 16th century – by Dr Richard Axton. Subject to confirmation, we will also be joined by the Seneschal of Sark (President of Chief Pleas and Chief Judge), who will explain the history and politics of the island.

We will then visit the gardens of La Seigneurie, the home of the Seigneurs of Sark. With its colourful borders and stone walls, this is one of the finest gardens in the Channel Islands. There is also a potager, a pond, a restored Victorian greenhouse and a recently extended fruit and vegetable garden. The walled garden dates to the mid-19th century, complete with some of its original Victorian lay out. The high walls give protection from the wind and the island’s almost frost-free climate allows many tender and half hardy plants to thrive.

Sark is renowned for its local lobster, and we will partake of this delicacy at a special lunch in the beautiful surrounds of the gardens. We will spend the remainder of our time in Sark visiting sites on Greater Sark. As there are no cars on Sark, our tour of the island will be made the old-fashioned way – by horse and carriage. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 12: Tuesday 6 June, Excursion to Herm

Ferry to and from Herm
Guided tour of Herm’s Award-winning Gardens with chief gardener, Brett Moore
Crab sandwich lunch at The Captain’s Hotel, Guernsey
La Petite Vallee, St Peter Port
Cliff Path Walk of the South Coast
The Island of Herm is a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port. Like Sark it has no cars, and visitors tour the island on foot. This tiny island, covering just 550 acres, is a subtropical paradise supporting beautiful gardens laden with native and exotic plants. From spring onwards wildflowers take over the island with violets, red campion, primroses and daffodils lining the coastal cliff paths and carpeting the woodland. The fragrance of Burnet rose drifts across the heathland by June whilst the southern cliffs are sprinkled with sea pinks, rock samphire and heather.

The island rarely suffers from frost and has few native trees, having been cleared for sheep grazing. After the First World War, Sir Compton Mackenzie took over the lease of Herm and set about restoring the gardens. Trees were then introduced by the next resident, Sir Percival Perry, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, who realised that Monterey pines, holm oaks and Monterey cypresses would offer shelter from the prevailing sea winds and allow subtropical plants to flourish. Today, all the displays and gardens on the island are successfully looked after by a head gardener with an assistant, who have won numerous awards for their efforts. This morning we join Herm’s head gardener, Brett Moore, for a private tour during which we will learn about the unique plant life and challenges associated with gardening on Herm.

Late morning we return to Guernsey for a crab sandwich lunch at The Captains, a traditional, so-called ‘gastro pub’ frequented by locals from all over Guernsey.

In St Peter Port we visit the collection of gardens at La Petite Vallee, with a wide range of exotic and traditional planting on terraces and slopes leading down to the sea. Here we will have the chance to explore the seasonal cloisters, herbaceous borders, woodland walk and a tropical area with a number of unusual plants and water flows.

We end our day with a cliff path walk along Guernsey’s south coast. The cliff paths of the south coast are splashed with colour and fragrance, right through to late summer, with sea campions, wild thyme, ox-eye daisies, seapinks and coconut-scented gorse. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 13: Wednesday 7 June, Guernsey

Grange Court, St Peter Port
Small private garden, St Peter Port
Candie Gardens and afternoon at leisure
Evening Farewell Dinner
Today begins with a visit to Grange Court, the private gardens of Mr and Mrs Pat Johnson, which featured in the April 2013 edition of The English Garden magazine. Set in the heart of town, Grange Court is a 2-acre garden with a mix of formal and informal styles, containing many exotic and rare plants. A mature private town garden of approximately 2 acres with both formal & informal areas, it is shaded by majestic old trees, including a magnificent copper beech. Features of the garden include the remains of an elegant old stone orangery which forms the backdrop to the rose gardens, and an impressive Victorian ‘cactus’ greenhouse. Mixed shrub and perennial borders provide colour all year round in this immaculately maintained garden. Our morning’s program also includes a visit to a neighbouring small private garden.

Today’s program concludes with a visit to the award-winning, restored Victorian Candie Gardens that offer the best view across St Peter Port harbour and over to the sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glasshouses in the British Isles, which date back to the late 18th century. Inside the gardens, aside from the beautiful flowers, lawns, and fish ponds, you will find a museum, art gallery, and a café housed in a Victorian bandstand. There will be time to return to the hotel before we head out to a local restaurant to share a farewell evening meal. (Overnight St Peter Port) BD

 

Day 14: Thursday 8 June, Depart Guernsey

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour concludes in St Peter Port today. After breakfast, group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Guernsey Airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in the Channel Islands. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Great Castles, Country Houses & Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales – 2017

Great Castles, Country Houses & Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales

 

York, Yorkshire – 6 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 6 June, Manchester Airport – Adel – York

Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
York Gate: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea
Light (2-course) evening meal
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York where we spend the next six nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden.

Tonight we enjoy a light (2-course) evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight York) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 7 June, York – Harewood – Harrogate – York

Harewood House: Private tour of Thomas Chippendale and the Watercolours Collection
Spa Town of Harrogate
Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House
This morning we travel to West Yorkshire to Harewood House. There we embark on a private tour of one of England’s greatest country houses, boasting architecture by John Carr (1772) and Charles Barry (1843), magnificent interiors by Adam, furniture by Thomas Chippendale, and a park designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. A particular focus of our tour will be the highly regarded watercolour painting collection.

We next visit the old spa town of Harrogate. Prior to the discovery of its iron and sulphur rich waters, Harrogate comprised two minor villages (High Harrogate and Low Harrogate) situated close to the historic town of Knaresborough. Harrogate’s first mineral spring was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found that water from the Tewitt Well possessed similar properties to that of the springs of the Belgian town of Spa (which gave its name to spa towns). The medicinal properties of Harrogate’s waters were widely publicised by one Edmund Deane, whose book Spadacrene Anglica, or The English Spa Fountain, was published in 1626 and Harrogate consequently developed considerable fame as a spa town.

This evening we walk from our hotel to Fairfax House, one of the finest Georgian Houses in England. Here we first take an exclusive tour of the house, then enjoy the ambience of the house with beverages and canapés in a private reception. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 3: Thursday 8 June, York

Orientation Walking tour of York, including York Minster
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we will take a walking tour of the historic centre of York. This vibrant city was founded by the Romans in 71AD. As Eboracum it was an important town in the Empire’s north and in 208 the entire Roman world was governed from here. After being virtually abandoned following the fall of the Roman Empire and the withdrawal of the army, the town saw a period of population by the Anglo Saxons. York was first invaded by the Viking army on 1 November 866 and a new era began. After a short period of invasion and conquest, the Vikings chose to settle in York (which they called Jorvik) rather than return to Scandinavia. Archaeological excavations have revealed a wealth of evidence of the successful metal-based industries that were developed here as well as the city’s role in trade. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, York was second only to London in size and prosperity.

The next chapter in the city’s history is Norman, when William the Conqueror marched on York intent on making this wealthy town part of his kingdom. He established a garrison here and built two castles to control access to the town from the River Ouse. There was considerable resistance to the Norman occupation of the town with attempts to overthrow the new power. This was brutally suppressed in what is known as the ‘Harrying of the North’ when William extracted his vengeance on the population and many thousands died in a period of violence and famine, whilst the lively Viking city was systematically destroyed. The Normans rebuilt York and it is to this period a number of the city’s churches belong.

The medieval period was a Golden Age for York, when the town was a centre of trade and religion. However, following the War of the Roses and the defeat of Richard III to Henry Tudor, the city underwent another period of decline. The Reformation had a tremendous impact on York and its many churches and important religious houses which operated schools, hospitals, hospices and employed local citizens. The Dissolution of the Monasteries left a large hole in the finances of the city, and many religious buildings fell into disrepair. Elizabethan York saw a return to prosperity which continued until the Civil War when the city was used as a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by the Parliamentarian army. Once again the religious and business focus of the town allowed it to rise again to regional prominence, and the Industrial Revolution brought new business opportunities to the region.

The Georgian period coincided with a building boom and York now boasts many fine Georgian mansions. Our guide will point out the many layers of the city’s rich history that can be seen in the buildings, roads, walls and churches.

Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. But in 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. Eighteenth-century damage by fire and nineteenth-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.

After the conclusion of our visit to York Minster the remainder of the day is free to explore York further, at leisure. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 4: Friday 9 June, York – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – York

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
Church of St Mary
Church of Christ the Consoler
Newby Hall & Gardens
Today we visit England’s largest ruined monastery, Fountains Abbey, situated in the beautiful Skell river valley, in which the 18th-century water garden of Studley Royal is also located. The view of the Abbey from the cliff above Studley Royal became a definitive instance of the ‘Picturesque’: a ruined Gothic abbey, evoking an ancient, pious culture, seen from a ‘modern’ 18th-century site. Flanked by two vast lawns set against awe-inspiring cliff faces, with the Skell running under its buildings, the Abbey is a masterpiece of 12th-century building ingenuity. Our tour of the site will take in spaces like the cellarium in which the lay brothers ate and slept; it retains much of its sophisticated vaulting.

In 1132 Fountains was founded in its isolated valley by Thurston, Archbishop of York, for a community that wished to return to a strict form of Benedictine rule; isolation being an ideal of medieval monasticism. The valley was sheltered from the weather and had clean water, plentiful wood, and building stone of high quality. The Abbey subsequently came under reforming Cistercian rule. The Cistercians followed a rigorous daily regime, committed to long periods of silence and a subsistence diet. They wore habits of coarse un-dyed sheep’s wool that earned them the name ‘White Monks’. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), glass and lead from Fountains found their way to Ripon and York. Its buildings and parts of its estate were sold to Sir Richard Gresham, whose family subsequently sold them to Stephen Proctor, the builder of Fountains Hall. In 1767 the ruins were sold for £18,000 to William Aislabie, creator of Studley Royal.

The Aislabie family created Studley Royal Water Garden in a wild and well-wooded part of the valley. Its formal, geometric design and its extraordinary vistas constitute a very imaginative, free and individualistic interpretation of French formal garden tradition. Ground level views emphasise its sweeping horizontality, relieved by fabriques and the kind of statues favoured by Grand Tourists to Rome; from higher up the garden’s complex structure reveals itself. Fabriques include the Neo-Classical Temple of Piety (dedicated to Hercules), a rusticated Banqueting House, a Gothic octagon tower and a Temple of Fame, and a rotunda with wonderful views across the garden where 18th-century visitors picnicked. Other garden features include the Rustic Bridge, Hermit’s Grotto, Half Moon Pond, Cascades, Canal, Fishing Tabernacles, Drum Fall and the Seven Bridges Valley in the Deer Park. Our garden tour climaxes at the end of the High Ride at ‘The Surprise View’, also called ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’, because of a headless statue to be seen there! It gives a magnificent panorama of the distant Abbey ruins.

Returning from the end of the water gardens we climb a path through the fields to William Burges’ St Mary’s Church, one of Britain’s finest Gothic Revival churches. From outside its chancel you can see all the way to Ripon Cathedral.

We next tour the house and gardens at Newby Hall, one of England’s renowned Adam houses; its exceptional interior decoration and fine Neoclassical sculpture collection represent the epitome of 18th-century taste. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, it was later enlarged and transformed by John Carr and subsequently by Robert Adam. It was the home of the Compton family and much of its superb collection was acquired on a Grand Tour by a Compton ancestor, William Weddell. The collection includes tapestries in the magnificent Gobelins Tapestry Room, a renowned gallery of classical statuary, and some of Chippendale’s finest furniture. Its glorious garden was designed in the 1920s by Major Edward Compton, who was strongly influenced by the garden of Hidcote. Newby Hall’s garden has many rare plants, including the National Collection of Cornus (Dogwood). It is famed for its main axis of double herbaceous borders, amongst the longest in Europe. Flanking this axis are numerous formal, compartmented gardens including a Rose Garden, a Water Garden, Autumn Garden and even a Tropical Garden. (Overnight York) BL

 

Day 5: Saturday 10 June, York – Castle Howard – Thirsk – Markenfield Hall – York

Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
Market Town of Thirsk, the Darrowby of the late James Herriot
Markenfield Hall
This morning we will have a private tour of a masterpiece of the Baroque, one of England’s greatest country houses, Castle Howard, the setting for the BBC series Brideshead Revisited. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle commissioned the ‘castle’ (a term often used for country mansions with no military purpose) from the gentleman-dilettante Sir John Vanbrugh, a fellow member of the famous Whig Kit-Cat Club. Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of a number of Oxford colleges, assisted Vanbrugh here and at Blenheim. Vanbrugh designed a Baroque structure with two wings projecting symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis.

Castle Howard’s crowning central dome over the Great Hall, where we have a morning tea of Danish pastries, was added as an afterthought. The East Wing and the east end of the Garden Front, the Central Block (including the dome), and the west end of the Garden Front all received exuberant Baroque decoration of coronets, cherubs and urns. Doric pilasters are on the north front and Corinthian on the south. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, the Venetian Rococo painter, designed many of the house’s interiors when he was living in England between 1708 and 1713. Much of his painting was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1940. The house remained incomplete on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1738, and Vanbrugh’s design was never completed. The West Wing was designed in a Palladian style for the 4th Earl by Sir Thomas Robinson and was not completed until 1811. Much the house, including the central dome, was destroyed by fire in 1940. Most of the devastated rooms were restored and the house was opened to the public in 1952.

Castle Howard has extensive and diverse gardens, including a large formal garden immediately behind the house. The house, flanked by two lakes, is prominently situated on a ridge, which was exploited to create a landscape garden that lies beyond the formal garden and merges with the surrounding park. Occupying this landscape are the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden and the Mausoleum in the park. Castle Howard also has an arboretum called Ray Wood, and a walled garden that contains decorative rose and flower gardens. The garden architecture at Castle Howard also includes the ruined Pyramid, an Obelisk and several follies and other motifs in the form of fortifications. Another huge arboretum, called Kew, at Castle Howard was established in 1975 as a joint venture between Castle Howard and Kew Gardens. Managed by the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, it has one of the most important collections of specimen trees in the United Kingdom.

Many of us grew up watching the television series All Creatures Great and Small and late this morning we travel to the bustling market town of Thirsk, where the stories originated. James Alfred Wight (James Herriot) moved to Thirsk to work as a country vet with Donald Sinclair in July 1940. Here there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the town on a Saturday, which is Market Day.

Our day’s program concludes with a private tour of Markenfield Hall, a charming medieval moated manor house. The privately owned home is tucked away down a mile-long winding drive and is the most complete surviving example of a medium-sized 14th-century country house in England. The earliest part of the house dates to c.1230, while the main sections were built 1310-1325 for John de Markenfield, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Edward II, with further additions and alterations in the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. The history of the home has always been deeply intertwined with the fortunes of Fountains Abbey and it was one of the most important centres of the 1569 ‘Rising of the North’. The house has been lovingly restored and in 2008 it was the first recipient of the Sotheby’s/Historic Houses Association Restoration Award, a prize that recognises the finest restoration of a historic house in Britain in a way which respects and is in sympathy with the age and quality of the building. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 6: Sunday 11 June, York – Scampston Estate – Hunmanby Grange Gardens – Burton Agnes Hall – York

The Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
Mansion Cottage
Burton Agnes Hall
We begin this morning by driving to Scampston Hall, situated in peaceful North Yorkshire, to visit its famous Walled Garden. Sir Charles and Lady Legard’s stunningly beautiful contemporary garden is quite unlike any other. Opened to the public for the first time in 2004, it has been received with great acclaim by visitors from all over the world. Set within the 18th-century walls of Scampston’s original kitchen garden, today the Walled Garden has an exciting and unashamedly modern feel to it and complements the adjacent 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown park. The garden had been derelict for nearly fifty years before Sir Charles and Lady Legard undertook the huge task of renovating. Having adopted a traditional approach to the restoration of the house and park, they here produced a stunning garden with a contemporary feel with the help of leading garden designer, Piet Oudolf.

We next visit the small, private garden of Chris and Polly Myers’ Mansion Cottage. With vibrant perennial planting highlighted with grasses, this hidden garden offers beautiful views and a tranquil atmosphere. Features include a globe garden, mini hosta walk, 100-foot border, summerhouse, vegetable plot, cuttery, bee and butterfly border, bog garden and ponds, decking areas and lawns.

Having visited two contemporary gardens we now travel back in time to visit Burton Agnes Hall, an exquisite Elizabethan house filled with fine art, furniture, porcelain and impressionist and modern paintings. Fifteen generations have filled the Hall with treasures over five centuries, from magnificent carvings commissioned when the Hall was built to French Impressionist paintings, contemporary furniture, tapestries and other modern artwork. Lawns and topiary bushes surround the Hall and its gardens contain a maze, giant games, a jungle garden, and more than four thousand plant species. Burton Agnes Hall’s walled garden won the Historic Houses Association and Christies’ Garden of the Year Award 2005. We shall be given a guided tour of this beautiful property before returning to York. (Overnight York) BL

 

Buxton, Derbyshire – 4 nights

Day 7: Monday 12 June, York – Renishaw Hall – Haddon Hall – Buxton

Renishaw Hall: Private literary tour of the home of the Sitwell family, gardens and ‘Renishaw cream tea’
Bakewell
Haddon Hall
We depart York early this morning, and travel south to Renishaw Hall, a country house in Derbyshire where the Sitwell family has lived in this ancestral home for nearly four centuries. On arrival we will take a tour of Renishaw’s beautiful Italianate garden, park and lake, that were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of Osbert, Edith and Sacheverall. Sir George spent much of his life in Italy, where he had bought the huge former palace-villa of the Florentine Acciaiuoli family, Montegufoni. In England, he wanted to create an Italian garden in contrast to Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘colourful’ designs. The use of water, fountains, temples, cave and avenues adds effect and shelter for tender specimen plants. Following a morning tea of cucumber sandwiches, freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and fresh doublecream, served in the Georgian stables, we shall visit Renishaw Hall.

The interior, which features an antechamber designed by Edwin Lutyens, is graced with many Italian artworks and pieces of furniture collected by Sir George. The painting collection includes Salvator Rosa’s Belisarius in Disgrace, a painting that was once much appreciated by Benjamin Franklin. Our tour will have a literary focus, as Renishaw Hall is a house ‘built on books’, with a wide range of literary interests and connections over a period of almost 400 years. Each Sitwell generation has made its unique contribution to the literary legacy of the house and the family, particularly the famous ‘literary trio’ – Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell. Our tour will follow the fortunes of the Sitwell family as wealthy book collectors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and will include a special visit to the Renishaw Hall Library.

After free time for lunch in the small market town of Bakewell (famous for its pudding) we continue our tour of Derbyshire with a visit to Haddon Hall, arguably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence, and dating mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries. Originally owned by the descendants of William the Conqueror’s illegitimate son, Peverel, it was passed through marriage to the Manners family, later to become Dukes of Rutland, in whose possession it has remained. Haddon Hall affords a wonderful glimpse of English Early Modern country house design, because it remained closed and empty for two hundred years after the Dukes of Rutland moved to Belvoir Castle in the 17th century. The 9th Duke of Rutland reopened it in the 1920s. Because the grounds had escaped transformation into a landscape garden it influenced Edwardian gardeners deeply; its series of 17th-century terraces were particularly important. It embodies a vision of ‘old England’ symbolised by the rambling roses growing over its old stone walls. These roses are quite superb (some are 80 years old), and also impressive are the delphinium beds. There are recreations of 17th century box-edged parterres or knots, and below there are wonderful river meadows with a small and large stone bridge, which feature prominently in the 2006 BBC TV dramatisation of Jane Eyre. The approach to the house has a wonderful topiary garden.

The house itself has sections from a number of periods from the late 12th century to c.1620. The Banqueting Hall is medieval, but the house is predominantly Elizabethan, its pride being the oak panelled Long Gallery; the diamond panes of the gallery’s many windows are set at different angles to facilitate the entry of daylight. It also has a magnificent collection of English, Flemish and French tapestries, remains of a larger collection lost in a 1925 fire. Most important are five early 17th century English tapestries that may have belonged to King Charles I. The chapel has medieval frescoes, and the house also has a fine painting by Rex Whistler (1933), the artist of Plas Newydd.

Next we continue our journey to the elegant spa town of Buxton which will be our base for the next four nights. Our hotel, built in 1550 by the Earl of Shrewsbury, the 4th husband of formidable Bess of Hardwick, is reputedly the oldest in England and has hosted during its long history such luminaries as Mary, Queen of Scots and Daniel Defoe. It is located in the centre of the town opposite one of the most exquisite Edwardian opera houses in the British Isles, which we will visit during our stay. (Overnight Buxton) B

 

Day 8: Tuesday 13 June, Buxton – Peak District – Castleton – Lyme Park – Buxton

White Peak District
Castleton Village, Peak District National Park
Lyme Park, House & Garden
Lecture by Sir Richard FitzHerbert: ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’
This morning we enjoy the stunning and diverse scenery of Britain’s first designated national park, the Peak District National Park (1951). The Peak District is situated at the southern end of the Pennines in Central England and covers most of northern Derbyshire as well as parts of Cheshire, Yorkshire and Staffordshire. It has been prominent in numerous movies and TV dramas, including the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. A local guide will point out some of the locations used during filming whilst introducing Derbyshire’s bustling market towns, villages, and showing us its hills, dales and rivers.

Following lunch in Castleton, one of the most beautiful villages in the Peak District, we visit Lyme Park, the largest house in Cheshire. A Tudor house transformed into an Italianate palace, it is famous for its role as ‘Pemberley’, Darcy’s home, in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. Aficionados of the series will recall the scene of Lizzy meeting the dripping figure of Mr Darcy following his dip in the lake! Thomas Legh, an intrepid explorer and collector who made a pioneering journey through Egypt and up the Nile in 1816, saved Lyme Park from ruin. An extremely wealthy young man, he set Lewis Wyatt the huge task of reviving this vast, outdated family home. Wyatt’s remodelling, although extremely thorough, in no way compromised the 17th-century character of Lyme Park. The saloon, with its magnificent rococo ceiling and Grinling Gibbons-carved wood decorations, speaks amply of his sensitive approach.

This evening we are joined by Sir Richard FitzHerbert, who inherited Tissington Hall and the Estate from his uncle, the late Sir John FitzHerbert at the age of 24 in 1989. Sir Richard will provide an illustrated lecture entitled ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’. (Overnight Buxton) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 14 June, Buxton – Tissington Hall – Chatsworth House – Buxton

Tissington Hall & Gardens
Tissington Village & Norman Church of St Mary’s
Chatsworth House: one of the grandest Whig country houses (to be confirmed)
This morning we journey into Derbyshire to Tissington Hall, a beautiful Jacobean mansion where eight generations of the FitzHerbert family have lived. Tissington presides over a quintessentially English village, complete with duck pond and village green. This is one of the few remaining privately owned villages left in Britain. As it has no road markings or street lighting it is often used for filming period pieces, such as the BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006) and The Duchess (2007). We will take a guided tour of the hall and its gardens, as well as the village and the Norman Church of St Mary’s.

This afternoon we visit Chatsworth House, one of the grandest Whig country houses, situated in a spectacular landscape in the heart of the Peak District. It is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, of the Cavendish family. The dowager Duchess, born Deborah Mitford (Debo), the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, revived the economy of the estate after it had been almost destroyed by death duties following the death of the 10th Duke in 1950 (the Chatsworth Settlement). The core of the house is from 1552, but its great days date from the 1690s, after the 4th Earl of Devonshire was created 1st Duke in 1694 for his part in the Glorious Revolution (1688). Generations of prominent Whigs followed and so Chatsworth represents the first phase of the great Whig country house (Stowe represents the second). The 1st Duke rebuilt the old house in stages, adding its fine Baroque façades, and it was substantially complete by 1707. The Painted Hall, whose ceilings and walls carry scenes of the life of Julius Caesar (1692-94) by Louis Laguerre, leads to a grand staircase. The State Apartments are the most important late Baroque presentation rooms in England, with ceilings by Laguerre and Mortlake tapestries made from Raphael’s tapestry cartoons now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The chapel, designed by Cibber, is equally impressive, with illusionistic paintings by Laguerre and woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons.

Chatsworth’s late Baroque gardens, like almost all great English Baroque gardens, were swept away when the 4th Duke commissioned Capability Brown to replace them (1760s). One survival is an Italianate cascade designed in 1696 by Grillet, a pupil of Le Nôtre. Thomas Archer, arguably the English architect who best understood the Italian Baroque, added the Temple or Cascade House above it in 1703. In the 19th century Joseph Paxton, the 6th Duke’s gardener, created a great glasshouse for exotic specimens; its revolutionary design led to his architectural triumph, London’s Crystal Palace. Paxton also built the Emperor fountain, whose jet rises 280 feet, and a vast rock garden. Newer additions to the garden include a serpentine hedge. (Overnight Buxton) BL

 

Day 10: Thursday 15 June, Buxton – Quarry Bank – Buxton

Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate
Afternoon at leisure in Buxton
Group Evening Meal at Fischer’s, Baslow Hall
This morning we drive to Quarry Bank Mill, a rare Georgian cotton mill that is both one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites as well as a working mill that produces over 9,000m (10,000 yards) of cloth each year. Founded in 1784 by a young textile merchant, Samuel Greg, Quarry Bank Mill was one of the first generation of water-powered cotton spinning mills. By the 1830s Samuel Greg & Co. was one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain with four other mills as well as Quarry Bank.

This mill reflects the earliest phase of the industrialisation of England, when manufacturing had not yet moved to great industrial cities, but rather occurred where water was plentiful. Such early industrial complexes often are built in a fine, simple architectural style not unlike some of the earliest colonial architecture in Australia. Our visit here offers a unique opportunity to see the two major sources of power available during the Industrial Revolution. The most powerful working waterwheel in Britain illustrates how power can be harnessed to drive machinery. A Boulton and Watt type beam engine (c.1830) and an 1880s Horizontal Engine powered by steam bring the past to life. Chief Engineer Barry Cook will be on hand to explain how everything operates. Time permitting, we also visit the three-hectare (8-acre) ‘Secret Garden’, the Greg family’s lovely, picturesque valley retreat adjoining the mill. Recently restored, it has now been opened to the public for the first time.

We return to Buxton for an afternoon at leisure to explore the town. Tonight we dine at Fischer’s Restaurant at Baslow Hall. The Michelin-starred dining room serves classical dishes created with balance and finesse, using the very best of fresh local and regional produce. The setting within a charming manor house further enhances this very special dining experience. (Overnight Buxton) BD

 

Chester, Cheshire – 3 nights

Day 11: Friday 16 June, Buxton – Little Moreton – Biddulph Grange Garden – Chester

Little Moreton Hall
Biddulph Grange Garden: Private guided tour of this amazing Victorian Garden
Evening meal at Macdonald New Blossoms Hotel
This morning we drive to Little Moreton Hall for a guided tour of one of Britain’s finest timber-framed, moated Tudor manor houses, which featured in David Dimbleby’s How we built Britain documentary (2007). Of particular importance is its magnificent Long Gallery that has unusual plasterwork. Its grounds feature a delightful knot garden.

This afternoon we take a private tour of Biddulph Grange Gardens. Biddulph is a treasure trove of 19th-century eccentricities and a rare surviving example of a High Victorian garden. Our private guided tour of the garden, to be opened specially for our group, leads us down tunnels and pathways taking us on a miniature tour of the world, with rare and exotic plantings and picturesque garden architecture, such as an Egyptian court and elegant Italian terraces. There is a unique Chinese garden with a temple enclosed within its own Great Wall of China. Some of the more eccentric features of the garden are an upside-down tree and strange stone sculpture. Biddulph also has an unusual geological gallery where the garden’s creator, James Bateman, showed his fossil and geological collection. It was arranged to correspond with the seven days of creation in the Genesis story and is contemporaneous with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859), a seminal work in scientific literature and a pivotal work in evolutionary biology.

We next drive a short distance to the city of Chester, lying on the River Dee, close to the border of Wales. Tonight we dine together at our hotel. (Overnight Chester) BD

 

Day 12: Saturday 17 June, Chester

Orientation Tour of Chester incl. Chester Cathedral
Afternoon at leisure
A Roman legion founded Chester on the Dee River in the 1st century A.D. It reached its pinnacle as a bustling port in the 13th and 14th centuries but declined following the gradual silting up of the river. While other walls of medieval cities of England were either torn down or badly fragmented, Chester still has 3km of fortified city walls intact. The main entrance into Chester is Eastgate, which dates only from the 18th century. Within the walls are half-timbered houses and shops, though not all of them date from Tudor days. Chester is unusual in that some of its builders used black-and-white timbered facades even during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

This morning we take an orientation tour of this interesting medieval city including a visit to Chester Cathedral. The present building, founded in 1092 as a Benedictine abbey, was made an Anglican cathedral church in 1541. Many architectural restorations were carried out in the 19th century, but older parts have been preserved. Notable features include the fine range of monastic buildings, particularly the cloisters and refectory, the chapter house, and the superb medieval woodcarving in the choir (especially the misericords). Also worth seeing are the long south transept with its various chapels, the consistory court, and the medieval roof bosses in the Lady Chapel.

The afternoon is free for you to further explore Chester at leisure. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Day 13: Sunday 18 June, Chester – Liverpool – Chester

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Time at leisure at Liverpool’s refurbished Albert Dock
Tate Liverpool: home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the North
The Beatles: Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (exteriors only)
Liverpool, with its famous waterfront on the River Mersey, is a great shipping port and industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King John launched Liverpool on its road to glory when he granted it a charter in 1207. Before that, it had been a tiny 12th-century fishing village, but it quickly became a port for shipping men and materials to Ireland. In the 18th century, it grew to prominence because of the sugar, spice, and tobacco trade with the Americans. By the time Victoria came to the throne, Liverpool had become Britain’s biggest commercial seaport.

This morning we drive to Liverpool to visit the Walker Art Gallery, opened in 1877. Here, we focus on its Pre-Raphaelite collection and its Victorian sculpture. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in London in 1848, consisted of seven young artists dedicated to the revival of styles that preceded the High Renaissance: John Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Collinson, F G Stephens, Thomas Woolmer and William Michael Rossetti. Liverpool was the only provincial city with its own Pre-Raphaelite school (The Liverpool Academy). The Walker Art Gallery collection includes Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream (1871), Millais’ Isabella, Holman Hunt’s Triumph of the Innocents and one of the world’s finest corpuses of Victorian sculpture.

We take a short walk to Liverpool’s recently refurbished Albert Dock, where there will be time at leisure to explore this precinct. Albert Dock features a number of museums, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the award-winning ‘Beatle Story’ and numerous restaurants and cafés.

This afternoon we visit the Tate Liverpool, which displays much of the National Collection of 20th-century art, complemented by changing art exhibitions of international standing such as the prints of Joan Miró or the sculptures of the iconoclastic British sculptress Rachel Whiteread. Before returning to Chester we make a short tour to view a number of the sites associated with the Beatles including Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. (Overnight Chester) B

Portmeirion, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Monday 19 June, Chester – Erddig House – Powis Castle – Portmeirion

Erddig: private tour of house
Powis Castle and Garden
Early this morning we depart Chester and cross into Wales for a private tour of Erddig House. Located on the outskirts of Wrexham, Erddig is one of the finest and evocative country houses in Britain, reflecting the upstairs downstairs life of a gentry family over 250 years. Mainly of the 18th century, it has fine furniture, textiles and wallpaper. The servants’ quarters are particularly well preserved.

We continue south to Powis Castle and have lunch on arrival. Powis, a 13th-century border castle, features the rare 17th-century Baroque garden of William Herbert, first Marquess of Powis. Herbert, a Roman Catholic, went into exile with James II after the Glorious Revolution (1688). In 1703 the Herberts returned from exile, their taste shaped by great French gardens such as St Germain-en-Laye, where the Stuart court was located. This put them out of step with new directions in Whig landscape gardening. Their grand Baroque terraces survive, with an extraordinary yew hedge, planted in 1720, that is now old and irregular in a way never intended when it was first established. Powis did not escape change entirely. A Dutch-style water garden laid out in 1705 in the flat meadows below the castle was swept away in the 1770s, and in part of this area an Edwardian formal garden was laid out in 1912. The Baroque terraces enjoy magnificent views. Against them are spectacular herbaceous borders by Graham Stuart Thomas and Jimmy Handcock. There are rich flower displays in vases on the edges of the terraces and in its niches. They are lined with lead statues by John van Nost, examples of the early 18th-century taste for picturesque Italianate rustic garden figures. In the castle courtyard stands a lead statue of Pegasus bearing aloft the personification of Fame, original centrepiece of the lost Dutch water garden. Van Nost’s pupil, Andries Carpentiére, based it on Antoine Coysevox’s group of Fame at Louis XIV’s palace at Marly. South and east of the castle is a Wilderness with a fine collection of trees and shrubs planted in the 20th century.

A Herbert family member married into the Clive family in the 18th century and their descendants own Powis today. Powis’ Clive Museum displays superb Indian treasures collected by family members, including Robert, ‘Clive of India’. The castle interior has a fine Baroque staircase (1674-1685) with a ceiling by Verrio, its walls painted in 1705 by his pupil Gerard Landscroon, who also painted the library. G.F. Bodley’s dining room with fine panelled walls and Jacobean plasterwork and his Oak Drawing Room are fine examples of Edwardian taste. A grand Baroque state bedroom (1665-1685) is the only one in Britain with a bed railed with a balustrade in the manner of Louis XIV’s Versailles. A superb T-shaped Elizabethan Long Gallery (1587-1595) has original plasterwork and chimneypieces. The castle’s sculpture collection includes marble busts of Roman emperors and a Roman statue of a cat playing with a snake that Robert Clive acquired in Rome. An interesting painting collection includes a fine view of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto.

From Powis Castle we cross the mountains, rising above the treeline, before descending into Gwynedd, an area in north-west Wales. We make our way to the resort village of Portmeirion, our base for the next three nights. Portmeirion is the creation of the flamboyant Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978), a dedicated sailor who loved the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre (especially Portofino) and decided to create his own version of them in Wales. In 1925 he bought a spectacular Snowdonian peninsula site not far from his family house at Plas Brondanw, overlooking an estuary that forms a vast sandy beach at low tide. On the cliffs above Portmeirion’s only pre-existing structure (now Hotel Portmeirion) he built a range of picturesque buildings and towers as a kind of village-hotel. Many writers, including Evelyn Waugh, lived and wrote here in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. These village houses surround a garden, forming a colourful, seaside version of Arts and Crafts taste. Many are tiny and are built using parts of demolished buildings. Clough later espoused a Romantic version of the Dutch 17th and 18th-century style. He was not afraid to create buildings in painted sheet metal, sometimes painted illusionistically to give a sense of relief, or to create buildings that had no other function than to look interesting: he built a domed building because he felt an Italianate coastal village should have one. Portmeiron also has interesting woodland walks, one of which takes you past a pet cemetery and ‘lighthouses’.

Williams-Ellis wanted to demonstrate that architecture could be both beautiful and fun but he was also a serious conservationist and town planner. He argued against uncontrolled suburban development (England and the Octopus), founded the Council for the Protection of Rural England, saved Stowe, and contributed to the planning of New Towns in post WWII Britain. His daughter created the Portmeirion pottery works, which is still run by the family. Tonight we enjoy a group evening meal at Hotel Portmeirion. (Overnight Portmeirion) BLD

 

Day 15: Tuesday 20 June, Portmeirion – Caernarfon – Snowdonia National Park – Portmeirion

Caernarfon Castle: the greatest of the Edwardian Castles
Lamberis Village
Dolbardarn Castle (exterior only)
Snowdon Mountain Railway – excursion by diesel engine to summit
Evening Meal at Castell Deudraeth
This morning we head further north along the coast to reach Caernarfon, located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey. Caernarfon was considered a strategically excellent place to build a castle during Edward I’s invasions of Wales. Completed in 1330, the castle was built on a site that had once been a Roman fort and then a Norman motte and bailey; it was to become a symbol of English dominance in a region strong in Welsh tradition and anti-English feeling. To stamp his supremacy even further on the native population, Edward ensured that the birth of his son, the first English Prince of Wales, took place in the castle (1284) and the castle continues to be the setting for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, the last being Prince Charles in 1969.

Following lunchtime at leisure in Lamberis we view Dolbadarn Castle. Built for Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s, it features a massive round-towered keep. We then take the cogwheel railway train to the summit of Snowdon to enjoy the breathtaking views over the area. In the late afternoon we return to Portmeirion.

Tonight we will dine at Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian castellated mansion Williams-Ellis bought from his uncle in 1931 with the intention of incorporating it into the Portmeirion hotel complex. The intervening war and subsequent building restrictions delayed its incorporation until 2001 when it was finally opened. Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust. (Overnight Portmeirion) BD

 

Day 16: Wednesday 21 June, Portmeirion – Harlech – Plas Brondanw – Portmeirion

Harlech Castle
Plas Brondanw Gardens
Afternoon at leisure in the village of Portmeirion
This morning we make a brief visit to Harlech Castle. Men of Harlech or The March of the Men of Harlech is a song and military march which is traditionally said to describe events during the longest siege in British history (1461-1468) which took place here during the War of the Roses. Edward’s tried and tested ‘walls within walls’ model was put together in super-fast time between 1283 and 1295 by an army of nearly a thousand skilled craftsmen and labourers. The structure boasts two rings of walls and towers, with an immensely strong east gatehouse. It was impregnable from almost every angle. Its secret weapon was a 200-foot (61m) long stairway which still leads from the castle to the cliff base. Access via the stairway to the sea and crucial supplies kept the castle’s besieged inhabitants fed and watered. When it was first built, a channel would have connected the castle and the sea. You could have sailed a boat up to the moat. Seven hundred years later, the sea has receded and you could say the castle appears almost stranded, waiting for the tide to turn once more.

Next we visit Plas Brondanw, the home of Clough Williams-Ellis between 1902 and 1960. It has one of the great Arts and Crafts gardens, noted for its structure of yew-hedged compartments. Inspired by stunning views of the mountains of Snowdonia, Clough cleverly ‘borrowed’ the peaks of the Snowdon and Cnight mountains visually by using the former to establish the chief axis of the garden, and revealing the latter through a window-opening cut in a hedge. Within the grounds of Plas Brondanw is Folly Castle, described on a plaque as ‘a wedding present from the Welsh Guards to Clough Williams-Ellis and Amabel Strachey in 1915′. Located on a small hill, the folly affords good views of the surrounding landscape. It has featured in the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness and the Doctor Who film, The Five Doctors. We enjoy a light buffet-style lunch at Plas Brondanw before retuning to Portmeirion, where we have the afternoon and evening at leisure to explore the village and its beautiful gardens. (Overnight Portmeirion) BL

 

Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy, Wales – 3 nights

Day 17: Thursday 22 June, Portmeirion – Gwydir Castle – Bodnant Garden – Bodysgallen Hall

Gwydir Castle
Bodnant Garden
Gardens of Bodysgallen Hall
This morning we drive to Gwydir Castle beneath Carreg y Gwalch (Rock of the Falcon), the ancestral home of the powerful Wynn Family, descendants of the kings of Gwynedd, and one of the most significant families of North Wales during the Tudor and Stuart periods. The Castle is being sympathetically restored by the present owners, who will introduce us to their house and garden.

Following our tour of Gwydir Castle we travel to Bodnant Garden. Bodnant Garden occupies an 80-acre westward sloping site above the River Conwy that looks across the valley towards the Snowdonia range. Its spectacular garden was the inspired work of the second Lord Aberconway who in 1902, with his mother’s encouragement, conceived and constructed its great terraces and organised the mass planting of Chinese rhododendrons. Appointed in 1920, Bodnant’s head gardener Frederick Puddle undertook an extensive and successful rhododendron hybridising programme, a project continued until today by three generations of Aberconways and Puddles. It is the archetypal plantperson’s garden, where exotic species brought from China or the Himalayas were first cultivated in Britain.

The garden has two parts. The upper part surrounding the house consists of five Italianate terraces on which herbaceous borders surround informal shady lawns. Its most famous feature is the laburnum walk, a fifty-five metre long tunnel that becomes a mass of yellow blooms from late May to early June. Lower down is the Pin-Mill, a reconstructed garden folly. From here the ground drops away to a deep, damp valley, known as The Dell, along which rushes the river Hiraethlyn. Here, in the Pinetum and Wild Garden, grow Britain’s earliest plantings of the Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), discovered only in the 1940s.

From Bodnant Garden we continue north to Bodysgallen Hall which will be our base for the next 3 nights. Bodysgallen is a manor house in Conwy county borough, north Wales, near the village of Llanrhos. Since 2008 the house has been owned by The National Trust. We plan to arrive at the hall in time for you to enjoy a walk through the hall’s magnificent 200 acres of gardens before dinner. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

 

Day 18: Friday 23 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Penrhyn Castle – Conwy – Bodysgallen Hall

Penrhyn Castle: private guided tour of the Castle
Plas Mawr
Conwy Castle
This morning we journey along the coast to visit the enormous Penrhyn Castle, which sits beween Snowdonia and the Menai Strait. Built in 1820-35 in neo-Norman style, this is one of the most sumptuous country houses of its time. It features a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria, elaborate carvings, plasterwork and mock-Norman furniture. It also has an outstanding collection of paintings. The stable block houses a fascinating railway museum.

Midday we travel to Conwy, and following some time at leisure for lunch we visit Plas Mawr, possibly the best preserved Elizabethan town house in Great Britain. It was built by Robert Wynn between 1576 and 1585 and its interior has elaborately decorated plaster ceilings and fine wooden screens.

Castle Conwy, which, like Caernarfon, was constructed by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as one of the key fortresses in his ‘iron ring’ of castles to contain the Welsh, dominates the town. A World Heritage site, Conwy has no concentric ‘walls within walls’ because they were not needed. Its massive military strength springs from the rock on which it stands and seems to grow naturally. Soaring curtain walls and eight huge round towers give the castle an intimidating presence undimmed by the passage of time. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

 

Day 19: Saturday 24 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Anglesey Island – Bodysgallen Hall

Plas Newydd House & Gardens
Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
Evening Farewell Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall
This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall for an excursion to the Isle of Anglesey. Here we visit the house and gardens at Plas Newydd. James Wyatt redesigned this elegant old home in the 18th century in a Gothic style and its 1930s interior is famous for its association with Rex Whistler. Like Williams-Ellis, Whistler belonged to that underrated strand of mid 20th-century British culture that looked to the past with gusto. Uninhibited by modernist theory, they did not hesitate to revive the great traditions of the past. In the dining room, Whistler created his masterpiece, a vast mural for the sixth Marquess of Anglesey. This mural, eighteen metres wide, was executed on one enormous piece of canvas that Whistler had made on a special French loom. Within an Arcadian and Romantic coastal landscape are romantic allusions to Whistler’s unrequited love for Lady Caroline, the beautiful eldest married daughter. On the painting’s left side is a depiction of Romeo and Juliet in which the young Whistler (Romeo) languishes beneath the balcony of Lady Caroline (Juliet).

The mild climate of the coastal setting of the gardens at Plas Newydd is ideal for many woody plants from warmer temperate regions of the world. While the bones of the garden were set out in the late 18th century by leading landscape gardener Humphrey Repton, much has changed in the intervening centuries. A long and broad sweep of lawn fringed and broken by trees to the west of the house is known as ‘the West Indies’, and at the end of the Long Walk you arrive at an arboretum known as ‘Australasia’ that features, among other things, a collection of eucalyptus, added in the 20th century. A wild and exotic wood of rhododendrons was established in the 1930s by the sixth Marquess and added to by the ‘thinnings’ sent from Lord Aberconway of Bodnant as a wedding present to Lord Anglesey in 1948. For three seasons, lorry-loads of rhododendrons arrived with two gardeners to plant them.

Following a light lunch at Plas Newydd’s café, we visit the prehistoric site of Bryn Celli Ddu, meaning ‘the mound in the dark grove’. This is an impressive Neolithic chambered tomb with partially restored entrance passage and mound, on the site of a former henge monument.

In the late afternoon we return to Conwy where we shall enjoy a group evening farewell meal at Bodysgallen Hall. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BLD

 

Day 20: Sunday 25 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Manchester Airport

Departure transfer to Manchester Airport
This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall and travel to Manchester Airport for our return flight to Australia. Our arrival time is planned for check-in for the ASA ‘designated’ flight which is currently scheduled to depart in the early afternoon. B

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of North Western France

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of North Western France

 

Itinerary

 

Rouen – 5 nights

Day 1: Saturday 10 June, Paris CDG – Lyons-La-Forêt – Rouen

Lyons-la-Forêt village & welcome lunch at Hôtel du Grand Cerf & Spa
Introduction
Short Evening Orientation walking tour of Rouen
This morning we set out from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen, to begin our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we visit Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the seventeenth century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the eighteenth century which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of Madame Bovary. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After lunching in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving at approximately 2.30pm. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting, followed by an orientation walk of Rouen within the vicinity of our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) L

Day 2: Sunday 11 June, Rouen – St-Georges de Boscherville – St-Pierre de Manneville – Montmain – Rouen

Romanesque Abbey of St-Georges de Boscherville
Manoir et Parc de Villers, St-Pierre de Manneville
Le Jardin d’Angélique, Montmain
Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St-Georges de Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the seventh century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the eleventh century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons that was transformed into a magnificent Bénédictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

The remainder of the day is devoted to visiting some magnificent country manor houses in Normandy. Our first visit is to the nearby Manoir de Villers, a beautiful half-timbered manor house begun in the time of Charles VII (1403-1461) and added to for three centuries. A special delight will be a guided tour of the manor’s interior in which the owners M. and Mme Robert Mery de Bellegarde will show you the magnificent family furniture collection. It is surrounded by themed gardens where we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by our hosts.

Next, we travel to Montmain where the Jardins d’Angélique, owned by Mme Le Bellegard, are located. These gardens were created approximately thirteen years ago. In this splendid place paths meander through several hundred varieties of roses. Beautiful hydrangeas enhance the summer flower display. There is a second garden in the Italian style nestled behind the manor house. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL

Day 3: Monday 12 June, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Beaumont-le-Hareng – Rouen

Buchy village market
Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
Le Jardin de Bellevue, Beaumont-le-Hareng
Evening meal at Restaurant La Couronne
A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy where we shall shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local producers. Many of these farmers specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

Three kilometres outside Buchy, Le Jardin de Valérianes, tucked away in a corner of the countryside, was created by a couple of passionate gardeners, Michel and Maryline Tissait, who named the garden after their two daughters. This English-style garden of over 4000 square metres offers much visual pleasure with its combination of perennials, roses, trees and bushes.

We then drive on to Beaumont-le-Hareng where we shall visit Le Jardin de Bellevue. Le Jardin de Bellevue was created by the purist Martine Lemonnier in the 1980s and is famous for its collection of Hellebores (winter and Lenten roses). We shall not see these in bloom, but the garden also has an extremely important collection of Meconopsis, rare Himalayan blue poppies, which bloom in June. They are accompanied by over forty varieties of Asiatic primulas, whose white, orangeish, yellow and purple flowers are borne in tiered whorls. The Lemonniers have also planted a wide variety of Hydrangeas, many of them very interesting, in this garden which is arranged along the lines of a potager.

Tonight we dine together at Restaurant La Couronne. Housed in a superbly preserved half-timbered home, it is considered the “oldest inn in France,” dating from 1345. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 4: Tuesday 13 June, Rouen – Giverny – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Rouen

Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry
This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years. We shall visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of of his later paintings, when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, Le Pressoir, and its gardens, have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Your visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. You cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond.

After lunch at leisure in Giverny, we drive to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume where owners Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have converted their orchard into a parterre. There is also a spring garden, summer garden and autumn garden. The summer garden is a kind of modern knot garden with a very formal layout of clipped box in a square edged pattern. Each ‘box’ is then filled with a very natural planting of grasses and perennials but the colours are superb. Lots of golden yellow, deep red, burning oranges. The overall mix of formal and informal, the sombre green of the box and the jewel-like colours of the flowers are really superb. Favourite plants here are dahlias, crocosmias, heleniums, kniphofias and of course grasses – giving the plumes the garden is named for. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 5: Wednesday 14 June, Rouen

Guided walking tour of Rouen
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we meet our guide for a walking tour of this beautiful and very historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called Rotomagus, a derivation of the Celtic name Ratuma. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the third century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the fifteenth century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the fifteenth-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a fifteenth-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the Saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture.

The remainder of the day is free for you to explore Rouen further, at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 6: Thursday 15 June, Rouen – Tourville-sur-Arques – Doudeville – Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit

Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques
Parc et Château de Galleville, Doudeville
This morning we drive north to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques (near Dieppe), a splendid seventeenth-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis.

Following a light lunch at the Château de Miromesnil we continue to Doudeville. Here we visit the Château de Galleville, residence of M. et Mme. Gillet. The château, constructed as the residence of Marshall de Villars, follows the very unusual design of a late seventeenth-century manor. Its gardens are exceptional, highlighted by a wonderful pleasure garden that has incorporated scent into the design, as well as a floral orchard that has been cleverly conceived with exceptional under plantings. The treasure here is the kitchen garden, which has taken on the designation ‘gourmet’ owing to the wonderful collection of herbs and spices grown here.

Late afternoon we travel to the short distance to Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit where we stay for two nights in an 18th-century château set in twenty-eight acres of parkland looking on to the sea. Here the Austrian Empress Sissi lived during the summer of 1875. We shall eat in the château’s private dining room. (Overnight Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit) BLD

Day 7: Friday 16 June, Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit – Sainte Marguerite-sur-Mer – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit

Le Jardin du Vasterival, Sainte Marguerite-sur-Mer
Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Varengeville-sur-Mer Church & Sailor’s cemetery
This morning, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vasterival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vasterival is acclaimed to contain one of the finest plant collections in all of France. The gardens are strictly informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich underplantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

Following lunch at a restaurant located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we visit the house, park and gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the possession of the Mallet family since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Dehli, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden which slopes toward the sea.

From the Bois des Moutiers, we drive a short distance to the Varengeville-sur-Mer Church and sailors’ cemetery. Varengeville is an astonishing commune perched atop white limestone cliffs. It has attracted many artists, including Claude Monet, and is famous for its church, with its stained-glass windows by Georges Braque. From the sailors’ cemetery, where Georges Braque, Albert Roussel and Porto-Riche are buried, there is a superb view of Dieppe and the cliffs towards Le Tréport. (Overnight Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit) BLD

Bayeaux – 4 nights

Day 8: Saturday 17 June, Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit – Étretat – Le Havre – Honfleur – Bayeux

La Côte d’Albâtre & Étretat
Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
Time at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur
If you plot the landscapes painted by the Impressionists on a map of France, their locations correspond to the railway lines that led out from Paris along such corridors as the valley of the Seine, for the Impressionists were creatures of the bourgeoisie’s discovery of rural and coastal France, made available to it for the first time by steam trains. The landscapes of middle-class recreation were also reached by the new railways. One aspect of the bourgeois discovery of France was the development of seaside resorts and one of the greatest painters of the beach was Eugène Boudin.

A ubiquitous motif in painting of the period that owes its popularity to the development of seaside recreation is the famous cliffs at Étretat, painted regularly by such artists as Monet. We drive along the famous Côte d’Albâtre to Étretat where we shall enjoy a walk along the seaside promenade and explore the old village centre.

After a pause for coffee we continue to Le Havre, situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine, on the English Channel. Here we visit the André Malraux Modern Art Museum which contains the second-most extensive collection of Impressionist paintings in France. There are paintings by Claude Monet and other artists who lived and worked in Normandy including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard. Modern art is also well represented with works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Alexej von Jawlensky and Nicolas de Staël.

At approximately 1.00pm we continue to Honfleur, where many Parisians spent their holidays. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. The Sainte Catherine church, which has a bell tower separate from the principal building, is the largest church made out of timber in France. Honfleur’s other attractions include its Saturday markets and the town is also famous for its chocolates.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive to Bayeux, our next base in Normandy, which is famous above all for its tapestry. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 9: Sunday 18 June, Bayeux – Juno Beach & Omaha Beach – Arromanches – Castillon – Bayeux

Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
Juno Beach
The Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches
Omaha Beach US Sector
Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon
Today’s program begins with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Norman architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, accompanied by our local expert, we tour the coast and beaches that were the sites of the Normandy Invasion landings of World War II. We visit Juno Beach, one of the five designated landing areas of the Normandy Invasion, which was assaulted and taken from defending German troops on 6 June 1944, and Omaha Beach, where thousands of Americans were killed during the invasion’s first day.

We also drive to Arromanches, where the remnants of the prefabricated ‘Mulberry’ harbour, a remarkable feat of engineering and ingenuity, can still be seen.

By 1943, the Germans were retreating on all fronts. In the early months of 1944 the war had reached stalemate: the Russians were waiting for spring to resume their offensive, while the British and Americans were advancing painfully slowly in Italy, encountering huge difficulties at every turn. The only way to change the course of the war and make a swift and decisive victory possible was to invade the northern coast of Europe – precisely where the enemy had its strongest defences. Hitler had ordered massive defensive structures to be built along the entire coastline, forming the ‘Atlantic Wall’. The Allies had had a foretaste of its effectiveness during the disastrous failed landing attempt at Dieppe in August 1942. The terrible losses they sustained made them realise that the Channel ports were too heavily fortified to be captured, although this was the sine qua non if they were to keep a larger landing force properly supplied. The strategists outlined an ambitious plan codenamed Overlord, which was accepted by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1943. Thirty divisions would be landed in Normandy. The cornerstone of this plan was the construction of two so-called Mulberry Harbours – artificial ports that would guarantee supplies for the troops once they had landed. The Mulberries comprised floating roadways and pierheads which went up and down with the tide. In order to avoid rough seas, huge hollow concrete blocks and old hulks were sunk in order to form a breakwater.

Just beyond Omaha Beach, we stop to enjoy a catered picnic lunch at the Château d’Englesqueville, which was home to the 600 men of the 147th Engineer Combat Battalion during the days after D-day. The current owners, M. and Mme Lebrec, are producers of cider and calvados and we will have the opportunity to sample their produce.

Our day ends with a drive to Castillon to visit the Jardins de Plantbessin, created by Colette Sainte Beuve as a water garden to complement her plant nursery. Here you will find a marvellous treasure trove of plants that includes beautiful samples of Japanese plants as well as herbs and heather, situated on a site which measures less than a quarter of an acre. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Day 10: Monday 19 June, Bayeux – Caen – Saint-Gabriel-Brécy – Bayeux

Abbaye-aux-Hommes & its abbatial church Saint-Étienne, Caen
Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen
Château de Brécy, Saint-Gabriel-Brécy
This morning we drive to Caen to visit the excellent small art museum (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle, and the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church Saint-Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

After some time at leisure in Caen for lunch, we return to Bayeux via the gardens of Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the seventeenth century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 11: Tuesday 20 June, Bayeux – Cambremer – Mézidon-Canon – Bayeux

Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge
Parc & Jardins du Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon
This morning we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde (Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by the Queen to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the eleventh-century methods and machinery of warfare.

Next, we travel east of Caen to discover the heart of the Pays d’Auge, with its stunning half-timbered farms, manors and châteaux and lovely agricultural landscape dominated by such elements as orchards and hedgerows. The Pays d’Auge is best known as the heart of production for some of Normandy’s best food products including the rich and aromatic cheeses of Camembert, Pont l’Évêque, and Livarot. It is also famous for its alcoholic cider and for its calvados, an apple brandy created from cider in the same manner that cognac is made from wine; through double distillation in copper stills. The brandy, which is 70 percent alcohol, is aged from 3 to 25 years in oak casks and then bottled.

We follow the designated ‘Route du Cidre’ to Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge, located outside the village of Cambremer. This series of themed gardens is situated around a seventeenth-century farmhouse and other half-timbered buildings, typical of Norman architecture. Listed as one of the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ in the Calvados region, this verdant 3-hectare estate lies adjacent to the Calvados Huet distillery.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an eighteenth-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alterations of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storied structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – 2 nights

Day 12: Wednesday 21 June, Bayeux – Le Mont Saint-Michel – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne

Mont Saint-Michel
Spa village of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the tenth century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the eleventh. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the eleventh century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

After visiting Mont Saint-Michel we shall pass a short time in the spa village of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne. The “Belle Époque” Quarter in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne constitutes a rather well-preserved example of what could be classed as a typical early twentieth-century French bourgeoise residential area. Built between 1886 and 1914 and located in the southern part of the town, it is filled with superb villas with polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing.

We stay for the next two nights in a lovely small heritage hotel, Le Manoir du Lys, at Bagnoles-de-L’Orne owned by a family noted for their fine cuisine, which we shall sample at our evening meals. The hotel is set in a pretty garden on the edge of the Andaine Forest. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BD

Day 13: Thursday 22 June, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet – Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne

Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet
Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei village & lunch at the Auberge des Peintres
Les Jardins de La Mansonière, Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei
A day trip today takes us to yet more lovely Norman villages and gardens. We begin with the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy at Saint- Christophe-Le-Jajolet. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the 20th century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece.

We next drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. In the 6th century an Italian anchorite, Céneri, established a hermitage here and this grew into the village of Saint-Céneri which is now considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. In the 19th century, its stone houses, Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and its small stone bridge attracted many artists, including Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin. We shall have lunch at the charming Auberge des Peintres and take a guided tour of the village before making our way to the Jardins de la Mansonière.

Overlooking the river Sarthe, the Jardins de la Mansonière are composed of a sequence of discrete chambers which have as their theme the enchantment of nature. There are the Rose Garden; the Garden of the Moon; the Garden of Calm; the Garden of Perfume; the Garden of Contrasts; the Garden of Nut Trees and the Gothic (vegetable) Garden. These creations use the distinct colours of a great variety of flowers to create a poetic sequence of delightfully different moods. We shall also spend some time in the village, whose medieval past has inspired elements of the gardens like the Gothic vegetable garden. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BLD

Le Mans – 1 night

Day 14: Friday 23 June, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Ballon – Le Mans

Jardins du Donjon de Ballon
Le Mans: Guided tour of Old Plantagenet City incl. Cathedral Saint-Julien and private gardens
Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Loire Valley. Our first visit is to the gardens of the Donjon de Ballon, an important frontier fortress built by Guillaume Ier de Bellême in 1005, the first to be encountered by the Normans in their attempts to expand their territory. It was seized by William the Conqueror in 1064, two years before he invaded England; and in the eleventh century it changed hands twenty-five times! In the twelfth century the family of Chources, allies of the Kings of England, established control of the fortress which was to endure three centuries. During the Hundred Years’ War the castle was controlled by armed bands and contested by the English and French until the companions of Joan of Arc, Olivier de Prez, châtelain of Ballon, and his nephew Ambroise de Loré finally subdued it and its territory. The development of artillery rendered this type of fortress, composed of a high keep and prominent towers, outmoded.

The gardens of Ballon have been curated since 1960 by the a’Weng-Guéroult family. They are made up of a number of parts. The Alley of the Linden Trees, with large rectangular beds, leads to the Court of the Lions named for the lions which guard the donjon’s drawbridge. The Jardin Clos sits within the ramparts and is in the transitional Medieval/Renaissance style. It is made up of three sections: the geometrical Jardin du Puits which surrounds the forty-five metre well which supplied the castle with water; Le Jardin du Milieu, inspired by Renaissance gardens, with ancient standard roses, aromatic plants such as hyssop, kitchen and medicinal herbs, and plants for dyes such as rose madder; La Motte Féodale (the feudal moat) which leads to the location of the very first wooden fortress, precursor to the stone donjon. There are beech groves here and the moats themselves are planted with fruit trees from around the world. This garden section, high on the castle crag, commands stunning panoramas of the forests of Normandy and Maine. Below this is the rose garden and surrounding the whole complex is a beautiful wood.

Following a light lunch in the Donjon du Ballon, we next drive a short distance to the city of Le Mans, which lies on the banks of the River Sarthe. We are now in the region of Maine, of which Le Mans is the old capital. Surrounded by the modern city, the historic centre is dominated by the magnificent cathedral of Saint-Julien. This building has a Romanesque nave and west end and a marvelously light Gothic east end with some of the most magnificent flying buttresses in France. The cathedral also has excellent stained glass from the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is surrounded by a lovely precinct of timbered houses whose façades boast intricate patterns and some excellent carving. At points along the Sarthe are to be seen remnants of the city’s Gallo-Roman walls, Le Mans having been an important Celtic town before Julius Caesar invaded, and Augustus pacified Gaul. A local specialty is the famous ‘Rillettes du Mans’, made with pork meat cooked in its fat and best served simply with a farmhouse loaf. (Overnight Le Mans) BL

Day 15: Saturday 24 June, Le Mans – Louplande – Angers – Chissay-en-Touraine

Gardens of the Château de Villaines, Louplande
Château d’Angers, Apocalypse Tapestry
This morning we drive to the Château de Villaines, built on the ruins of a twelfth-century feudal castle, of which all that remains is part of the defensive moat on the southern side. The present buildings date from the mid seventeenth century and the Château de Villaines is typical of châteaux from that period, oriented with the main facades facing precisely north and south, and being long and slim to allow light to penetrate from windows on both sides, making it very light and airy. The main buildings comprise the Château itself, the orangery in the northwest corner of the garden, and a large dovecote to the southwest.

Marc and Marie-José Forissier have been the owners since 1997 and are responsible for developing the garden as it appears today. Before they began work there was an English landscape garden in front of the house; this has been replaced by a formal French garden with clipped box topiary and lawns. To the right of the house is a recently planted orchard, to the south the remains of a large moat and many newly planted trees. However, its main feature is an extraordinary potager en carrés, a highly formalised and decorative fruit and vegetable garden divided into dozens of raised square beds and surrounded by a high wall. This garden covering 2.5 acres was restored by the present owners and includes a fine array of peonies, espaliered pear trees and apple trees trained in cordons. An attractive collection of Old Climbing Roses trail across arches giving the garden height. In 2005 it was awarded the prize for best potager garden in France by the French Horticultural Society (Société Nationale d’Horticulture de France).

Following a light lunch at the Château de Villaines, hosted by the owners, we drive to the ancient city of Angers, the historical capital of Anjou and for centuries an important stronghold in northwestern France. The old medieval centre is still dominated by the massive castle (c.1238), which boasts a magnificent Tapestry Museum, the focus of which is the important Apocalypse Tapestries, a series of seventy scenes completed in 1380 by Nicholas Bataille for Louis d’Anjou, brother of Charles V. This comprehensive cycle, based upon St John’s Book of the Apocalypse, is one of the masterpieces of the International Gothic style. In contrast to terrifying visions of the Apocalypse on the tympana of pilgrim churches like Saint-Lazare, Autun, these works display an opulent, exquisite, courtly grace. Their magnificent reds and blues rival the colourism of the Unicorn Tapestries in the Musée de Cluny, Paris.

In the Loire valley we stay for three nights in the Château de Chissay. Chissay, an archetypal Touraine château of an aspect similar to the marvellous palace-fortresses depicted in International Gothic manuscripts, including the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Like many continuously lived-in houses, however, it has changed over six centuries in which at times its fortunes have been intimately linked with those of France. It was built by Pierre Bernard, chancellor to Charles VII (1435-61), at a time when the monarchy, recent victor over the English in the Hundred Years’ War, was beginning to transform feudal France into a modern state with a professional administration and permanent army. This assertion of monarchical power found its eventual expression in the great royal châteaux of this region. Both Charles and his successor, Louis XI, stayed here. Chissay was then owned by a succession of seigneurial families and it was here that a number of crucial French government meetings took place in 1940, as Nazi Germany was invading France. In 1986 Chissay was transformed in order to provide luxury accommodation. It has a number of lovely public rooms such as a ‘guard room’ and ‘Gothic room’, and its bedrooms, with nineteenth-century furnishings, look out on the surrounding 25-acre park. (Overnight Chissay-en-Touraine) BLD

Day 16: Sunday 25 June, Chissay-en-Touraine – Amboise – Sasnières – Cheverny – Chissay-en-Touraine

Sunday market in Amboise
Jardin du Plessis-Sasnières
Château de Cheverny
This morning, we drive to the nearby town of Amboise on the banks of the Loire, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years. Dominating the town is the fifteenth-century Château d’Amboise, which combines Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. But the main purpose of our visit this morning is to attend its Sunday market, one of the largest in the region. We shall explore the market stalls set up along the river bank and sample some of the local specialties for our picnic lunch today.

Nearby we visit the Jardin du Plessis-Sasnières, created in 1975 by Rosamée Henrion. Nestled in a small, discrete valley, this eleven-hectare English landscape garden centres on a pond. A section of the park abutting the pool contrasts to the parkland. It consists of an earlier potager (vegetable garden) that has been transformed into an enclosed garden of roses, annuals and vivacious flowers planted to create a symphony of different colours. Following our visit of the gardens we shall enjoy our picnic lunch in these beautiful surroundings.

We then travel to the early seventeenth-century castle of Cheverny, distinguished by its extraordinary symmetrical architecture and beautiful interior designed by Jean Monier. Unlike many châteaux in the Loire, Cheverny is still occupied by its owners, who open some of their sumptuous rooms for the public including the dining room and King’s Chamber. Thirty-four painted wood panels around the walls of the dining room depict the story of Don Quixote (the hero of the Cervantes novel). On the first floor, the King’s Chamber displays a particularly sumptuous design; the coffered ceiling shows scenes from the myth of Perseus and Andromeda and the panels depict the legend of Theagenes and Chariclea.The park holds an interesting collection of trees including cedars, redwoods and lindens. A pleasure garden has been created between the château and the orangery. (Overnight Chissay-en-Touraine) BD

Day 17: Monday 26 June, Chissay-en-Touraine – Chenonceaux – Villandry – Chissay-en-Touraine

Château de Chenonceau
Château de Villandry
Our morning is dedicated to visiting the Château of Chenonceau, one of the most picturesque of all great houses; it literally bridges the Cher River. Built by Thomas Bohier on the site of a mill between 1513 and 1523, it was given by Henry II to Diane de Poitiers, who commissioned Philibert de l’Orme to construct the section which spans the river, but was then forced to surrender it to Catherine de Medici. Chenonceau became the locus of an important salon in the eighteenth century. It has beautiful gardens and fine interiors with some excellent furnishings.

We next drive to the Château de Villandry, whose 16th-century style gardens (actually developed in the twentieth century) rival those of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. On arrival, we shall enjoy a picnic-style lunch set up for us in the garden. We then visit the gardens, modelled by Villandry’s twentieth-century owner, Dr Joachim Cavallo, on images of gardens by the great seventeenth-century print-maker and illustrator of châteaux, Androuet du Cerceau. A visit to these gardens will give us the best possible understanding of what a vast formal garden was like, with its discrete flower and vegetable gardens set against perspectives which remind us of theatrical stage sets. (Overnight Chissay-en-Touraine) BLD

Augerville-la-Rivière – 3 nights

Day 18: Tuesday 27 June, Chissay-en-Touraine – Chaumont-sur-Loire – Augerville-la-Rivière

International Garden Festival, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire
This morning we visit the International Garden Festival held at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire. This is also home to a landscaped park designed by Henri Duchêne. Founded in 1992, the International Garden Festival has been providing an astonishing panorama of the state of landscape creativity all over the world. Each year, international teams of artists, landscape architects and designers create around 30 ephemeral gardens on a single theme. The aim is to surprise, entertain and enchant you and offer ideas for your own garden. Next to the Festival, the ‘Valley of the Mists’ (Vallon des Brumes), the ‘organic vegetable garden’, the ‘wild iron pathway’ (Sentier des Fers Sauvages) and certain banks show permanent experimental gardens that change throughout the seasons.

At the conclusion of this visit we continue our journey north to the elegant Château-Hotel d’Augerville, where we spend the next three nights. This evening, we shall dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Augerville-la-Rivière) BLD

Day 19: Wednesday 28 June, Augerville-la-Rivière – Fontainebleau – Lardy – Augerville-la-Rivière

Château de Fontainebleau
Le Jardin d’Anne-Marie, Lardy
We begin today with a visit to the great royal Château of Fontainebleau, a monumental ensemble of buildings constructed between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, set in a seemingly endless royal forest. Of medieval origin – the Capetian kings hunted its forest – the present complex was constantly enlarged, enriched and inhabited by François I, Henri II and Catherine de Medici, Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Napoleon and Louis-Philippe. Even Louis XIV, who of course preferred Versailles, commissioned Le Nôtre to improve its gardens. During the late Renaissance, the château saw the translation of the Italian Mannerist style to France through the School of Fontainebleau.

We shall visit the extensive, sumptuous apartments like the Gallerie François Ier which was decorated by the great Italian Mannerist Rosso Fiorentino. These give an unsurpassed overview of the development of French panelling, wall painting, tapestry, and furniture. We shall also stroll through the different courtyards of the complex, observing the varied architecture of façades and visit gardens such as the secluded Jardin de Diane, the Jardin Anglais, and the vast parterre with canals, and the Basin du Tibre. Following our visit of the castle, we shall have some time at leisure for lunch in the animated town of Fontainebleau.

After lunch we continue to Lardy and Le Jardin d’Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie and Yvon Grivaz bought this beautiful place beside the river in 1976. Five years later planting began and a French style cottage garden was created. Mellow gravel paths wind through lawns and borders, which are a glorious mix of shrubs and perennials in soft colours. Pergolas support a profusion of roses, and there are bridges, terraces and summerhouses. In 2007, the garden was awarded the prestigious Prix de Jardinier d’Île-de-France. (Overnight Augerville-la-Rivière) BD

Day 20: Thursday 29 June, Augerville-la-Rivière – Château Vaux-le-Vicomte – Courances – Augerville-la-Rivière

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
Domaine de Courances
This morning we shall explore the unsurpassed seventeenth-century château, Vaux-le-Vicomte which was the precursor to Louis XIV’s Versailles. Vaux-le-Vicomte was built in 1658-61 for Nicholas Fouquet, the finance minister of Louis XIV by the architects were Louis Le Vau (1612-1670) and Jules Hardouin-Mansart; the gardens were designed by the great André Le Nôtre (1613-1700) and Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) painted the interior. Fouquet was arrested shortly after the opening celebrations of the château, and Louis XIV afterwards employed its designers for his palace and gardens at Versailles. The house has pronounced corner pavilions as well as a projecting oval central pavilion that is crowned by an ovoid, domed roof. The interiors were elaborately decorated under the supervision of Le Brun. Set within a huge green space which extends around one-and-a-half kilometres from the entrance gate to the furthest statue of Hercules, (and measures a sixth of this in width), the château dominates from whatever distance it is seen. Such a ‘reigning’ position over this large area symbolises the power of the master of the house.

Le Nôtre and Le Vau created from forty hectares of countryside a perfect harmony between architecture and its environment for the first time in the seventeenth century. Le Nôtre’s first masterpiece, the vast garden perspective is divided into a sequence of terraces, forming an orderly composition of sculpted box gardens patterned after motifs from Turkish carpets. There are bordered flower beds, shrubberies, grottos, lawns, lakes and fountains. If no other garden of the period were to have survived, Vaux-le-Vicomte’s gardens would suffice to illustrate the principles of landscape gardening in this age of elegance.

This afternoon we visit Courances, where General Montgomery resided following the Liberation of France. This is a charming garden also designed by Le Nôtre, with elegant canals edged by avenues of plane trees and beautiful lawns. The components of its landscape are simple in the extreme, but the result is a setting of superb verdure and refinement, one that will be appreciated by travellers who enjoy simple, beautifully proportioned gardens.

We return to our château, where there will be some time at leisure before concluding our tour with a farewell meal. (Augerville-la-Rivière) BD

Day 21: Friday 30 June, Augerville-la-Rivière – Paris (CDG)

Our tour ends. You may continue your travels in Europe or join the coach transfer to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for your flight back home to Australia. B

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

 

Moltrasio – 2 nights

Day 1: Monday 1 May, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio

Afternoon at Leisure
Introductory Meeting
Welcome Evening Meal at Gourmet Restaurant Imperialino
On arrival at Milan’s Malpensa airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.

The afternoon is at leisure to relax on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. In the evening we will have a short introductory meeting before dining at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

 

Day 2: Tuesday 2 May, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
This morning we cruise across Lake Como to 18th century Villa Carlotta, a garden with a huge botanical collection and a traditional Italian formal design, unlike most lake gardens that were heavily influenced by the more fluid layouts of English landscape gardening; it thus has a wide variety of architectural features – parterres, stairways, ponds, fountains, etc. In April and May Villa Carlotta offers a sea of multi-coloured azaleas shaped in high rounded cushions alongside the garden paths.

During the lunch break you will have some time at leisure to visit Villa Melzi (optional).

Afternoon visit to Villa del Balbianello, an exquisite villa set in woods of pine, soaring cypress and oak with pollarded plane trees and manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Facing the promontory of Serbelloni, from the Lavedo point it boasts unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake. The first villa was built in 1540, but was later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding. Cardinal Durini erected a casino with a loggia in 1790, open to the sun and breezes; today it is trellised with Ficus pumila (creeping fig) and flanked by a library and music room. (Overnight Moltrasio) B

 

Stresa – 2 nights

Day 3: Wednesday 3 May, Moltrasio – Bisuschio – Casalzuigno – Stresa

Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, Bisuschio
Villa della Porta Bozzolo, Casalzuigno
Depart Moltrasio to visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, located on a steep hillside in the village of Bisuschio. Its garden looks out upon sweeping views, with a glimpse of Lake Lugano. Founded in the 15th century, the villa took its present form in the 16th century. The Cicogna family, who inherited it in 1580, still owns this lovely villa. The formal gardens rise on 7 narrow terraces and adjacent to them is a small sunken garden with formal box parterres and patches of lawn. We tour the villa residence that houses a fine antique collection. Above the villa is a great terrace with Renaissance grottoes offering shade in summer, and a magnificent water stair. Flowing water was an essential feature of Italian formal gardens, offering a cooling spectacle and a lively, burbling sound.

After lunchtime at leisure we visit Villa della Porta Bozzolo, which is unusual for Lombardy because its measured stately design is laid out upon a steep slope. Parterres, terraces with stone balustrades and grand stairways flanking fountains rise to an octagonal clearing, or theatre, surrounded by a thick ring of cypresses and woods. The perspective rises further to the villa, set to one side in order not to interrupt the silvan view. We continue to our hotel located on the shores of Lake Maggiore. (Overnight Stresa) B

 

Day 4: Thursday 4 May, Stresa – Lake Maggiore – Lake Orta – Stresa

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore
Orta San Giulio & Isola San Giulio, Lake Orta
We take the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Count Carlo Borromeo’s Isola Bella (1632), one of Italy’s most extraordinary Baroque gardens. Located on an island off Stresa, it appears to float like a palatial barge, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow from the reflecting waters. It shares the island with the Borromeo palace and its adjacent village.

We also visit Isola Madre, with semi-tropical plantings amongst which white peacocks roam. In 1845, Flaubert wrote that ‘Isola Madre is the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world’. It has a fine swamp cypress, citrus fruit trees, crape myrtle, hibiscus, leptospermum and acacias. The landscape woods have groves of native trees – aromatic cypress, bay and pine – interplanted with camphor, pepper trees and styrax. Its pathways are lined with magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Afternoon visit to Lake Orta to the west of Lake Maggiore, a tiny jewel surrounded by hills and mountains acting as a great natural theatre enveloping local towns and villages. The most beautiful of these is Orta San Giulio, whose town hall has a frescoed façade. Its narrow streets are lined with Rococo houses. We take a ferry to San Giulio Island to visit the 12th century Romanesque church whose pulpit is one of the outstanding masterpieces of medieval sculpture in Northern Italy. (Overnight Stresa) B

 

Turin – 4 nights

Day 5: Friday 5 May, Stresa – Caravino – Turin

Castello di Masino including lunch and ‘The Cloud Garden’ by Paolo Pejrone, Caravino
We drive south from Stresa to the Castello di Masino to tour the castle and its monumental park. This great Savoyard property ‘sets the scene’ for your exploration of Piedmont, one of Italy’s lesser known, yet extremely important regions. Nestling at the foot of the Alps, this ‘gateway to Western Europe’ absorbed many foreign garden influences, particularly from nearby France, and from the United Kingdom. In 1860 the venerable House of Savoy, founded in the 11th century, gave a newly unified Italy its royal family. From the 17th century the Dukes of Savoy had built grand palaces and vast gardens often influenced by those of the French Ancien Régime. Our tour of the interior of Castello di Masino and then of its grand park introduces not only Savoyard culture but also contemporary developments in Italian gardening. A captivating aspect of the park is the Giardino delle Nuvole (the Cloud Garden) designed by one of Italy’s foremost garden designers, the internationally renowned Paolo Pejrone, founder of the Piedmontese Garden Academy. Inspired by Russell Page and Roberto Burle Marx, Pejrone has designed gardens in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Austria, France and the United Kingdom. Pejrone is a committee member of FAI (Fondazione Ambiente Italiana), dedicated to the restoration and conservation of Savoyard castles and palaces; it is headquartered at Castello di Masino. The Castle also hosts an extremely important garden festival in May. After lunch we will make our way to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy. (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 6: Saturday 6 May, Turin

Orientation walk of Turin, including guided visits to the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) and Palazzo Madama
Afternoon and evening at leisure
This morning we will enjoy a guided orientation walk of the city’s centre with a local guide. Our walk will include a visit to Turin’s Royal Palace, seat of the House of Savoy (1646-1859) and of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy (1860-1865). This grand palace, a major essay in Italian Baroque and Rococo, has sumptuous decorations and furniture from all periods. We will also visit Turin’s Palazzo Madama, a medieval castle behind a Baroque façade, with a major art collection that includes Antonello da Messina’s Portrait of a Man. The afternoon and evening we will be at leisure to explore Turin in greater depth. (Overnight Turin) B

 

Day 7: Sunday 7 May, Turin – Moncalieri – Turin

Villa Silvio Pellico – including lunch (exclusive private visit)
Private Garden Visit (to be confirmed)
Today we visit Villa Silvio Pellico, a fine Neo-Gothic mansion (1870) with a Russell Page garden, arguably one of his three masterpieces. Page had gained an understanding of the Italian and French formal tradition of gardening from Edith Wharton and Geoffrey Jellicoe. On an ill-kempt hillside in the 1950s he created a fine terraced garden on two axes divided by pools; Page was particularly sensitive to the use of water in gardens. Symmetrical hedges create a series of ‘rooms’ of different designs, using diverse vegetation and ground patterns, as well as sculptures. The present owner, Raimonda Lanza di Trabia, daughter of the last Prince of Trabia (Sicily), and her husband Emanuele Gamna, will host us for lunch. You can read more about this garden in Marina Schinz & Gabrielle van Zuylen’s book The Gardens of Russell Page.

We continue our afternoon with another private garden visit (details to be confirmed). (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 8: Monday 8 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin

Program hosted by Paolo Pejrone
Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit)
Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s Private Experimental Garden (exclusive private visit)
Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit to be confirmed in 2017)
We are particularly privileged today to accompany Paolo Pejrone on a visit to his own, very private garden, designed not so much for its aesthetics as a laboratory in which the master is constantly experimenting with new plantings. Set on a steep escarpment near a ruined medieval rampart from which ‘Bramafam’ takes its name, the garden and its owner’s discussions with you will give precious, unique insights into his ideas and practice.

Paolo Pejrone will also accompany us to the exquisite gardens of Casa Agnelli, set on a private estate which has been home to the Agnelli family since the early 1800s. The grounds offer a range of styles: Italianate formal gardens; a water garden with interconnecting lakes; an English-style woodland walk, a romantic garden, sculpture gardens and more. We are particularly fortunate to have been granted a visit to this most extraordinary of gardens.

Today Paolo Pejrone will also introduce the private garden he designed for Silvana and Alberto Peyrani. Pejrone surrounded their villa with extensive new gardens, including decorative orchards and a fine potager. We are very grateful that the Peyranis have graciously consented to allow us to explore their private domain with its creator. (Overnight Turin) B

 

Lucca – 2 nights

Day 9: Tuesday 9 May, Turin – Santa Margherita Ligure – La Cervara – Lucca

The Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (La Cervara)
Group Evening meal at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant
We drive southeast along the grand Ligurian coast to the magnificent Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino. Located in a strategic position atop a rocky headland that overlooks the Tigullio Gulf, it was founded as a Benedictine Monastery (1361). The monks’ former vegetable garden was transformed into what is now the only monumental Italian formal garden in the Liguria region. It extends over two levels connected by arbors and steps. On the lower level, hedges of boxwood (buxus sempervirens) are trimmed into ornate stepped cones, an important example of topiary art. The hedges surround a 17th-century marble fountain in the form of a putto, whose underlying basin is tinged with pink water lilies in summer.

After visiting this grand garden, we continue to Lucca and check in to the Hotel Ilaria, which occupies the restored stables of the Villa Bottini inside the city walls. In the evening we dine together at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant located near the hotel. (Overnight Lucca) BD

 

Day 10: Wednesday 10 May, Lucca

Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
Palazzo Pfanner
Afternoon at leisure: Optional Walk along Lucca’s City Walls
Evening Puccini Concert, Church of San Giovanni
Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of St. Martin, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb. The Church of San Michele has a spectacular façade made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. It was built in the ancient forum of the city; Lucca’s medieval street plan follows the original Roman plan. The oval Piazza del Mercato’s medieval palaces were built into the structure of Lucca’s Roman amphitheatre. San Frediano, meanwhile, has a distinctive façade mosaic and a unique baptismal font that was once a medieval fountain.

After lunch we visit the privately owned 17th century Palazzo Pfanner where parts of Portrait of a Lady were filmed (1996). The palace’s owner, Dario Pfanner, will introduce his palace and its Baroque garden, a fine example of an urban garden that includes various statues of Olympian deities and a fountain pond. Its elegant lemon house (limonaia) inflects a space defined by boxwood and laurel hedges. Bushes of peonies and hortensias, roses and potted geraniums gain shade from yews, pines, magnolias and an old camellia. Inside, the palace’s piano nobile (main reception room) features Pietro Paolo Scorsini frescoes (c.1720).

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to walk a section of Lucca’s 17th-century city walls, the best preserved in Italy. The Lucchesi planted trees atop these walls to form a promenade enlivened by small gardens and lawns. We attend an evening concert with a selection from operas (e.g. La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Turandot) by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) a native of Lucca, in the Church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B

 

Florence – 4 nights

Day 11: Thursday 11 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence

Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
Lunch at a typical Tuscan osteria
Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve
During the Renaissance, the wealthy merchant families of Tuscany built grand villas on the plains of Lucca. We visit 17th-century Villa Torrigiani, named after the camellia that was introduced to the gardens in the early 18th century. The garden’s Baroque layout, attributed to André Le Nôtre, features symmetrical reflecting pools in front of the villa. Most outstanding is the secret garden (Giardino di Flora), with regular beds, topiary and pools. The garden features 19th-century trees, magnificent magnolias, cypresses and umbrella pines. The 18th-century avenue of cypresses leading to the villa from the village of Borgonuova reflects the past grandeur of estates in this region.

We eat a traditional Tuscan lunch at a nearby osteria before continuing our journey westward toward Castello il Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve.

“Set on a hilltop in the Apennines north of Florence, a few kilometres west of San Piero a Sieve, Castello del Trebbio is one of the oldest villas built by the Medici, who came from the Mugello and chose their native region for their first villas. The head of the Medici clan, Giovanni di Bicci, owned the property from the late 14th century, and upon his death in 1428, the villa was inherited by Cosimo the Elder, who commissioned Michelozzzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild the original castle.

“Set in an excellent strategic position, dominating the Sieve Valley below and near a cross roads (Trebbio derives from the Latin trivium), the castle was surrounded by woods and a huge estate which bordered on the Cafaggiolo property. Although Vasari suggests otherwise, Trebbio was the first of the Mugello castles to be rebuilt by Michelozzo. Immediately after 1428, the building work began, incorporating the existing watchtower into a solid, compact defensive construction surrounded by a moat and drawbridge. The defensive role was necessary on account of the castle’s position, however novel features were also introduced to satisfy the requirements of the patron.

The walled garden set on two terraces to the right is noteworthy as it was among the first of its kind to be designed for a villa. The upper terrace of the well-preserved garden, a veritable hortus conclusus, is decorated with a long pergola made up of a double row of columns and sandstone capitals in various styles (ionic and decorated with foliage motifs), which support a thick covering of vines. As can be seen in the lunette painted by Giusto Utens between 1599 and 1602, there was a second pergola (now lost) on the lower terrace, which retains the original layout of a vegetable garden with a pond, as well as planting designed by Michelozzo to satisfy not only defensive requirements, but also Cosimo’s spiritual desire for a contemplative life.” (The Medici Villas: Complete Guide by Isabella Lapi Ballerini & Mario Scalini).

In the late afternoon we arrive at our hotel in central Florence. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 12: Friday 12 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence

Villa Medici in Fiesole
Guided Tour, Villa di Maiano
Lunch at Fattoria di Maiano
Villa Capponi
Unlike the grand villa gardens we have visited near Lucca, Florence and its vicinity have a number of small intimate urban gardens that we visit today. Many of these offer glimpses of the city, a counterpart to the spectacular views afforded by their grander Florentine counterparts. Such views offer a reminder that Florentine villas were seen as retreats from this metropolitan powerhouse. We make an early morning visit to elegant Fiesole in the hills overlooking Florence where Boccaccio set his Decameron, model for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Boccaccio’s protagonists told stories to while away their days in a Fiesole villa in which they had escaped from the plague ravaging Florence.

We first visit the garden of 16th-century Villa Medici in Fiesole. The garden, showing Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. We shall then transfer by coach to nearby Villa di Maiano.

Among Villa di Maiano’s past owners are members of the famous Sforza and Pazzi families. However, it was wealthy Englishman Sir John Temple Leader who, after acquiring the property in 1844, renovated the villa, its gardens and the surrounding structures. Architect Felice Francolini, while in some respects keeping with the villa’s 15th century appearance, made some radical changes, such as the addition of a Gothic-style keep with a loggia. The garden in front of the villa features a well, a gazebo, and the Neo-Gothic loggetta with a swimming pool. The lower terrace’s large garden is bordered by boxwood hedges and the north side below the upper terrace has a limonaia. The northern part of the garden is a landscaped park designed by Giuseppe Francelli and Alessandro Papini, an expert in hydraulics and landscape architect.

After Temple Leader’s death, Villa di Maiano and the surrounding property was bought, in 1917, by Florentine surgeon Teodoro Stori, who was married to a member of the noble Principi Corsini family. Their adopted daughter Lucrezia Corsini, with her husband Count Giacomo Miari Fulcis, continued restorations and work on the Villa and the Fattoria. Countess Lucrezia Corsini, the Villa’s present owner, has specialised the Fattoria di Maiano in the organic cultivation of olives. We will take a guided tour of the Villa and Gardens, as well making a brief visit to the as the Olive Mill. We shall then enjoy lunch together at the Fattoria di Maiano’s restaurant.

The Villa di Maiano can count Queen Victoria among its guests; it has also provided the set for numerous films, including James Ivory’s A Room with a View and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Musssolini.

In Florence in the afternoon we visit the 16th-century Villa Capponi and its secret gardens where the late Queen Mother spent holidays as a girl. Cecil Pinsent’s influence is evident; he added a library and created a hidden swimming pool area. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Day 13: Saturday 13 May, Florence – Greve in Chianti – Florence

Giardino Corsini al Prato
Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti – including wine-tasting and lunch
We begin with a visit to the Giardini Corsini al Prato, a Florentine urban garden that illustrates the deep connection between nature, science and beauty in the Renaissance sensibility. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, conceived the garden. Unable to finish his residence, he was forced to sell the property to Filippo di Lorenzo Corsini who completed the Italian garden that remains unchanged to this day. Completely concealed from the street by the façade of the palazzo, this urban garden reveals pink and red rock roses, peonies, cherry trees and lavender along with elegant lemon urns and a central axis of solemn marble statues. After our tour of the gardens Princess Georgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments.

We next drive out of Florence for a delicious lunch at a beautiful Renaissance villa, Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti. The 15th-16th-century house has important artistic associations, for Leonardo da Vinci is thought to have stayed here, and painted the owner’s young wife, Lisa del Giacondo, Mona Lisa. Vignamaggio is also famed for its wines, for it is the official supplier to the Italian parliament at the Quirinale Palace, Rome; its wines are first mentioned in documents dating from the 15th century. It also was the setting of Kenneth Branagh’s film Much Ado About Nothing, starring Emma Thompson. The restored garden, aligned to a row of 100-year-old cypress, features simple topiary and box hedging amid lawns. Areas like the sunken fountain garden inflect this exquisite orchestration of trees, hedges, lawns and old statues that look out upon the estate’s famous vineyards.

In the afternoon we return to Florence, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 14: Sunday 14 May, Florence

San Lorenzo: Medici Chapel
Palazzo Medici Riccardi: The Chapel of the Magi
Afternoon at leisure
On a visit to San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel we explore Michelangelo’s Medici tombs, masterpieces of 16th-century sculpture showing a transition from classical High Renaissance values to a Mannerist mode.

Near San Lorenzo we visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the small Magi Chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape, which forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Siena – 2 nights

Day 15: Monday 15 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano – including interiors of the villa
Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)
Optional evening excursion to Siena’s town centre
We drive to Siena via two famous Tuscan villas. At Settignano we visit the Villa Gamberaia, with arguably the most famous of Florentine villa gardens. The Capponi family initiated the present garden in 1718. In 1896, Princess Ghika of Serbia created the main water parterres in front of the villa. The Marchi family has recently restored the garden. It features magnificent topiary, two fine grottoes, and wonderful old cypresses and pines. By special arrangement, we also tour the interiors of the villa which combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa.

Midday we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces the garden. Lunch features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, various locally cured meats and Pecorino cheeses, followed by plum jam tart, all washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. For those wishing to dine in Siena, there will be an optional evening excursion into the city centre. (Overnight Siena) BL

 

Day 16: Tuesday 16 May, Siena

Orientation tour of Siena including: Palazzo Pubblico, Cathedral & Museum
Afternoon at leisure
Siena is the quintessential medieval city. We explore Lorenzetti’s fascinating paintings of Good and Bad Government in the Palazzo Pubblico and Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà in the Cathedral Museum. We examine Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit in Siena Cathedral. We also visit medieval quarters (contrade) dominated by palaces still occupied by the families who built them. The contrade compete in the famous palio horse race twice a year. Protected by the Virgin Mary, Siena is a city of Trinitarian symbolism. Built on three ridges, it has three major sectors (terzi) that each elected three members of the city council, and interpreted its very architectural fabric in such symbolic terms. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Siena’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Siena) B

 

Perugia – 1 night

Day 17: Wednesday 17 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia

Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment to be confirmed in 2017)
Private gardens of Villa Aureli, Castel del Piano Umbro – including lunch
Perugia Orientation Walk: Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore
We drive south to the Renaissance Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Origo’s two autobiographies, Images and Shadows and War in Val d’Orcia, vividly describe life on the estate in the mid-20th century. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting. Now a centre for cultural and artistic activities, it hosts the distinguished Incontri chamber annual summer music festival in the Castelluccio, a medieval castle on the property.

Count Sperello di Serego Alighieri, a descendent of Dante, will host us for a light lunch and show us his lovely Villa Aureli. Shaded by lime trees and oaks and decorated with many late antique vases containing citrus trees, the villa dates to the middle of the 18th century, when a Perugian nobleman and artist, Count Sperello Aureli, transformed a 16th-century tower into his country residence. Of particular note is the orangery, whose high roof is remeniscent of the hull of an upturned ship.

We continue to Perugia for a gentle orientation walk to include its Cathedral and Fontana Maggiore. We spend two nights in the luxury Hotel Brufani Palace, located on a hilltop within Perugia’s historic core. (Overnight Perugia) BL

 

Viterbo – 1 night

Day 18: Thursday 18 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo

Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria
Villa Lante, Bagnaia
We begin by viewing masterpieces, including works by Perugino, in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria before departing Perugia to visit the great Villa Lante and its garden.Villa Lante is the consummate example of Italian Mannerist garden design. Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s exemplary essay in fine scale and proportion centres on a fountain and water parterre. Vignola was influenced by the Vatican gardens, the Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s marine theatre and the Boboli Gardens (Florence). Its theme, humanity’s descent from the Golden Age is based upon Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Water flows from the Grotto of the Deluge at the summit down a stepped cascade and through a channel at the centre of a vast stone table used for banquets, inspired by Pliny’s description of an imperial garden table using water to cool wine and fruit. In the late afternoon drive a short distance to our hotel located in the countryside outside Viterbo. (Overnight Viterbo) BD

 

Rome – 4 nights

Day 19: Friday 19 May, Viterbo – Vignanello – Calcata – Rome

Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello – including lunch at Cantina degli Artisti
Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi at Calcata
Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. Our visit will be complemented by lunch in the wine-cellars near the palazzo, which specialise in the cuisine of Vignanello.

This afternoon we visit the gardens of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The gardens reinterpret Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuse geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 20: Saturday 20 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome

Giardini di Ninfa
Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia
We depart this morning at approximately 8.00 am for the Giardini di Ninfa. The magnificent gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, are some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Today, their gates will open for a special private visit for our group. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate its ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Foundation Caetani that maintains the wonderfully atmospheric gardens. Today plants weave themselves over ruined towers, ancient archways and churches, while ducks and swans glide on the castle’s moat. Highlights include a walled garden, small orchard and diverse plantings in which roses, banana trees and maples thrive together in this unique and beautiful landscape.

Nearby, we enjoy a picnic lunch and visit the dreamy gardens of Torrecchia, one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens. Nestled against the crumbling ruins of a medieval village and castle, perched on a volcanic hilltop just south of Rome, they command spectacular views of the unspoilt 1500-acre estate’. Owned by Carlo Caracciolo (the late owner of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso) and Violante Visconti, the gardens were originally designed by Lauro Marchetti, the current curator of the Giardini di Ninfa, and further developed by the English garden designer Dan Pearson and later by Stuart Barfoot. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 21: Sunday 21 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome

Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, Tivoli
Time at leisure in Rome
Set among the hanging cliffs of the Valle Gaudente, the Villa d’Este and its surrounding gardens and waterworks has undergone a series of innovative extensions in layout and decoration, including those of Bernini in the late 17th century. This UNESCO world heritage site boasts an impressive concentration of nymphaea, grottoes and fountains, including the famous hydraulic Organ Fountain that still operates. The Villa d’Este’s use of water and music became the definitive model for Mannerist and Baroque gardens across Europe.

We remain in the town of Tivoli for lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, a famous restaurant specialising in regional dishes. Marble plaques on the walls list the members of royalty and other famous people who have come here to dine for more than 250 years. After lunch, we return to Rome to enjoy time at leisure. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 22: Monday 22 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Bracciano – Rome

Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (exclusive private visit to be confirmed in 2017)
Visit to the village of Bracciano, overlooking Lake Bracciano
San Liberato Giardini Botanici, Bracciano (exclusive private visit to be confirmed in 2017)
Farewell Group Meal
The estate of Castel Giuliano, surrounded by a beautiful century-old park, occupies the site of an Etruscan and Roman settlement at the foot of the Tolfa Mountains. The Patrizi family has owned it since 1546 and its present owners have restored its ancient buildings and park to their former splendour. On its wide, gently sloping turf terraces, pines, cluster oaks, and century-old Lebanon cedars tower above sweet-scented herbs and flower-laden bushes, contrasting unruly nature with human interventions. The park has numerous Etruscan tombs and ruins of Roman walls covered in ferns and lichen. Truly unique, is one of Italy’s most important private rose gardens; in May it hosts the famous ‘Feast of the Roses’. Climbing roses soften the austere lines of the ancient castle walls, which are surrounded by combinations of shrubbery and foxglove, myrtle and pale blue ceanothus.

Nearby, we visit the gardens of San Liberato, overlooking Lake Bracciano, designed by the famous English landscape designer Russell Page. Page assisted the Count and Countess Sanminiatelli to create San Liberato between 1965 and 1975. With panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside, chestnut woods, a formal rose garden, informal flower beds like small islands dotting the green lawns, and borders of silver and grey plants, the garden also has a modern version of the ‘Orto dei Semplici’, a late medieval physic garden of monastery pharmacies – situated next to the extraordinary church of San Liberato (c.1000 AD). (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 23: Tuesday 23 May, Depart Rome

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Rome. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Floralies Flower Show, Art, Tulips and the Seine River Cruise

Floralies Flower Show, Art, Tulips and the Seine River Cruise

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Arrive Amsterdam
Be met on arrival and transferred to your river ship for a Welcome Dinner at 6.30pm.
Seven Nights: aboard the luxurious river ship MS AmaStella (D)

Day 2. Amsterdam and Edam, Freedom of Choice
Today you have a choice of two touring options. Cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, then rejoin your ship and cruise to Volendam, a maze of fishermen’s houses built on poles with a unique open harbour. Others may choose to visit the gardens of Kasteel de Haar, a stunning late medieval castle and garden. After lunch enjoy a tour of Volendam Harbour before continuing to Edam for a walking tour of the Old Quarter. This evening there will be a very special lecture by Anna Pavord, author of The Tulip. (BLD)

Day 3. Arnhem, Freedom of Choice
This morning after breakfast, you will arrive into Arnhem where you will have a choice of two sightseeing activities. Your first option is to see the monument commemorating the Battle of Arnhem Bridge, made famous by the classic film A Bridge Too Far. You’ll also visit the Airborne Museum and learn more about the Battle of Arnhem, one of the major campaigns of World War II. Your second choice is a tour of the most stunning royal residence in Holland, Het Loo Palace, with lavishly furnished rooms and meticulously sculpted gardens. After your tour, return to the ship for lunch and cruise to Nijmegen where you can enjoy some free time. Enjoy scenic cruising this evening as you sail through the Netherlands en route to Belgium. (BLD)

Day 4. Antwerp, Freedom of Choice
On arrival in Antwerp, choose from a guided city tour or a tour taking you to sites associated with the famous Flemish Baroque artist, Peter Paul Rubens. You will also visit the Antwerp Cathedral, which houses two of Rubens’ most important works, The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure to relax or take a Culinary Delights tour to sample waffles and chocolate. Alternatively, perhaps join an excursion to the beautiful city of Bruges with its stunning system of canals. During dinner, your ship will set out for the charming medieval city of Ghent. (BLD)

Day 5. Ghent, Freedom of Choice
Today you will have a choice of two touring options. The first option is to spend a full day to explore Floralies in Ghent. Floralies is the largest inside garden in the world with a surface area of 450,000 m² and exhibits more than 500,000 varieties of plants and flowers. Alternatively spend a half day at Floralies and then enjoy a visit to a beautiful private garden designed by Chris Gheyslen in the afternoon. (BD)

Day 6. Willemstad and Kinderdjik, Freedom of Choice
Cruise back to the Netherlands. This morning you may choose to visit the charming 400-year old town of Willemstad for a walking tour and private organ recital at the oldest Protestant church in the Netherlands. This afternoon, the touring options include a visit to Kinderdijk, a lovely region renowned for having the greatest concentration of windmills in the entire country. Another option is to take a day tour to Rotterdam and The Hague, visiting Westbroekpark with its superb rhododendrons and Delft’s Botanic Gardens. A third option is to visit the exhibition of the world-famous artist MC Escher, housed in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands, and option four is to visit Mauritshaus, home of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Tonight, enjoy a special onboard musical performance as the ship cruises to Schoonhoven. (BLD)

Day 7. Utrecht and Keukenhof Gardens
Cruise along the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal to Utretcht. Disembark and travel to Keukenhof Gardens, which encompasses over 70 acres of parkland. Relish the chance to admire the spectacular display of bulb flowers in bloom during a morning sightseeing excursion. Keukenhof also features several ponds, sculpture gardens, greenhouses and a windmill. Return to your ship for lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy an excursion to delightful Zaanse Schans, a small historic village just outside of Amsterdam. This evening enjoy a special Farewell Dinner whilst moored in Amsterdam. (BLD)

Day 8. Amsterdam Sightseeing
Disembark your ship early this morning to visit the world famous Aalsmeer Flower Markets. Afterwards we will visit a cut flower nursery to see some of the millions of flowers being grown for sale and export around the world. For lunch we will dine at De Kas, with its own greenhouses and garden near the restaurant, where they grow Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. This afternoon is free to explore Amsterdam, perhaps visit the newly renovated Rijksmusuem.
Stay: Amsterdam, Marriott Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 9. Amsterdam to Paris
Depart Amsterdam after breakfast and travel through the Dutch, Belgium and French countryside to Paris. Board our river ship for a Welcome Dinner.
Seven Nights: aboard the MS AmaLegro (BD)

Day 10. Vernon, Freedom of Choice
Spend the morning enjoying the scenery along the Seine as you cruise to the provincial town of Vernon. You will have free time to explore the town, and later, we visit Giverny and the home and gardens of Claude Monet. The artist lived here for more than four decades and immortalised his ponds and flower gardens in some of his most iconic paintings. Alternatively, you may choose to tour the palace and gardens of Chateau de Bizy. Inspired by Versailles, Chateau de Bizy was constructed as a royal chateau and is home to descendents of Emperor Napoleon. (BLD)

Day 11. Caudebec, Freedom of Choice
After a scenic morning cruise on the Seine, arrive in the old fishing village of Caudebec. You will have a choice of two tours. The first option is to visit Honfleur, a historic and picturesque port with pastel-coloured houses that was a favourite subject of artists such as Courbet, Boudin and Monet. As an alternative, choose the ‘Routes des Abbayes’ excursion spotlighting Normandy’s famous abbeys, more than 100 of which once covered this region. You will visit the ruined abbey in Jumièges as well as St. Wandrille, which is still a working monastery. Or you may wish to visit two gardens of major importance at Varengeville-sur-Mer, which is near Dieppe, Le Vasterival and Les Bois des Moutiers. (BLD)

Day 12. Normandy, Freedom of Choice
Today you may choose to visit the D-Day beaches and learn about the historic events of June 6, 1944. Another option is to visit Bayeaux, for a gardens and culture tour including a visit to the Bayeaux tapestry and visit Brecy garden, considered the most beautiful garden in Lower Normandy. A further option is to visit rural Normandy, which includes a visit to the Pays d’Auge famed for its apple orchards and the ‘Routes du Cidre’ the Cider Road. (BLD)

Day 13. Rouen Sightseeing
Enjoy a morning walk through this medieval city and see the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, painted numerous times by Monet, and the square where Joan of Arc was martyred. Afterwards, you will have free time to explore Rouen, perhaps sampling some delicious cheeses. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit the spectacular garden Le Jardin Plume, just outside of Rouen, or Jane Webster’s Chateau Bosgouet. Afterwards enjoy scenic cruising on the Seine to Les Andelys. (BLD)

Day 14. Les Andelys
A stroll along the river in Les Andelys offers beautiful views of the Seine Valley’s dramatic white cliffs, centuries-old half-timbered houses, and the hilltop ruins of Château Gaillard. This former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart changed hands a number of times during the Hundred Years’ War. Athletically-inclined guests may enjoy hiking up to visit the ruins of this historic castle before we continue our cruise to Conflans. (BLD)

Day 15. Malmaison, Freedom of Choice
Today you have a choice of two excursions. Visit Château Malmaison, former home of Napoleon and Josephine, including the Château’s interior, gardens and museum. Alternatively, travel to Auvers-sur-Oise, a town famous for the Impressionist painters who lived there in the 19th century, such as Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. Your Artists’ Walk tour will include many sites associated with their work, including the Auberge Ravoux, former home of Vincent van Gogh. The ship departs this afternoon for Paris, arriving in the early evening. (BLD)

Day 16. Paris, Disembark Ship
Depart the ship after breakfast this morning. (B)

Botanical Experts
Julie Prent and Dr Toby Musgrave, garden author and historian is your Botanical Guide. Special Guest Lecturer is Anna Pavord, Author of The Tulip.

This tour can be combined with:

· Mediterranean Landscapes Cruise (BTIN15)
· Morocco Art & Gardens (BTMOR10)

Landscapes, Art and Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence and the Cévennes National Park

Landscapes, Art and Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence and the Cévennes National Park

 

Menton – 4 nights

Day 1: Sunday 8 May, Arrive Nice – Transfer to Menton
•Introductory Meeting
•Welcome Evening Meal

On arrival at Nice’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach and travel west along an awesome coastline where the pre-Alps plunge almost sheer into the sea, to the port town of Menton. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Hotel Napoléon, Menton. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information. For the next 5 nights we stay at the 4-star Hotel Napoléon, located just across the road from the beach and only a ten-minute slow walk to the old town of Menton. In the hotel’s private off-street courtyard, an exotic garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières hides a small paved area. For Ossart and Maurières, hotel gardens “must be able to satisfy each client’s need for privacy and yet welcome people in groups. As much as the interior decoration, the gardens participate in the overall feel of the place and must be designed around an original idea or theme. Finally, they must be attractive in all seasons, whether as places to relax in or simply to be seen from windows”. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant overlooking Menton’s Garavan Bay. (Overnight Menton) D

Day 2: Monday 9 May, Menton
•Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
•Guided tour of Menton including the Salle des Mariages
•Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton

We start the day with a visit to the sub-tropical botanical garden of Val Rahmeh, laid out in 1905 for Lord Radcliffe, Governor of Malta. In 1957 Miss May Sherwood Campbell acquired the property and a second garden, now accessed by a bridge, and created a pond with water hyacinths, water lilies, and papyrus. In 1966 she donated her property to the nation, and today it is owned by The French Museum of Natural History. A guided tour will reveal a wonderful array of lush plantings. Menton occupies a natural amphitheatre dominated by Mount Agel and the Gorbio and St. Agnes Heights. Ruined fortresses clinging to its surrounding cliffs testify to the town’s deep, turbulent history. Here we shall study the work of one of the coast’s greatest creators, the famous artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. Cocteau first came upon Menton in 1955 while vacationing at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He fell in love with its high-cliffed coastal charms and began the next year, at the request of the mayor, to redecorate the town hall’s Salle des mariages with frescoes and furnishings all with a theme of ‘Love’. Nearby we also visit the new Jean Cocteau Museum which includes 990 works by Cocteau. All of the artist’s key periods are represented, from the first self-portraits of the 1910s up to the “Mediterranean” period towards the end of his life. There are drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts and 172 photographs relating to Cocteau. There are also works by fellow artists Picasso, Modigliani, Di Chirico and others. (Overnight Menton) B

Day 3: Tuesday 10 May, Menton – Villefranche-sur-Mer – Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Menton
•Villa Santo Sospir, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (exclusive private visit)
•Villa Les Cyprès, Villefranche-sur-Mer – SCAPE DESIGN garden by James Basson (private garden by special appointment)
•Villa La Papaline, Beaulieu-sur-Mer – SCAPE DESIGN garden by James Basson (private garden by special appointment)

This morning we travel to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to visit the private Villa Santo Sospir, a charming home decorated by Jean Cocteau during his stay in 1950. The villa was at that time owned by Cocteau’s friend, Francine Weisweiller, who had asked him to stay in the Côte d’Azur. Cocteau made a lasting impression of the villa, taking his paintbrush to various walls around Ms Weisweiller’s home. Cocteau returned frequently to the villa to make films, paint and write up until his death in 1963. We will be able to tour both the house and the gardens. After lunchtime at leisure in Villefranche-sur-Mer we meet with James and Helen Basson who have kindly arranged to show us two examples of their work. James Basson has worked in the South of France for over 14 years. With his company Scape Design, he has established a reputation for creating low maintenance, dry gardens that mix contemporary design with traditional skills. They create timeless sustainable landscapes that are sympathetic to the natural environment, using young plants that are compatible with the native climate and soil, requiring little if any, irrigation. In 2013 Scape Design was awarded Gold medal and Best garden in the ‘Fresh Garden Category’ at the Chelsea Flower show; and it received two major awards at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show for its most innovative and unique design. Our first visit is the garden of Villa Les Cyprès, a ‘dry-garden’ in Villefranche-sur-Mer. ‘Designed for this prestigious villa, the brief was to have no irrigation and low maintenance. We had to find a solution that would create a unified approach to the 3 individual properties whilst maintaining privacy for the interconnected spaces. The planting consisted of over 500 species that were laid out in bands of grey and green foliage with specific heights depending on the band, relevant to shade or sun. The idea was to create as quick a ground cover as possible, planting closer than normal, accepting that some plants will be out grown by others but that maintenance would be reduced due to the fact that the ground cover is established in the first year. The clean-cut simplicity of the pool, and crisp edging of the paving contrasts with the complexity of the planting.’ In Beaulieu-sur-Mer we are able to view the garden of Villa La Papaline, another private, traditional garden. ‘The brief was to create a traditional garden using lawn, beds, proportions and sight-lines. Old materials were desired to create a garden that felt as if it had been there for centuries. There are a series of fountains and bassins that bring water from the top of the garden to the pool. A temple at the summit of the garden, formal box parterres and lines of lavender, Iris and agapanthus add to this formal effect.’ (Overnight Menton) B

Day 4: Wednesday 11 May, Menton
•Clos du Peyronnet, Menton
•Serre de la Madone, Menton
•Dinner at Restaurant Mirazur, Menton

This morning we visit one of the garden highlights of the region, the Clos du Peyronnet. Created by Mr and Mrs Derick Waterfield (and still tended by their son’s nephew), the Clos du Peyronnet was established around a Belle Époque Italianate villa in the Garavan (gardé du vent: ‘sheltered from the wind’), on terraces between vertical cliffs and the sea. The villa façade has been engulfed by a wisteria sinensus (Chinese Wisteria). Oreopanax, catalpa and jacaranda give way to a wet grotto, terraces of heat-loving plants such as hibiscus and solanum, architectural cypresses, and a water garden designed to afford glimpses of the Mediterranean below. This afternoon we visit Serre de la Madone, designed in the 1920s by Lawrence Johnston, creator of the world-famous Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds, England. Johnston was interested in acclimatising a large variety of exotic species to this inimitable environment. La Serre de la Madone is a secluded paradise with double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio and orangeries for tender exotic plants. Johnstone employed 12 gardeners to tend his 7 hectares of terraces that boast an almost bewildering variety of plants from throughout the world. This evening we dine at the Restaurant Mirazur, which enjoys spectacular views of Menton’s old town and harbour. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco excels in original Mediterranean-style dishes, using wild herbs, edible flowers and the freshest vegetables obtained from the restaurant’s garden. (Overnight Menton) BD

Nice – 4 nights

Day 5: Thursday 12 May, Menton – Villefranche-sur-Mer – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Nice
•Chapelle Saint-Pierre by Jean Cocteau, Villefranche-sur-Mer
•Villa Ephrussi, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
•Villa Grecque Kérylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

This morning we drive out to Cap-Ferrat, a narrow peninsula extending far out to sea. Our first visit is to the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, painted by Jean Cocteau at Villefranche. The ornamentation of the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, a jewel of the modern symbolist art, was a dream cherished for a long time by Cocteau that he finally realized in 1957. He superintended the ceramicists and stonecutters who worked on his project. The chapel evinces a simple, humble fervor reminiscent of small Romanesque churches. It simultaneously represents St. Peter’s life, the village dear to Cocteau’s childhood, and the artist’s friendship for the fishermen to whom the chapel was dedicated. The road to Cap-Ferrat offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean. The Cap itself was one of the most fashionable resorts of the twentieth century and is associated with such luminaries and eccentrics as Somerset Maughan, who lived in the Villa Mauresque, and Léopold II of the Belgians, who established the world’s most important private botanical gardens there. In 1926, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a site here for her enormous villa and garden – Villa Île de France. The eclecticism of her garden, named after the famous ship and tended during her residence by gardeners in sailors’ uniforms, reflects the syncretic mix of styles that made the Riviera an important avant-garde centre in the early twentieth century. We shall take a guided tour of the villa’s first floor that includes terracotta sculptures by Clodion, a Meissen China Room and a Tapestry Room whose furniture by Jacob is upholstered with Beauvais tapestries. We shall then tour the villa’s seven exquisite gardens which include patios, waterfalls, ponds, floral borders, shady walks and rare species of trees. The garden ensemble comprises Florentine, Spanish, formal French and exotic gardens, as well as rose and rock gardens. After lunch in the villa’s tearoom, we visit the Grecian Villa Kérylos, one of the most extraordinary sites on the French Riviera. It was built in the early 1900s, in the Belle Époque era, and is a unique and extremely luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling, complete with wall decorations and furniture. It was built as the tribute to Greek civilization by two great Hellenophiles, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts, and the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who based the design on the remains of noble houses from the 2nd century BC on the Island of Delos. Everything inside, from the arrangement of rooms to the details of the décor, was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious Grecian villa. From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants: olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus which all help create a Grecian look and feel in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. We then head for Nice where the evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Nice) BL

Day 6: Friday 13 May, Nice – Opio – Châteauneuf-Grasse – Nice
•La Casella, Opio (private garden by special appointment)
•Lunch at Restaurant Le Mas des Géraniums, Opio
•Jardin de la Villa Fort France, Châteauneuf-Grasse (private garden by special appointment)

Our first visit is to the garden of La Casella, a stylish pavilion located on the site of an old Jasmine farm. The garden was created by Tom Parr and his partner Claus Scheinert, and is a wonderful example of a late 20th-century garden combining Provençal, English and Italian styles. Here, Parr created a series of flower-filled rooms that became a benchmark of simple grandeur. The gardens themselves, under Scheinert’s astute direction, have become more structurally ambitious, lusher, and more romantic with every season. It is a garden of parallel, raised terraces with each terrace more perfect than the last. Laurus nobilis has been sculpted into rows of obelisks, walls clipped from Italian cypress and yew. Old-fashioned roses form one terrace in a planting framed by lavender. The house, integrated with the garden, is colored terra-cotta and planted with white wisteria. Tom Parr, who died aged 81, was one of England’s leading postwar decorators (a term he proudly preferred to “interior designer”), working first with David Hicks and then for 35 years at Colefax and Fowler, of which he became chairman. Parr decorated for a legion of worldwide clients, from Dame Vivien Duffield to members of the Ford dynasty and Château Latour. Many of his clients became lifelong friends, among them the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton, where Parr was to achieve some of his finest work. It was at this house that for a decade Tom Parr endured the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease. He died on 29 July 2012, and is survived by Claus Scheinert, who will welcome us and show us the garden. We lunch among olive, fig and lime trees at Le Mas des Géraniums, a typical Provençal farm located on Opio’s hill. In this peaceful and beautiful setting, we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by the owners Colette and Michel Creusot. Just a short drive away is the garden of Villa Fort France. The original owners, Lady Winnifred Fortescue and her husband Sir John, an archivist and military historian, bought it in 1935. Lady Fortescue wrote a best-selling account of her struggles to create her home there entitled Perfume from Provence, which was illustrated by A.A. Milne. She followed this success with two further books written when she moved to Opio: Sunset House and Trampled Lilies (which recounts her time during the war years). The rose garden she created was expanded to form the current garden by Jeanne Gruniaux, who continued to advise the present owners Pierre and Valérie de Courcels until her death. The de Courcels have added their own deft and artistic touches to create a lovely garden full of colour, much of which comes from a superb use of annuals (poppies, larkspur, love-in-the-mist and aquilegia plus a sweet pea hedge). (Overnight Nice) BL

Day 7: Saturday 14 May, Nice – Tourrettes-sur-Loup – Saint-Paul de Vence – Vence – Nice
•Domaine du Prieuré, Tourrettes-sur-Loup (private garden by special appointment)
•The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
•Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence

Today we drive through some of the finest scenery in the south of France. We first travel up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, where we visit the private garden of Joanna Millar, recently acclaimed as ‘the grand dame’ of Riviera gardening. Joanna’s roses will be in full flower, as will the irises that she grows in serried ranks among a fine collection of other native and exotic plants.

Then we drive to Saint-Paul de Vence, built on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by ramparts overlooking the coast. Fortified in the sixteenth century, it remained beautifully intact and began to attract artists such as Russian painter Marc Chagall who moved here in 1966. A host of famous artists and writers were drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area and its exceptional light. Later it also became a favorite ‘hang-out’ of film directors and French and international stars such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

After some time at leisure for lunch and to walk around the narrow and picturesque streets of Saint-Paul de Vence, we visit the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation, which hosts an exceptional collection of twentieth-century works. André Malraux, then Minister of Cultural Affairs, inaugurated the Foundation on July 28th 1964. It is a unique example of a private European art foundation. This architectural ensemble was entirely conceived and financed by the Parisian art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght to display modern and contemporary art in all media. Painters and sculptors collaborated closely in the realization of the complex with Catalan architect Lluis Sert by creating works, many of them monumental, that were integrated into the building and its gardens: the Giacometti courtyard; the Miró labyrinth with sculptures and ceramics; mural mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat; a pool and stained glass window by Braque, and a Bury fountain. We shall enjoy its collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works by artists such as Bonnard, Braque, Calder, Chagall, Giacometti, Léger, and Miró.

We return to Nice via the town of Vence, noted for its Chapelle du Rosaire, conceived and created by Henri Matisse. From 1943 to 1949, an ailing Matisse settled in Vence and employed a young nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who became his confidante and model. In 1946, the young woman entered the religious Order of the Dominicans and was ordained Sister Jacques-Marie and shortly after persuaded Matisse to design the chapel for her community. The result is a unique masterpiece, which Matisse worked on for 4 years (1948-1951) to elaborate the plans of the building and all the details for its decoration, stained glass windows, ceramics, stalls, stoup, cult objects and priestly ornaments. For Matisse this work was ‘the fruit of [my] whole working life. In spite of all its imperfections [I] consider it as [my] masterpiece’. (Overnight Nice) B

Day 8: Sunday 15 May, Nice – Cap d’Antibes – Antibes – Nice
•Scenic drive Cap d’Antibes
•Château Grimaldi – Musée Picasso, Antibes
•Provençal Food Market, Cours Masséna, Antibes
•Matisse Museum, Nice

This morning we tour the Cap d’Antibes, a beautiful peninsula with a winding road that reveals stunning views around every corner; we shall take in the grand panorama at the highest point of the cape, the Plateau de la Garoupe. We visit the port town of Antibes, which attracted many writers, such as Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as artists like Picasso. Our walking tour includes a visit to Antibes’ Provençal food market on the Cours Masséna. We also visit the Château Grimaldi, a mix of twelfth and sixteenth-century architecture, which houses the Musée Picasso. Picasso used the castle as his studio for a time in 1946. In addition to his paintings, there’s a fine collection of the master’s ceramics. After lunchtime at leisure in Antibes we drive just out of Nice to Cimiez, site of a small Roman city. It is more famous, however, for its museum devoted to France’s greatest modern painter, Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice from 1917 to his death in 1954. We shall view the paintings in the museum that span his career, from the very early Still Life with Books (1890) to his Rococo Armchair (1947) and Blue Nude (1952). (Nice) B

Aix-en-Provence – 3 nights

Day 9: Monday 16 May, Nice – Fréjus – Bouc-Bel-Air – Aix-en-Provence
•Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre, Fréjus (private garden by special appointment)
•Les Jardins d’Albertas, Bouc-Bel-Air (private garden by special appointment)

This morning we drive to Fréjus, built upon the remains of an ancient harbour where Octavian (Augustus) moored ships captured from Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium. Our main interest is not Fréjus’ Roman remains, however, but the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre of Madame Nicole Arboireau, chief exponent of the Provençal cottage garden. Nicole Arboireau’s garden contrasts vividly with the foreigners’ gardens you have hitherto encountered. She has set herself the task of nurturing the Provençal tradition of the small garden in which local plants are propagated. We will explore this lovely small domain, learning much about the traditions of gardening in this region, and enjoy a delicious Provençal buffet, prepared by Nicole herself. Nicole’s delightful book Jardins de Grands-Mères describes the gardens of grandmothers, with their special secrets revealed. Following our visit, we continue to Aix-en-Provence where we shall be based for the next three nights. En-route we shall visit Les Jardins d’Albertas at Bouc-Bel-Air. The city of Aix-en-Provence occupies a site previously inhabited by Celts, Greeks and Romans. It rose to prominence as capital of the County of Provence and then the royal city of the House of Anjou. Under René of Anjou it was a centre of Italian and French culture. Absorbed by the French monarchy at the end of the fifteenth century, it became the home of the Parlement de Provence, a status it lost during the French Revolution. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, first president of the Provence Audit Office, decided in 1751 to create a garden to the south of the city at Bouc-Bel-Air. The craze for gardening in mid-eightenth century France meant that the domain was laid out before the house. In fact, this country retreat never gained its house. The garden, which includes a kitchen garden, is laid out somewhat like Villandry in the Loire. Its formal parterres have a profusion of sculpture set against powerful vistas. It has been maintained since the eighteenth century by the Albertas family, which has taken great pains to maintain its original state. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

Day 10: Tuesday 17 May, Aix-en-Provence – Valensole – Aix-en-Provence
•Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole (private garden by special appointment)
•Atelier Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
•Orientation walk of Aix-en-Provence

This morning we drive north of Aix to the Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole. This bastide was constructed in the first half of the eighteenth century. Jean-Baptiste de Villeneuve, seigneur of Esclapon, who was descended from an ancient Provençal family, laid out its basic form. His garden still occupies three terraces with seven basins and fountains from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The present owner André de Villeneuve, has, over the last 30 years, created the present garden on the original terraces, around the early basins. Parterres planted in the tradition of the French formal garden, an alley of 100-year-old chestnut trees, a huge basin on the lowest terrace, and a view beyond to purple lavender plantations, form a magnificent ensemble, along with colourful roses and richly aromatic sage, thyme and other Provençal herbs. There are fruit and olive trees at every level, and remarkable walls constructed of round stones from the Valensole Plateau. Monsieur André will show us his garden and host us for lunch. In the afternoon we drive back to Aix to the Atelier Cézanne, which was the base from which this most careful and methodical of artists made excursions to paint in the countryside. When the weather was bad he worked in the atelier, painting his famous still lifes. One of the most interesting aspects of this museum is that it still has many of the objects Cézanne collected and used as subjects for these still lifes: a table, a short ladder, a high easel, a potbellied stove, a sofa, a few chairs, the items seen here were the only furniture present in the closed world of Cézanne. A few locally decorated vases, a ginger jar and an olive pot, a fruit bowl, a plate, a glass, a bottle of rum, three skulls, and a little plaster cupid by François Duquesnoy are among the smaller objects made so famous in his works that are in the atelier’s collection. Dickens visited Aix, Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral went to school and Marcel Pagnol attended university there, and it was Émile Zola’s home town. As a boy he became friendly with Cézanne, and the two enjoyed long excursions where Paul would paint and Émile would write. Our day ends with a guided orientation walk of Aix. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

Day 11: Wednesday 18 May, Aix-en-Provence – Cucuron – Aix-en-Provence
•Pavillon de Galon, Cucuron (private garden by special appointment)
•Lunch at La Petite Maison de Cucuron, Cucuron
•Afternoon at leisure

This morning we travel north of Aix-en-Provence to the Pavillon de Galon, a restored eighteenth-century hunting pavilion, surrounded by vines, orchards, cherry and olive trees. At the foot of the Luberon mountains and facing south, its grounds are secluded yet have stunning views all around. Its gardens, which boast a colourful mix of lavender and clipped hedges, have been awarded the status ‘remarkable garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. We next drive to the preserved medieval village of Cucuron in the heart of the Luberon National Park, home to La Petite Maison de Cucuron, a delightful restaurant run by Michelin-star Chef Eric Sapet, which has a reputation as one of the finest restaurants in Provence. Located on the central square in the shade of hundred-year old plane trees, the Petite Maison serves traditional Provençal dishes made with fresh market produce. After lunch, we return to Aix where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

Avignon – 6 nights

Day 12: Thursday 19 May, Aix-en-Provence – Bonnieux – Ménerbes – Avignon
•Le Jardin de La Louve (She-Wolf), Bonnieux (private garden by special appointment)
•Le Clos Pascal, Ménerbes (private garden by special appointment)
•La Carméjane, Ménerbes (private garden by special appointment)

This morning we cross the Luberon mountain range to the picturesque village of Bonnieux, set atop craggy cliffs, where we shall visit the garden La Louve (She-Wolf). Nicole de Vésian began restoring her Provençal terrace garden on the lower fringe of this medieval town in 1987. Here the former fashion stylist designed house and garden in harmony with the natural surroundings, producing a result with the concision, beauty and elegance of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house. Since Nicole’s death in 1996, this tiny spot has become one of the most photographed gardens in the world. While La Louve was already dearly loved, the publication of Louisa Jones’ book, Modern Design in Provence (2011), only fanned the flames. Nicole also created several other gardens which are less well-known. In the Luberon hills, beneath the perched village of Ménerbes, we visit Clos Pascal, a little-known work by the famous Nicole de Vésian. Long, gentle terraces, cloud-clipped shrubs lead up to a potager garden and a small vineyard. La Carméjane, owned by Mr & Mrs Coxe, is located on the edge of the village. The rose-covered terrace reached from the house has amazing views of the rural landscape. The lower terrace has cherry orchards, a potager for the family and a new restored area planted with olive trees. In the late afternoon we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon (the name given to the western end of the range) to Avignon. (Overnight Avignon) B

Day 13: Friday 20 May, Avignon – Sorgues – Avignon
•Papal Palace, Avignon
•Pont Saint-Benezet, Avignon
•Afternoon at leisure in Avignon
•Château de Brantes, Sorgues: garden tour, Provençal dinner and classical music concert

Avignon, one of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful medieval cities, is sited majestically on the banks of the Rhône. Its historical importance and great monuments are due to its status as a papal city between the fourteenth and the eighteenth centuries; it reverted to the French crown in 1761. This morning we will visit the castle that served as a palace fortress for the seven popes whose sojourn in France between 1309 and 1377 came to be called by opponents ‘the Babylonian Captivity’. For the following 400 years it was the residence of the papal legate. This massive complex has some rooms that are masterpieces in their own right, such as the grand hall, the great kitchen, with its single huge chimney spanning the whole interior, and the papal bedroom with its painted walls depicting a great vine set against a blue background. Near the Papal Palace is the Pont Saint-Benezet, the famous bridge described in the popular children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon. Bridges were vital to medieval pilgrimage and Saint-Benezet, who built the bridge between 1177 and 1185, founded a company of bridge-builders to serve this purpose. Now missing a number of spans, the original 900 metre-long wooden structure was repaired and reconstructed – in stone – many times before half the bridge collapsed into the Rhône in the mid-1600s. Following an afternoon at leisure in Avignon we shall make our way to the Château de Brantes, located just outside the village of Sorgues, for a special evening tour and reception. The garden, which has the oldest magnolia tree in France (1780), was designed by the Danish landscape architect Mogens Tvede in 1956. The château, listed as a historic monument in 1987, is surrounded by an extensive plane-tree wood, and features a series of basins through which flows the river Sorgues. After a guided tour through the park and garden, we enjoy an al fresco Provençal buffet dinner, followed by delightful classical music concert given under the magnolia tree by a duo of professional harp and flute musicians. (Overnight Avignon) BD

Day 14: Saturday 21 May, Avignon – Eygalières – Noves – Avignon
•Mas Benoît, Eygalières (private garden by special appointment)
•Atelier and garden of Marc Nucera, Noves (private garden by special appointment)
•Les Confines – designed by Dominique Lafourcade, Noves (private garden by special appointment)

Today we are privileged to meet with Marc Nucera, renowned tree sculptor and ‘shaper’. Marc started his career as the student and disciple of the professor, sculptor and then garden designer and Land Art practitioner Alain-David Idoux. Although Idoux died tragically young, he left behind a legacy of ground-breaking design. Our day begins with a visit to the private gardens of Mas Benoît, located close to Eygalières, in the foothills of the Alpilles. The garden surrounding this traditional Provençal farmhouse or mas lies on a low hill with the magnificent backdrop of the Alpilles in the distance. It is considered a leading example of contemporary Mediterranean landscape art by Alain-David Idoux, with lavender wedge, almond spiral, rock river and oak groves sculpted by Marc Nucera. We next travel to Noves, just south of Avignon, to meet Marc Nucera at his atelier and experimental garden ‘Le Terrain’. Son of a furniture maker, Marc Nucera trained as a tree pruner, commencing with the rehabilitation of old olive orchards. In the 1990s, working with land artist, Alain-David Idoux, Marc began to evolve his own style. Local garden designers, including the legendary Nicole de Vésian, creator of La Louve (She-Wolf) garden in Bonnieux, gave help and encouragement. Nucera’s love of trees is reflected in the way he brings out the existing character of each individual plant, highlighting their best features so that they both enhance and give coherence to the surrounding landscape. He sculpts living trees, favoring natives such as almonds, green and white oaks, and the remnants of cypress hedging often found on old farmsteads. He also gives new life to dead trees by turning them into furniture and sculptures, either still in the ground or positioned near their place of origin.

“A garden is first and foremost a work of art, with the gardener playing the roles of architect, sculptor, musician and painter in turn. A garden should move visitors, setting all their senses aquiver” – Dominique Lafoucade.

This afternoon is dedicated to visiting Les Confines, one of Provence’s most famous gardens. This is Dominique Lafourcade’s own garden, which she and her architect husband have restored over the last twenty years. Seeing the garden as an extension of the house, Dominique sets out to tell “a story with plants, trees and flowers … and the wind as the backdrop”. She transformed a wheat field with a few plane trees and ancient oaks into an exuberant Italianate garden, where the five senses are constantly stimulated. Doted with cypress pillars, clipped topiary hedges, arches and squares, her famous garden lay-out and perspective are supported by a long rill flanked by olive trees planted in huge Medici terracotta pots flowing into a water-lily pond. (Overnight Avignon) BL

Day 15: Sunday 22 May, Avignon – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Gordes – Apt – Avignon
•Sunday Market, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
•Scenic drive to Gordes
•La Chabaude (private garden by special appointment)

We depart early this morning, and travel 30kms west of Avignon to visit the Sunday market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This large market is a food market, flea market, and antique market where you can buy everything from olives to Fine Art. The town itself stretches across the Sorgue River, earning it the nickname “Venice of Provence”, and makes a very lovely backdrop to this large market with its shade-providing plane tress, babbling river, historic waterwheels, and flower-filled riverside cafés and restaurants. The town is famous for being a big hub for antique dealers and is the second largest antique centre in France (after Paris). Having collected some ingredients for a picnic lunch we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon. This scenic drive takes us to the village of Gordes, perhaps the most picturesque of the perched villages. The houses of Gordes rise in picturesque tiers above the Imergue valley on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau. The stone buildings built in tight against the base of the cliffs and those perched on the rocks above, including the 12th century castle, are made of a beige stone that glow orange in the morning sun. A short drive across the valley takes us past Rousillon, a village that stands on the highest hill between the Coulon valley and the Vaucluse plateau. These striking hills, composed of ochre rock of 16 or 17 different shades featured in the local houses, enhance the beauty of the village and the surrounding countryside. Continuing 10kms west through the Luberon mountain range we reach La Chabaude, a beautiful stone manor sitting on twenty acres near the market town of Apt. The gardens designed by owner and landscape architect Philippe Cottet are an emerald masterpiece which include sculptural boxwoods, sycamore trees, towering topiaries and fragrant rosemary and lavender. In the late afternoon we return to Avignon where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Avignon) B

Day 16: Monday 23 May, Avignon – Pont du Gard – Arles – Avignon
•Pont du Gard
•Museum of Antiquities (Musée de L’Arles Antique), Arles
•Theatre and Amphitheatre, Arles
•Saint-Trophime and its cloister, Arles

Today we travel a short distance to visit the Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved of all Roman aqueducts. Its survival testifies to the building skill of the Romans, for the massive blocks of which it is fabricated have remained in place despite the fact it is a dry stone construction (without mortar or cement). Then we continue our travel to visit Arles and experience the fascinating history of this Provençal town with its Roman monuments. Our first visit is to the splendid Musée de l’Arles Antique. Inaugurated in 1995 the museum features a wonderful head of Caesar and a 31m long Roman boat which was discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011. Provence takes its name from the fact that it was the oldest non-Italic ‘province’ (provincia) of the Roman Empire outside Italy. Arleate (now Arles), a major Roman city, was built to protect the vital estuary of the Rhône. This colonia was given a typical gridded street plan that can still be traced in the centre of the city. It had an important amphitheatre, which in the Middle Ages became a castle but is now used for bullfights, and a theatre, now used for festivals. Arleate was a major centre of early Christianity and produced a number of very important martyrs who were buried in its great cemetery, Alyscamps. Among these was Saint-Trophime, whose Romanesque basilica has one of the finest porticoes in Provence, with a porch modeled on a Roman triumphal arch. (Overnight Avignon) B

Day 17: Tuesday 24 May, Avignon – Saint Etienne du Grès – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Villeneuve-lès-Avignon – Avignon
•Le Petit Fontanille, Saint Etienne du Grès (private garden by special appointment)
•Mas Theo, the Provençal garden of Pierre Bergé at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (private garden by special appointment)
•Abbey of Saint-André, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon: Royal Abbey and garden

This morning we visit Le Petit Fontanille, the private garden of Mrs. Anne Cox Chambers near Saint Etienne du Grès. Le Petit Fontanille is the work of several English garden designers, Peter Coates, Rosemary Verey, and more recently Tim Rees. The garden merges perfectly into the hills, the woods and olive groves of the surrounding countryside and its success lies in its combination of a profusion of native plants with exotics that are compatible with the climate. Here the design is all about lines; olive trees form a horizontal mass against the verticality of the Italian cypresses. A highlight of our tour is a visit to Saint-Rémy where we visit Mas Theo, the town courtyards of fashion magnate Pierre Bergé, lifelong companion of Yves Saint Laurent. Named after the brother of Vincent Van Gogh (the artist lived for a year at the nearby asylum), the gardens were created in 1992 by Michel Semini, a sought-after landscape architect whose clients included many Parisian fashion and film people. We then drive to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon to visit the royal Benedictine Abbey of Saint-André and its magnificient terraced garden. Restored at the end of the seventeenth century by the King’s architect Pierre Mignard, the abbatial palace has retained its elegantly vaulted rooms, grand entry doors and monumental staircase. The terraced gardens offer stunning views of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon across the Rhone River. They are covered with old roses, Mediterranean natives, and century-old olive and pine trees planted among the remains of Romanesque style churches and tombs dating as far back as the sixth century. At the entrance of the abbatial palace lies a parterre garden in sixteenth-century Tuscan style, decorated with ponds, vases and sculptures, and bordered by a pergola covered with wisteria and roses. (Overnight Avignon) B

Florac – 3 nights

Day 18: Wednesday 25 May, Avignon – Uzès – St Quentin la Poterie – Florac
•Wednesday market of Medieval village of Uzès
•Jardin de la Noria, St Quentin la Poterie

Our journey continues 15kms north-west of Avignon to the pretty village of Uzès, home to one of the most colourful markets in the south of France. The Wednesday morning market, located on the Place aux Herbes, specializes in produits du terroirs (regional products and specialties) where you can find creamy goat cheese, garlic olives, fragrant herbs, pots of thyme-flavoured honey, bread and even small jars of snail and shallot spread! Here we shall buy fresh produce before continuing to the Jardin de la Noria where we shall enjoy our picnic lunch. Inspired by the remains of an ancient water wheel (noria) and the theme of the paradise garden, this contemporary garden was conceived by Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart, whose work we have already encountered at the Hotel Napoléon. The creators wanted to reconcile tradition and modernity, respecting the rural site of Mas de Licon and the traces of the surrounding ancient agricultural landscape, whilst adopting a resolutely modern vocabulary. Since 2007, this garden has become an artistic dialogue between brutalist concrete (béton) and landscape, with concrete sculpture, furniture and other ‘folies’ placed in grasslands. We then drive to our friendly family hotel in the picturesque village of Florac at the very centre of the Cévennes National Park, where we shall stay for the next three nights. We dine in the hotel restaurant L’Adonis, whose owner and chef Martial Paulet will serve dishes with the best local seasonal produce. The hotel is situated on the escarpments of the Causse Méjean close to the awesome Gorges du Tarn, Mont Lozère et du Mont Aigoual. Robert-Louis Stevenson became enamored of this awesome region and spent much wandered through it. (Overnight Florac) BLD

Day 19: Thursday 26 May, Florac – Mont Lozère – Finiels – Pont de Montvert – Florac
•Orientation walk in Florac
•Mont Lozère scenic drive
•Pont de Montvert

We spend the next two days exploring the Cévennes National Park in the company of local expert mountain guide Anne Nourry, Vice-President of the Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cévennes, now a UNESCO-listed National Park, was and still is one of the wildest areas of France, with mountains and deep gorges. Ninenteenth-century travellers like Robert Louis Stevenson visited isolated villages that seemed locked in the past, with a tradition-bound, conservative culture. Many peasants of the Cévennes, like much of the population of southern France, had converted to Protestantism in the sixteenth century. When Louis XIV revoked the Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes (1685), which had assured Protestants the right of free worship, the Cévenne Huguenot Camisards revolted (1704-1712); their revolt is called the Camisard Revolt. When Stevenson trekked through the area, Protestantism was again tolerated, but the deeply conservative people of each Cévenne village adhered universally either to the Protestant or Catholic cause. Intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants was strictly forbidden and offenders would be cast out of both villages. Stevenson, a Scot, was himself a Protestant, and both the geography of the Cévennes with its barren rocky heather-filled hillsides, and the history of religious strife that lay over the land, were familiar to him. Today’s program will combine coach touring with easy rambles through the countryside and to small, medieval villages. We shall be able to imagine the area as Robert-Louis Stevenson saw it, with its wilderness scenery of rugged escarpments, deep valleys, small streams and a host of pretty wildflowers. After an orientation walk in Florac, we take a scenic drive to the summit of Mont Lozère which is the highest peak in the Cévennes National Park. It offers some stunning natural scenery and is covered by coniferous plantations and ‘broom’ scrub moorland. A short walk will enable us to view the Pic de Finiels which rises at 1699m. The distinct geological zones that make up the Cévennes National Park sustain different types of landscape, which have all been shaped by human activity. Mont Lozère is a granite massif scattered with typical reliefs called felsenmeer (block fields). Water is omnipresent in springs, peat bogs and rivers. The bare crests are summer pastures for great flocks of sheep. Mont Lozère bears the signs of ancient human occupation: menhirs, Gallo-Roman vestiges, etc. Following our lunch in the small village of Finiels, we drive to the Pont de Montvert (870m altitude), located at the base of the south-facing slopes of Mont Lozère. Le Pont de Montvert is a pretty granite village that is named for its hump-backed bridge (en dos d’âne) that spans in a single arch the swift-flowing Tarn. The bridge is guarded by a defensive tower at the village end, now with a less bellicose function: it holds the village clock. Medieval in aspect, the bridge and tower date to the seventeeth century. The bridge is well known as one of the places that Robert Louis Stevenson stopped during his famous Travels with a Donkey and now forms one of the stopping points along the popular trail that follows his original route. (Overnight Florac) BLD

Day 20: Friday 27 May, Florac – Gorges du Tarn – Gorges de la Jonte – Florac
•Boat excursion, Gorges du Tarn
•Belvédère des Vautours (Vulture Lookout), Gorges de la Jonte
•Farewell Evening Meal

This morning we focus on the great Gorges du Tarn, an impressive canyon cut by the Tarn through the harsh limestone plateaux (causses) south of the Massif Central. We shall drive along the gorges and then take a boat excursion down the Tarn as it winds through the most spectacular section of the valley. Starting from La Malène, we board small flat-bottomed boats and make our way down the river in the crisp morning light through Les Détroits, the most beautiful and narrowest section of the canyon, between towering vertical cliffs of up to 400 metres, and end at the Cirque des Baumes (baume meaning cave), where the gorge widens forming a magnificent amphitheatre. Following a picnic lunch we travel to the western edge of the park, where the Gorges du Tarn meets the Gorges de la Jonte. Here we visit the Belvédère des Vautours, an interpretive centre and viewing point for the many vultures that nest in the gorge, mostly Griffon Vultures, but now also Black Vulture. With the aid of national park officers, we may view their nests, and watch individuals and groups perched on the dramatic gorge walls. Two decades or so ago these giant airborne scavengers were almost extinct in the Cévennes. Now, thanks to a successful reintroduction program, some 75 pairs breed in the national park. Following a majestic aerial ballet performed by 30 or so vultures we return to our hotel and enjoy a farewell meal together. (Overnight Florac) BLD

Day 21: Saturday 28 May, Florac – Nîmes TGV Station
•Dinosaur footprints, St-Laurent-de-Trèves
•Corniche des Cévennes

This morning we drive out of the Cévennes National Park. Our journey takes us past the little hamlet of St-Laurent-de-Trèves, situated on a rocky outcrop with magnificent views. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered here, dating back 200,000 years when the region was a limestone swamp. A short walk around the site reveals a number of footprints, which are amazingly clear. From here we continue our journey south along the scenic Corniche des Cévennes, past the village of Saint-Jean-du-Gard and on to Nîmes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to your airport or next French destination. B

Sicily and Malta

Sicily and Malta with Sandy Pratten

 

In the heart of the Mediterranean, between Europe and Africa, the islands of Sicily and Malta offer a long and fascinating history, a wealth of art, architecture and culture, and a unique botanical and gardening environment.

On this tour circumnavigate Sicily before crossing by ferry to finish in Malta. On the way, discover spectacular rugged landscapes, charming Baroque cities, ancient sites and a vibrant lifestyle. Throughout visit a selection of botanic gardens and private palaces and villas where you will learn about the art of Mediterranean gardening – so appropriate to much of Australia.

Sandy’s tours are renowned for their stimulating itineraries, great food and wine, and fun and friendship. This tour promises more of the same!

AT A GLANCE …
• Enjoy a comprehensive tour of Sicily with stays in Catania, Taormina, Palermo, Agrigento and Syracuse
• Discover ancient Neolithic, Greek and Roman sites and ruins
• Climb Mt Etna, swim in the Mediterranean and enjoy springtime in Europe
• Marvel at the Baroque cities, art and architecture of both Sicily and Malta
• Visit botanic gardens, private palaces and villas throughout
• Finish with a three-day stay in Malta, with the option to extend

ITINERARY

Mon 02 May 2016 / Depart Australia
Suggested departure from Australia on Emirates / Qantas flights to Catania via Rome. Overnight in flight.

Tue 03 May 2016 / Arrive Catania
Early evening arrival in Catania and transfer to your hotel for check-in.

A city with the formidable Mount Etna looming over it, Catania has been destroyed nine times in the course of its history, and every time it has been rebuilt on the same spot.

This evening join Sandy and fellow travellers for a welcome reception. (R)

Wed 04 May / Catania
Begin your exploration of Catania with an orientation tour taking in the Piazza Duomo and the Cathedral of Saint Agatha, built in the unique local Baroque style, with contrasting lava and limestone. See Piazza Amenano and its famous Fountain of the Elephant, the symbol of the city, and Via Etnea where, on a clear day you can see Mt Etna rising at the end of it.
This afternoon visit the Orto Botanico di Catania. Established in 1858, the garden is divided into a general and the Sicilian garden, which is dedicated to the cultivation of indigenous Sicilian species including the cultivation of native mountain plants from Mt Etna.

Continue to the Villa Bellini, the city’s largest park, from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of Catania and whose major attraction is the Botanical Clock – a date display of flowers, which is updated and replanted daily.

This evening enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

Thu 05 May / Catania
To the north of the city is Le Stanze di Fiore di Canalicchio. Set in seven acres this garden surrounds a neo-classical country villa built in the 1800s. The project began in 2000 by Rossella Pezzino de Geronimo with the aim of creating a contemporary flower garden combining well-known Mediterranean flower species with rare tropical and subtropical plants. Enjoy a local lunch in the gardens.

Continue to Casa Pennisi. The garden of Villa Pennisi is one of the few Italian gardens that has maintained its original structure and dimension, where it was planted at the end of the XIX Century. Designed by Mariano Falcini, who characterised it with a classical structure, with paths delimitated by high box hedges and impressive flower beds. Tropical plants were inserted together with Mediterranean essences creating an incredibly fascinating and attractive ensemble.

Possible optional evening performance (opera, concert) at the Teatro Massimo Bellini (subject to performance schedules, not included in tour cost). (BL)

Fri 06 May / Taormina
Leaving Catania head to the hill town of Taormina via the imposing Mt Etna (subject to volcano activity). Mt Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the highest point on the island. The lower slopes of the volcano are extremely fertile with groves of oranges, lemons and other Mediterranean flora and of course vines which produce Sicily’s best wines.

Located on these slopes is Villa Trinità, an agricultural and farm estate that has been home to the Bonajuto family for at least eight generations. The garden that was born on lava, full of native and exotic species. Enjoy lunch in the garden.

The drive up the mountain slopes takes you through picturesque villages and an ever changing landscape. During your tour of Mount Etna visit the Sylvester Craters located at an altitude of 1800m and travel to 3000m by cable car and 4WD.

Continue to Taormina, arriving late afternoon. (BLD)

Sat 07 May / Taormina
Dramatically perched on the side of Monte Tauro, with wonderful views of the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna, Taormina was first publicised by the German poet, Goethe, in the late 18th century. Since the opening of the first hotel in 1874, it has been one of the world’s most favoured and exclusive resort destinations.

During a morning tour, see the splendid Greek Theatre, the Roman ‘Naumachiae’, the 13th century Cathedral of Saint Nicolà, the 14th century Palazzo Corvaja, the 16th century Palace of the Dukes of Saint Stefano, and the Botanic Gardens also known as the Giardino di Duca di Cesaró.

Continue to Casa Cuseni, a garden built by the British painter Robert Kitson, now an Italian National Monument, B&B and living museum. Suspended in time, a rare Frank Brangwyn mural decorates the dining room, while the living room and library are filled with fascinating curios. Steep pathways lead through the villa’s Italianate terraced gardens, which offer views of Mount Etna’s perfect cone; they are a remarkable feat of design, filled with exotic trees, fountains, wisteria-draped pergolas and secret nooks. (BL)

Sun 08 May / Taormina – Palermo
Depart Taormina for a full day’s journey to Palermo via Messina and Cefalù. Visit the Regional Museum of Messina whose highlights include the Polyptych of San Gregorio (1473) by Antonello da Messina, two late works by Caravaggio, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Resurrection of Lazarus, and a rare and exquisite bust of Isabella of Aragon by Francesco Laurana (1490).

Continue to Cefalù, a small fishing village along the northern coast. Walk down the main street, Corso Ruggero, to the splendid Romanesque cathedral boasting a stunning array of mosaics. Time at leisure for lunch before continuing to Palermo.

Palermo is Sicily’s capital and lies on the north coast along a bay known as the Conca D’Oro (the golden shell) because of its glittering citrus groves. The Arabs, a people who knew the joy of a green oasis were the ones who introduced gardens to Palermo; the Normans extended the idea by creating parklands and summer palaces to escape the heat.

Dinner in a local restaurant. (BD)

Mon 09 May / Palermo
Morning orientation walk of the historic centre of Palermo. Walk through the colourful Mercato della Vucciria and visit the Palazzo Abatellis, a Spanish-Gothic palace with the Regional Gallery of Sicily which houses Antonello da Messina’s Annunciation.

Continue to the Orto Botanico of Palermo, one of the top Italian academic institutions and a centre of scientific research in conservation of the environment. The Neoclassical Gymnasium, the Tepidarium and the Caldarium were designed by the Frenchman Léon Dufourny in 1789. The oldest section of the garden, known as the Linneian section, is a rectangular layout divided into quadrangles, within which the species are categorised according to Carolus Linnaeus’ system of classification.

After time for lunch visit the extravagant Norman Cathedral, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Capella Palatina founded in 1132 by Roger II, and one of the richest Norman monuments in Sicily with a major series of mosaics. (B)

Tue 10 May / Palermo
This morning visit the Italian garden of the quirky Palazzina Cinese, before heading to
Villa Malfitano. Constructed in 1886 by Joseph Whitaker, the grandson of a famous English wine merchant, who moved to Sicily in 1806 and made a fortune producing Marsala wine. Whitaker had trees shipped to Palermo from all over the world to plant around his villa, including a rare species of Dragon’s Blood – an enormous banyan tree and the only one found in Europe at the time.

Afternoon at leisure. This evening wander to the Palazzo Gangi, a 15th century ancestral palace where Wagner composed the opening bars of Parsifal and in 1963, Visconti filmed the magnificent ballroom scene of The Leopard. (B)

Wed 11 May / Palermo
Morning visit to Monreale, a hilltop town close to Palermo with one of the greatest cathedrals in all of Italy, the Monreale Duomo. Arab-Norman art and architecture reached the pinnacle of beauty in this cathedral, launched by William II in 1174.
Afternoon at leisure.

Before dinner at a local restaurant, attend the opera dei pupi (marionette theatre) which has a long tradition in Southern Italy. The repertoire usually includes the lives of bandits and saints, historical events and Shakespearean dramas (subject to performance schedules). (BD)

Thu 12 May / Palermo – Agrigento
Depart Palermo and tour across the bare, brown hills of the centre of Sicily to Agrigento, stopping along the way to visit Corleone made famous by the film The Godfather, now the centre of study on the history of the Mafia. On arrival in Agrigento visit the Valley of the Temples, an impressive complex of Greek temples, one of the greatest sights left of the ancient world. (BD)

Fri 13 May / Agrigento – Syracuse
This morning visit the Garden of Kolymbethra, abandoned until 1990. Possibly built by the Greeks, it was certainly worked by the Arabs who introduced their irrigation system into this five acre garden where an 800 year old olive tree bears witness to the garden’s antiquity.

Depart Agrigento for Syracuse stopping at Piazza Armerina to visit the Villa Romana del Casale. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.

Late afternoon arrival in Syracuse (BD)

Sat 14 May / Syracuse
After breakfast walk around the island of Ortigia, the historic centre of Syracuse.
Highlights include the famed theatre of Syracuse, the altar of Hieron II, and the ancient quarries. Continue to the Galleria Regionale del Palazzo Bellomo housed in a beautiful 13C palace. The art gallery is home to The Burial of St Lucy by Caravaggio.

Afternoon at leisure. (B)

Sun 15 May / Syracuse
Spend the day visiting a couple of private gardens. Heading south to the Giardino Il Beviere. Situated on a small lake, the property has a history of Greek legends and Borghese ownership dating back to 1392. Resurrected from a state of ruin to a truly unique Mediterranean garden with lush palms, blue Jacaranda, old roses and a remarkable collection of succulents. The tranquil garden has an inviting array of structure, colour and fragrance a perfect place to enjoy lunch in the tranquil setting.

Continue to the Estate of San Giuliano at Villasmundo. The whole area was cultivated with citrus orchards until 1974 when four hectares were given over to the garden, and the present owner began to plant ornamental trees and shrubs. In the 1990s they created the Giardinetto. The four compositions limited by dry stone walls consist of a fruit garden and use the so called “saie”, small traditional irrigation canals of Arab origin, an Arab garden with water basins and water lilies.

Evening at leisure (BL)

Mon 16 May / Syracuse – Valletta
Morning at leisure. Early afternoon departure from Syracuse for the nearby town of Noto. The current town was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693 and is famous for its fine buildings of the early 18th century, considered masterpieces of the richly decorated Sicilian Baroque style.

Continue to Pozzallo for dinner before embarking on an evening express ferry for Malta.
(departure at 09.30pm, arrival at 11.00pm). On arrival in Valletta transfer to your hotel. (BD)

Valletta is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John.

Tue 17 May / Valletta
Begin your exploration of Malta with a walking tour of Valletta. Visit the Upper Barracca Gardens, admire the Auberge de Castille and Leon and visit St John’s Co-Cathedral, where Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Beheading of St John is displayed in the Oratory. Also visit the Church Museum adorned with Flemish tapestries and the Knights Armoury located in the 16th-century Grandmaster’s Palace.

This afternoon visit the temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra which are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. These temples represent a unique architectural tradition that flourished on the Maltese Islands between 3600 and 2500BC. Dinner in a local restaurant.

This evening (subject to performance schedule) possible performance of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. (BD)

Wed 18 May / Valletta
This morning enjoy a tour to Rabat and the ancient capital of Mdina. The Maltese Islanders are among the oldest Christian peoples in the world. St Paul, shipwrecked as a captive on route to Rome in AD 60, brought Christianity to Malta. His steps can be retraced in the shrines, grottos and catacombs of Rabat. Walk into the ancient citadel of Mdina, the former capital Malta. Visit the main cathedral of Malta, dedicated to St Paul, patron Saint of Malta, and walk to the imposing bastions commanding a magnificent.

Following a special farewell lunch at Mdina, visit the 18th century Palazzo Parisio, home of the noble Scicluna family and a treasure trove of delightful artefacts in the heart of picturesque Naxxar. Enjoy Afternoon Tea. (BL)

Thu 19 May / Depart Valletta
Morning at leisure before a transfer to the airport for afternoon departure on Qantas/Emirates flight via Dubai (B)

Fri 20 May / in flight

Sat 21 May / Arrive Australia

Grand Gardens of Europe 2016

Grand Gardens of Europe with Sandra Ross

 

DAY 1 – Tuesday 10 May 2016
Sydney – Amsterdam
Your Ross Garden Tours leader, Sandra Ross will meet you at the departure gate at Sydney International Airport for the Emirates flight to Amsterdam.

DAY 2 – Wednesday 11 May 2016
Amsterdam (B)
Arrive in Amsterdam and check in for four nights at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel situated in the historic city centre. This afternoon is free. Relax in the hotel with a sauna and spa, or take a canal cruise and discover the real Amsterdam. Meet up for a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 3 – Thursday 12 May 2016
Amsterdam (B/L)
For 66 years the world’s most beautiful flowering bulbs have been showcased in the gardens at Keukenhof. We will spend most of the day there admiring tulips, daffodils and hyacinths beneath canopies of flowering cherries and beech in vibrant new leaf. The gardens are completely remade every year and open for 2 months.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 4 – Friday 13 May 2016
Amsterdam (B)
We’re up early this morning to get to Aalsmeer Flower Market in time to catch the action of the auction! From an elevated walkway we can watch the world’s biggest flower market at work as flowers are sold and shipped around the world. Hortus Bulborum is next, a museum of antique bulb varieties. Free afternoon in Amsterdam.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 5 – Saturday 14 May 2016
Amsterdam (B)
Het Loo Palace, built William III and Mary II, is known as the Versailles of Holland for its formal design. The gardens were restored for the 300th anniversary of the palace in 1984 and are really impressive.
We head into the gardens, which were fully restored for the 300th anniversary of the palace in 1984, then we’ll explore the sumptuously furnished interiors of the palace. From upper windows you can glimpse the enclosed and highly decorative privy gardens on either side of the palace. From the gloriette at the bottom of the formal garden there are beautiful views of the intricate patterns of the parterres and the façade of the Palace.
A special dinner tonight at De Kas restaurant – where the chef creates one fixed menu based on the daily harvest grown mainly in the greenhouses and gardens at the restaurant.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 6 – Sunday 15 May 2016
Amsterdam – Paris (B)
Travel across Belgium to Paris with a lunch stop (own arrangements) in mediaeval Ghent.
In Paris we head for the left bank and Saint-Germain-des-Près to check into Pont Royal Hotel. This hotel is a little gem just five minutes walk from the River Seine, the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay. Make time for a cocktail in the bar. This is where F. Scot Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda held court for the American literati and introduced Parisians to the joys of mixed alcohol.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 7 – Monday 16 May 2016
Paris (B)
Morning free.
It’s the beautiful potager this afternoon at Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard, which is attached to a 17th century chateau. There are lots of lessons here in fruit and vegetable gardening. But it’s not all about produce; there are peonies, iris, and roses in wide flower borders and walled gardens.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 8 – Tuesday 17 May 2016
Paris (B)
The fabulous Jardin Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne in the heart of Paris with its mini chateau set in an English-style park. See the Chinese pavilion, grotto, waterfall and orangerie. There’s the Rose Garden, the Iris garden, the potager and the lake. Free afternoon.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 9
Wednesday 18 May 2016
Paris (B)
Andre Le Notre designed the gardens at Versailles, but first he made them at Chateau Vaux le Vicomte, and that’s where we’re headed this morning. The chateau with outbuildings makes an exquisite ensemble with gardens sweeping to the horizon. This garden marks the beginning of the Baroque tradition in garden design. Gardens sweep along a grand perspective, almost three kilometres long. We won’t need to walk though, will hire electric buggies. Free afternoon.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 10 – Thursday 19 May 2016
Giverney (B/L)
Giverny, the garden of painter Claude Monet, might just be the most famous in all France. Monet’s garden was a part of his art – the garden and the paintings reflected each other. We’ll arrive early to experience the serenity of the Water Garden with its much-imitated, wisteria-draped Japanese bridge. Then there’s the thrill of the flower garden with roses growing over arches and flowers jostling for space. Lunch included in Giverney.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 11 – Friday 20 May 2016
Paris – London (B)
We’ll take the morning Eurostar (train) in First Class from Paris Gare du Nord to London St Pancras. We’ll have a sightseeing tour of London before we check in to The Royal Garden Hotel in the heart of Kensington, close to many London attractions.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 12 – Saturday 21 May 2016
London (B)
Wisley is our destination this morning, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society with a suite of gardens that will make your heart leap. Free afternoon.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 13 – Sunday 22 May 2016
West Green (B/L)
Expat Marylyn Abbott’s West Green in Hampshire is a special treat for Australian visitors. Marylyn is an exuberant personality and wonderful gardener. You might remember her garden Kennerton Green, in Mittagong, NSW Southern Highlands. While the garden pays homage to its 18th-century origins, Marylyn’s sense of fun is given plenty of room to play. The Alice in Wonderland walled garden is a frivolous delight; the ornamental potager is beautiful; and there’s a classic water staircase and exquisite Persian water garden to contrast with the romantic lake garden. Lunch is included at West Green.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 14 – Monday 23 May 2016
Sissinghurst and Great Dixter(B)
If there ever was a hierarchy of Best British gardens, Sissinghurst would be at the top of the list. Surely 200,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong! Loved for its beautiful balance, garden rooms and inspired planting combinations, this is garden is the result of a special partnership between the Bloomsbury couple Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson. We’ll climb the tower for a fabulous view, explore each compartment of the garden, pop our heads into Vita’s writing room and walk down to the Moat, herb garden and through to the new Kitchen Gardens where produce is grown for the restaurant. The standard of horticulture here will astound and inspire you in your own garden. There’s time for lunch (own arrangement) before we travel on to Great Dixter.
Exuberant and full of joy, Great Dixter is a masterpiece of planting that just makes you want to smile. Its garden philosophy has been much copied around the world. Head gardener Fergus Garret took on the reins from the masterful Christopher Lloyd and now teaches horticultural students from around the world. The longest perennial border, subtropical plantings and a stunning orchard revolve around the heart of the gardens, a 14th century Tudor building full of charm.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 15 – Tuesday 24 May 2016
Chelsea Flower Show (B)
It’s our finale – ‘Opening Day’ at the Chelsea Flower Show, the most prestigious event in the horticultural calendar. Special tickets have been organised for us on RHS Members Day so we can avoid the crowded public days.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 16 – Wednesday 25 May 2016
London – Home (B)
Those returning home today have a free day in London. We transfer to Heathrow in the afternoon.

DAY 17 – Thursday 26 May 2016
Inflight

DAY 18 – Friday 27 May 2016
Arrive Home

The Great Gardens of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

The Great Gardens of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

 

DAY 1 : FRI 13 MAY HOME TO LONDON
Meet Colin Barlow, your Ross Tour Leader, at Sydney Airport for the flight to London (or meet us in Bath on Day 2).

DAY 2 : SAT 14 MAY LONDON – BATH
Arrive London, travel to Bath, with welcome lunch at hotel to meet new friends. Check into the MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel for the next three nights. Early afternoon walking tour to acquaint ourselves with Bath. Accommodation: MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel

DAY 3 : SUN 15 MAY STOURHEAD
After breakfast, this elegant example of picturesque English Landscape Style combines classical architecture, lake reflections and a fine 18th bridge with copses of mature trees, rhododendrons and just burst Beech trees overhead. Lunch included at Stourhead café, then back to Bath to relax or soak in the hotel spa. Dinner in the hotel.

DAY 4 : MON 16 MAY STONEHENGE
We drop into a pretty English Nursery for some window shopping, we’ll see their display at Chelsea next week so we can enjoy a little behind the scenes Chelsea action. Stroll through their display gardens, lunch in the restaurant. Wander back in time at Stonehenge this afternoon!

DAY 5 : TUE 17 MAY BATH – OXFORD
The prettiest village in England this morning with private gardens, village walk and morning tea in their church hall! We’ll see Arlington Row and walk along the banks of the River Coln. Pop into the late Rosemary Verey’s Barnsley House with afternoon tea included. On to Oxford where we’re staying in The Randolph, a 19th century hotel for the next four nights, perfectly located opposite the Ashmolean Museum. The Randolph is famous as the home of the Morse Bar, where the great TV Inspector’s sidekick Lewis invariably paid for the pints! Dinner tonight is included at a local restaurant.

DAY 6 : WED 18 MAY BLENHEIM PALACE
A trip to the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill today, Winston’s grandfather was the 7th Duke of Marlborough. We’ll discover extravagant Blenheim Palace, England’s answer to Versailles at Woodstock and its splendid ‘Capability’ Brown landscape, various gardens and palace additions added by different generations of Marlborough dukes. We’ll take guided tour through the Baroque palace and gardens to help us fully appreciate the sheer grandeur of the site.

DAY 7 : THU 19 MAY HIGHGROVE
Morning visit to the much anticipated Highgrove House, a truly unique garden full of HRH’s flair, personality and surprising sense of humour. A no camera policy today allows us the perfect opportunity to appreciate the ambience and deafening birdsong, a tribute to His Royal Highness’s organic and sustainability principles. Highlights include his potted tulips, decorative yew hedges, wildflower meadows, breathtaking walled kitchen garden, quirky sculptures, and most of experience the magic of a woodland ‘stumpery’.

Highgrove House visit subject to the Prince’s schedule and opening times of the garden. The alternative is a private garden in Worcestershire, Historic house Coughton Court stands in 25 acres of grounds containing some of the most breathtaking gardens in the country. Created over the last 17 years, the gardens include Walled Garden, two sunken gardens and Early Summer Garden, formal lawns, lake and Bog Garden, riverside walks, a formal courtyard garden, vegetable garden, orchard and fruit garden. Gardens are now mature and are solely managed by the Throckmorton family.

DAY 8 : FRI 20 MAY HIDCOTE
Today we’ll journey across one of the most rolling-green romantic landscapes in Britain – the Cotswolds. Then, at the intricately maintained Hidcote Manor, that shelter beneath the arches of an ancient Cedar of Lebanon tree. We’ll discover why this Arts and Crafts garden has been so influential whilst reveling in wisteria, tulips and rhododendrons. Philadelphis, virburnum and magnolia; we get lost in this delightful scratch and sniff garden full of fragrance at this time of year.

DAY 9 : SAT 21 MAY OXFORD – LONDON
Hatfield House in Hertfordshire is our highlight today. The garden dates back to the first earl of Salisbury in the early 17th century and is still maintained by Lady Salisbury and her small team of gardeners. It’s one of the most attractive historic gardens in Britain. We’ll walk the knot garden adjoining the old palace where Elizabeth 1st spent much of her childhood, enjoy Lady Salisbury’s private garden and wander through the covered Lime Walk, kitchen garden and admire the mass of bulbs flowering in the woodland. Spend time in the children’s clothing shop, lolly shop, bookshop in the estate’s outbuildings before lunching in leisure in the cafe.

Travel to central London and check in to Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington for the next four nights. Kensington gardens and Palace are just a stone’s throw away.

DAY 10 : SUN 22 MAY WEST GREEN HOUSE
Marylyn Abbott is an exuberant personality and wonderful gardener. You might remember her garden Kennerton Green, at Mittagong in the Southern Highlands. Marylyn has since moved to England and taken on the re-creation of West Green in Hampshire. While the garden pays homage to its 18th-century origins, Marylyn’s sense of fun is given plenty of room to play. The Alice in Wonderland walled garden is a frivolous delight; the ornamental potager is beautiful; and there’s a classic water staircase and exquisite Persian water garden to contrast with the romantic lake garden. Lovely lunch in the conservatory.

DAY 11 : MON 23 MAY SISSINGHURST and GREAT DIXTER
The very best of English garden design today. If there ever was a hierarchy of Best British gardens, Sissinghurst would be at the top of the list. 200,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong! Loved for its beautiful balance, garden rooms and inspired planting combinations, this is one of England’s best and admired gardens; the result of the special partnership between infamous Bloomsbury couple Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson – it’s a living time capsule.

We’ll climb the tower for a fabulous view, explore each compartment of the garden, pop our heads into Vita’s writing room and walk down to the Moat, herb garden and through to the new Kitchen Gardens where they grow all the produce for the restaurant. The standard of horticulture here will astound and inspire you in your own garden. Lunch here in the restaurant where they serve food locally grown in their kitchen gardens.

We head to Great Dixter – exuberant and full of joy, we visit a living masterpiece of planting that just makes you want to smile. Its garden philosophy has been much copied around the world with the head gardener Fergus Garret taking on the reins from the master the late Christopher Lloyd and teaching batches of horticultural students from around the world. The longest perennial border, subtropical plantings and stunning orchard revolve around the heart of the gardens, a fourteenth century Tudor building full of charm.

DAY 12 : TUE 24 MAY CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW
It’s a bucket list day today! ‘Opening Day’ at the Chelsea Flower Show is reserved for VIPs and members of the Royal Horticultural Society only, but we have arranged tickets so that you can enjoy it without dealing with the maddening crowds that flock on public days. It’s a buzz; we’ll have the chance to meet our favourite exhibitors. Enjoy multimillion dollar show gardens, smaller artisan gardens, plenty of time for browsing, picnicking near the grandstand, a glass of Pimm’s in the shade, and just inhaling the floral extravaganza in the Great Pavilion. See fragrant sweet peas floor to ceiling, roses to die for and the very best of international horticulture on a mind boggling scale. We’ll spend the whole day at Chelsea and head back to the hotel late in the afternoon.

Tonight we’ll share stories and favourite moments during the farewell dinner at the hotel.

DAY 13 : WED 25 MAY LONDON – HOME
Those returning home today have a free day in London. We transfer to Heathrow in the afternoon.

DAY 14 : THU 26 MAY INFLIGHT

DAY 15 : FRI 27 MAY WELCOME HOME

2016 Garden Tour of France & Germany with Danube Cruise, hosted by Helen Young

Garden Tour of France & Germany with Danube Cruise 2016, hosted by Helen Young

 

DAY 1 Thursday May 26, 2016 Departure
We depart Australia on our flight to Paris.

DAY 2 Friday May 27, 2016 Paris
On arrival in Paris we are met by private coach and transferred to our hotel, where we’ll have time to freshen up, before enjoying a sightseeing tour of the romantic city of Paris with a local guide. Highlights include the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries and a drive along the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. Those wishing to dine together can meet in the lobby, where the tour manager will suggest good-value restaurants for dinner.

DAY 3 Saturday May 28, 2016 Paris
This morning we visit Claude Monet’s famous house and garden at Giverny. The garden, with its ponds and water lilies and Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Another section of the garden has a more formal layout, featuring espaliered apples and pears and abundant plantings of roses, irises, spring bulbs, poppies and more. It has been magnificently restored and gives a vivid impression of Monet’s inspiration. Helen will make sure that we get the most out of this garden. This evening we will enjoy a welcome dinner to formally meet Helen and other tour members.

DAY 4 Sunday May 29, 2016 Paris
This morning we visit the Chateau de Bagatelle on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. In addition to the noted rose garden with its climbing roses, there is a water lily pool, grotto, potager and iris garden. We will have free time to explore Paris in the afternoon.

DAY 5 Monday May 30, 2016 Beaune
Today we head to the Burgundy region of France and visit Jardins de l’Abbey de Fontenay. The abbey was founded in 1118 by St Bernard of Clairvaux. It is the oldest preserved Cistercian Abbey in the world and was included in the World Heritage Sites register by UNESCO in 1981. Surrounding the abbey is a wonderful landscaped park, nestled in the hollow of a valley that stretches over 1,200 hectares. The park was transformed by landscape architect Peter Holms in 1977. We will see a wide variety of roses, viburnums and hydrangeas as well as many ancient trees and a trout pond. It was classified as a remarkable garden in 2004. We continue on to Beaune, for a two-night stay. The tour manager will give recommendations of local restaurants for dinner.

DAY 6 Tuesday May 31, 2016 Beaune
This morning, we enjoy a sightseeing tour of the charming small town of Beaune with a local guide. The tour will include a visit to the famous Hotel-Dieu, founded as a hospital by Rolin in 1443, and a great example of Burgundian-Flemish art. We then travel with our local guide through the famous Cote de Nuits wine-producing area to the village of Nuits St Georges to enjoy a wine tasting at one of the famous Burgundy wine chateaux. On our drive north of Beaune, through the vineyards and west towards the mountains, we will see some of France’s most beautiful countryside. This evening, join us for an included dinner at our hotel.

DAY 7 Wednesday June 1, 2016 Strasbourg
We travel north of Beaune for a visit to the gardens of the Chateau de Barbirey. This park-like garden is set on 8ha in the l’Ouche Valley. A superb potager garden, orchard and natural prairie area are highlights of our visit. We continue to beautiful Strasbourg, where we will stay for the next three nights. Known as the “Venice of the north”, the city grew up around its first cathedral, established in the 7th century, later replaced by the Romanesque cathedral seen today. Strasbourg remained a free city within the Holy Roman Empire until eventually submitting to annexation by Louis XIV in 1681. The historic centre of Strasbourg was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

DAY 8 Thursday June 2, 2016 Strasbourg
A sightseeing tour of Strasbourg this morning includes the cathedral and a walk through the Old City, with its timber-framed houses and traditional features, such as wooden galleries and loggias. We see Place Kleber, the city’s most famous square. This afternoon will be free to explore the city individually – perhaps visit one of the many museums or shop in the historic centre of this charming town.

DAY 9 Friday June 3, 2016 Strasbourg
This morning we visit the Chateau de Kolbsheim and its garden. The chateau has two wings, the oldest built in 1703, with lovely views over the Alsatian plains. The upper part of the garden is a formal French garden, decorated with ponds, fountains, hedges and topiaries. The lower part is an English park, with many venerable trees. Much of the garden was destroyed in the First World War, but has been restored by the current owners, the Grunelius family. We continue our journey for a visit to Saverne’s historic rose garden, which contains more than 8,500 rose bushes with a total of 550 different varieties. With its attractive pools and fountains, this is a gorgeous garden, full of fragrance and colour. The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be free for your own exploration.

DAY 10 Saturday June 4, 2016 Regensburg
Today we travel east, across the European plain into Bavaria, continuing to Regensburg. On the southern side of Stuttgart, we visit the private garden of Waltraud and Hans Fahrion. The garden has been established for 20 years and features many box plants pruned into different shapes and used to divide the garden into garden rooms. A hint of the baroque is added by sculptures, stone shapes and furniture. We continue our journey to Regensburg.

DAY 11 Sunday June 5, 2016 Regensburg
Regensburg was originally a Roman garrison town, guarding the northernmost part of the Danube. It was a centre of religious life in the Middle Ages and became a trading hub. We will have a guided tour of this captivating town this morning. We will see the eight-storied Old Town Hall built in the 13th century and the Haidplatz, a square surrounded by historic buildings with the Fountain of Justice at its centre. We will see the green belt surrounding the historic centre. In the afternoon we visit the Palace and Gardens of Thurn and Taxis. The present palace was converted from an abbey and given to the prince, as compensation for his loss of the Bavarian postal monopoly in 1812. We visit the Max Buchhauser Garden, which is located on the north side of the Danube. This sculpture garden is impressive because of Max’s bizarre and whimsical character.

DAY 12 Monday June 6, 2016 Passau
This morning we drive to Passau, where we board our four-star river boat for our seven night cruise. Passau is known as the “town of three rivers” as it lies at the junction of the Inn, the Danube and the small River Ilz. The old town, with its baroque churches and patrician houses, lies crowded onto the narrow tongue of land separating the rivers. The rest of the day will be free to explore the boat and the charming town of Passau.

DAY 13 Tuesday June 7, 2016 Melk/Vienna
This morning we stop at the town of Melk for a visit to the Benedictine Abbey on a rocky outcrop above the town. The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks. The monastic school was founded in the 12th century and the baroque abbey in the early 18th century. We continue to Vienna, where we arrive early evening and are moored overnight.

DAY 14 Wednesday June 8, 2016 Vienna
This morning we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of this grand city. We will see the Hofburg Palace, the former winter residence of the Hapsburgs, the Parliament, St Stephens Cathedral, which is known for its vast roof of glittering tiles, and the wide boulevards befitting an imperial city. In the afternoon we will visit the Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the former summer residence of the imperial family. It takes its name from a beautiful spring that was found on the site. Leopold 1 started building the grand baroque residence here in 1695. Half a century later, Maria Theresa transformed it into a glittering focus of court life. It remains the premier architectural, cultural and historic monument in Austria. The extensive gardens feature fountains and statues framed by trees and alleyways. There are follies, an orangerie, a French garden with a maze and a magnificent tropical greenhouse erected in 1882.

DAY 15 Thursday June 9, 2016 Budapest
We arrive in Budapest late morning. After mooring, we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Buda, the hilly area around the castle. We see the ornamental gateway leading to the Hapsburg Steps and the royal palace and visit Matyas Church built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It was rebuilt in the baroque style by Franciscan friars in the 16th century. From Gellert Hill, we will get a stunning view of Budapest. We cross the Danube to Pest via the Chain Bridge, the city’s first permanent bridge. It was built in 1839 and led to an expansion of Pest in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Other sights on our tour around Pest include the Hungarian National Museum, the Parliament Building designed by Imre Steindl, the winner of a competition, and many Secession buildings. In the afternoon, we visit the Fuveszkert Botanical Garden located in the grounds of a villa in Pest. There are approximately 6,000 species of plants in the collection and a 150-yearold ginkgo tree, as well as a palm house with tropical and sub-tropical plants.

DAY 16 Friday June 10, 2016 Esztergom
This morning is free to explore Budapest. We depart on our cruise to Esztergom at lunch time. Esztergom is Hungary’s most sacred town, the seat of the Archbishop of Hungary. We have free time in the hour we are docked to explore this attractive town.

DAY 17 Saturday June 11, 2016 Bratislava
After docking in Bratislava, we travel to visit Buchlovice Castle. This Italian-designed summer house was built at the end of the 17th century for an Italian, Agnese Carlonna. During the 18th century the Berchtold family transformed the land around the villa into an elegant landscape of 65 hectares crossed by winding paths and dropping to a bridge over a stream. There is an outstanding collection of well-grown trees, now in their maturity. We return to the boat mid-afternoon.

DAY 18 Sunday June 12, 2016 Durnstein
Today we wake in the charming baroque village of Durnstein. We will have a sightseeing tour of the town and see the ruined castle where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated. We then travel to a winery in the Wachau Valley for a tasting of wines typical of this region. We return to the boat at lunch time and sail to Passau.

DAY 19 Monday June 13, 2016 Passau/in flight
We travel to Munich airport to board our flight to Australia.

DAY 20 Tuesday June 14, 2016 Australia
We arrive in Australia this morning and tour arrangements conclude.

Gardens, Villages and Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany

Gardens, Villages and Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany

Tour Itinerary

 

Day 1: Saturday 3 September, Paris CDG – Lyons-La-Forêt – Rouen
• Lyons-la-Forêt village & welcome lunch at Hôtel du Grand Cerf & Spa
• Introduction
• Short Evening Orientation walking tour of Rouen
This morning we set out from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen beginning our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we visit Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the seventeenth century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the eighteenth century which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of ‘Madame Bovary’. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After lunching in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving at approximately 2.30pm. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting followed by an orientation walk of Rouen within the vicinity of our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) L

Day 2: Sunday 4 September, Rouen – St-Georges de Boscherville – St-Pierre de Manneville – Montmain – Rouen
• Romanesque Abbey of St-Georges de Boscherville
• Manoir et Parc de Villers, St-Pierre de Manneville
• Le Jardin d’Angélique, Montmain
Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St-Georges de Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the seventh century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the eleventh century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons which was transformed into a magnificent Bénédictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

The remainder of the day is devoted to visiting some magnificent country manor houses in Normandy. Our first visit is to the nearby Manoir de Villers, a beautiful half-timbered manor house begun in the time of Charles VII (1403-1461) and added to for three centuries. A special delight will be a guided tour of the manor’s interior in which the owners M. and Mme Robert Mery de Bellegarde will show you the magnificent family furniture collection. It is surrounded by themed gardens where we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by our hosts.

Next, we travel to Montmain to visit the Jardins d’Angélique, which comprise two wonderful gardens. Originally created by Gloria and Yves Le Bellegard in memory of their daughter Angelica, the two separate gardens are very distinct in character. South of the manor house is a formal garden with walkways and clipped hedges, Italianate in style with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary and a central fountain. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. To the north is a flowing “English-style” garden, dreamy, romantic, with grassy paths winding between hundreds of shrubs, plants and trees. In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL

Day 3: Monday 5 June, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Beaumont-le-Hareng – Rouen
• Buchy village market
• Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
• Le Jardin de Bellevue, Beaumont-le-Hareng
• Evening meal at Restaurant La Couronne
A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy where we shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local producers. Many of these farmers specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

Three kilometres outside Buchy, Le Jardin de Valérianes, tucked away in a corner of the countryside, was created by a couple of passionate gardeners, Michel and Maryline Tissait, who named the garden after their two daughters. This English-style garden of over 4000 square metres offers much visual pleasure with its combination of perennials, roses, trees and bushes.

We then drive on to Beaumont-le-Hareng, where we visit Le Jardin de Bellevue. Le Jardin de Bellevue was created by the purist Martine Lemonnier in the 1980s and is famous for its collection of Hellebores (winter and Lenten roses). The gardens have been laid out in a very natural style with a walk through various styles of garden including a golden garden, a summer garden, a hydrangea garden and an alley of yews. A lot of thought has been given to making the gardens interesting throughout the year and there is something to see no matter when you choose to visit. Some of the highlights are the hellebores in winter, the magnolias and rhododendrons in spring, the hydrangeas in summer and the wonderful berries and leaf colour in the autumn.

Tonight we dine together at Restaurant La Couronne. Housed in a superbly preserved half-timbered home, it is considered the “oldest inn in France,” dating from 1345. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 4: Tuesday 6 September, Rouen – Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Rouen
• Le Jardin du Vastérival, Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer
• L’Etang du Launay, Varengeville-sur-Mer
• Church & Sailor’s cemetery, Varengeville-sur-Mer
This morning, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vastérival is acclaimed to contain one of the finest plant collections in all of France. The gardens are strictly informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich under plantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world-famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

Following lunch at a restaurant located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we visit L’Etang du Launay, the recently created private gardens of Jean-Louis Dantec, with its highly-pruned specimen trees leading to a lake and ponds, with extensive woodland planting beyond. Only 20 years in the making, this very private garden, created by owner Jean Louis Dantec, has already gained a reputation as one of the finest woodland gardens in Europe.

Next, we drive a short distance to the Varengeville-sur-Mer Church and sailors’ cemetery. Varengeville is an astonishing commune perched atop white limestone cliffs. It has attracted many artists including Claude Monet, and is famous for its church, with its stained-glass windows by Georges Braque. From the sailors’ cemetery, where Georges Braque, Albert Roussel and Porto-Riche are buried, there is a superb view of Dieppe and the cliffs towards Le Tréport. (Overnight Rouen) BL

Day 5: Wednesday 7 September, Rouen – Le Neubourg – Rouen
• Château Champ de Bataille, Le Neubourg
• Guided walking tour of Rouen
This morning we depart Rouen and travel south to Le Neubourg to visit Château Champ de Bataille, belonging to interior decorator Jacques Garcia. Garcia has completely renovated the eighteenth-century castle and gardens over the past 20 years. The château boasts a magnificent garden based in part on the classic French style and heavily influenced by drawings by the French designer Le Nôtre – hence its inclusion in Monty Don‘s first programme of his new BBC2 series, “French Gardens”, which aired on 1 February 2013. Monty was exploring “Gardens of Power and Passion” in and around Paris, with emphasis on those designed by André Le Nôtre, the son of Louis XVIII’s gardener at les Tuileries. The original gardens at Champ de Bataille fell into disrepair and had virtually disappeared when the present owner, Jacques Garcia, took it upon himself to recreate a garden in the grounds of the château. An outline plan of the former gardens had survived, which revealed the basic outline and terraces of the missing garden. This was used only as a general guideline, rather than copied slavishly. The resulting garden (which was begun in 1993 and took 12 years to complete) is a masterful blend of classical French and Italian design and inspiration, with modern influences. Parterres, follies, classical temples, fountains, lakes – 43 hectares of park and garden in all, crowned by a stunning view that stretches over a mile down the garden from the main terrace of the château du Champ de Bataille.

In the late morning we return to Rouen. Following some time at leisure for lunch we meet our guide for a walking tour of this beautiful and very historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called ‘Rotomagus’, a derivation of the Celtic name ‘Ratuma’. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the third century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the fifteenth century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the fifteenth-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a fifteenth-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the Saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore Rouen at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 6: Thursday 8 September, Rouen – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Tourville-sur-Arques – Rouen
• Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry
• Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
• Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques
This morning we drive to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume where owners Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have converted their orchard into a parterre. There is also a spring garden, summer garden and autumn garden. The summer garden is a kind of modern knot garden with a very formal layout of clipped box in a square edged pattern. Each ‘box’ is then filled with a very natural planting of grasses and perennials but the colours are superb – lots of golden yellow, deep red and burning oranges. The overall mix of formal and informal, the sombre green of the box and the jewel-like colours of the flowers are really superb. In September the box hedges are typically filled with vibrantly coloured flowers, interspersed with grasses. Favourite plants here are dahlias, crocosmias, heleniums, kniphofias and of course grasses – giving the plumes the garden is named for.

Further north, we visit the house, park and gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the possession of the Mallet family since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Dehli, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden which slopes toward the sea.
In the late afternoon we continue to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques, a splendid seventeenth-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis. Following a light buffet dinner at the Château de Miromesnil we return to Rouen for the night. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 7: Friday 9 September, Rouen – Giverny – Grigneuseville – Rouen
• Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
• Les Jardins Agapanthe, Grigneuseville
This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet, lived for forty-three years. We visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of his later paintings, created when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, ‘Le Pressoir’, and its gardens, have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Your visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. You cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond. In September the lawns are typically full of pink colchicums. The dahlias are eye-catching, and there are usually roses and nasturtiums in bloom at the house garden. No wisteria flowers, but the vine covers the bridge, and the pond is surrounded by greenery and impatiens.

This afternoon we journey to Grigneuseville to visit les Jardins d’Agapanthe, created and owned by landscape architect Alexandre Thomas. These gardens are an imaginative blend of traditional and experimental design with surprises at every turn, and are described by Vivian Russell in her article ‘Secret gardens of Normandy’: “The tone of this stylish garden is set from the moment you pass through the gate in the boundary hedge and step into the garden pavilion, the walls of which are covered with red Toile de Jouy fabric. A labyrinth of narrow paths flanked by lush vegetation weaves its way around corners, over bridges, up and down steps, through a long pergola, opening out here and there into clearings of what can best be described as imaginative garden tableaux. You might suddenly find yourself stepping into a Mediterranean garden with beach pebbles and dwarf pines, or peering into a pond so swampy that a pair of glinting crocodile eyes wouldn’t be out of place, or stepping down into the sunken lavender theatre ornamented with stone portals and a fountain, set against a raised backdrop of clipped yews of various heights and shapes”. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 8: Saturday 10 September, Rouen – Le Havre – Honfleur – Bayeux
• Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
• Time at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur
If you plot the landscapes painted by the Impressionists on a map of France, their locations correspond to the railway lines that led out from Paris along such corridors as the valley of the Seine, for the Impressionists were creatures of the bourgeoisie’s discovery of rural and coastal France, made available to it for the first time by steam trains. The landscapes of middle-class recreation were also reached by the new railways. One aspect of the bourgeois discovery of France was the development of seaside resorts, and one of the greatest painters of the beach was Eugène Boudin.

This morning we depart Rouen for Le Havre situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine on the English Channel. Here we visit the André Malraux Modern Art Museum, which contains the second most extensive collection of Impressionist paintings in France. There are paintings by Claude Monet and other artists who lived and worked in Normandy including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard. Modern art is also well represented with works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Alexej von Jawlensky and Nicolas de Staël.

At approximately 1.00pm we continue to Honfleur where many Parisians spent their holidays. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. The Sainte Catherine church, which has a bell tower separate from the principal building, is the largest church made out of timber in France. Honfleur’s attractions include its Saturday markets and the town is also famous for its chocolates.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive to Bayeux, our next base in Normandy, which is famous above all for its tapestry. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 9: Sunday 11 September, Bayeux – Castillon – Bayeux
• Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
• Bayeux Tapestry Museum
• Time at leisure in Bayeux
• Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon
Our program begins today with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Normand architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde (Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by the Queen to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the eleventh-century methods and machinery of warfare.

Following some time at leisure, our day ends with a drive to Castillon to visit the Jardins de Plantbessin, created by Colette Sainte Beuve as a water garden to complement her plant nursery. Here you will find a marvellous treasure trove of plants that includes beautiful samples of Japanese plants as well as herbs and heather, situated on a site which measures less than a quarter of an acre. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Day 10: Monday 12 September, Bayeux – Caen – St-Gabriel-Brécy – Bayeux
• Abbaye-aux-Hommes & its abbatial church St Étienne, Caen
• Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen
• Château de Brécy, St-Gabriel-Brécy
This morning we drive to Caen to visit the excellent small art museum (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle, and the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church St Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

After some time at leisure in Caen for lunch, we return to Bayeux via the gardens of Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the seventeenth century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 11: Tuesday 13 September, Bayeux – Cambremer – Mézidon-Canon – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
• Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge, Cambremer
• Parc & Jardins du Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon
Today we travel east of Caen to discover the heart of the Pays d’Auge, with its stunning half-timbered farms, manors and châteaux and lovely agricultural landscape dominated by such elements as orchards and hedgerows. The Pays d’Auge is best known as the heart of production for some of Normandy’s best food products including the rich and aromatic cheeses of Camembert, Pont l’Évêque, and Livarot. It is also famous for its alcoholic cider and for its calvados, an apple brandy created from cider in the same manner that cognac is made from wine; through double distillation in copper stills. The brandy, which is 70 percent alcohol, is aged from 3 to 25 years in oak casks and then bottled.

We follow the designated ‘Route du Cidre’ to Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge, located outside the village of Cambremer. This series of themed gardens is situated around a seventeenth-century farmhouse and other half-timbered buildings, typical of Norman architecture. Listed as one of the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ in the Calvados region, this verdant 3-hectare estate lies adjacent to the Calvados Huet distillery.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an eighteenth-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alterations of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storied structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style.

We stay for the next two nights in a lovely small heritage hotel, Le Manoir du Lys, at Bagnoles-de-L’Orne owned by a family noted for their fine cuisine, which we shall sample at our evening meals. The hotel is set in a pretty garden on the edge of the Andaine Forest. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BLD

Day 12: Wednesday 14 September, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet – St-Céneri-le-Gérei – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
• Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet
• Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei village & lunch at the Auberge des Peintres
• Free time in Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
A day trip today takes us to yet more lovely Norman villages and another garden. We begin with the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy at Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece.

We next drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. In the sixth century an Italian anchorite, Céneri, established a hermitage here and this grew into the village of Saint-Céneri which is now considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. In the nineteenth century, its stone houses, Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and its small stone bridge attracted many artists, including Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin.

We shall have lunch at the charming Auberge des Peintres and take a leisurely walk through the village before making our way to the spa town of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne for some time at leisure. The “Belle Époque” Quarter in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne constitutes a rather well-preserved example of what could be classed as a typical early twentieth-century French bourgeoise residential area. Built between 1886 and 1914 and located in the southern part of the town, it is filled with superb villas with polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BLD

Day 13: Thursday 15 September, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Ballon – Le Mans
• Jardins du Donjon de Ballon
• Le Mans: Guided tour of Old Plantagenet City incl. Saint Julien Cathedral
Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Loire Valley. Our first visit is to the gardens of the Donjon de Ballon, an important frontier fortress built by Guillaume Ier de Bellême in 1005, the first to be encountered by the Normans in their attempts to expand their territory. It was seized by William the Conqueror in 1064, two years before he invaded England; and in the eleventh century it changed hands twenty-five times! In the twelfth century the family of Chources, allies of the Kings of England, established control of the fortress which was to endure three centuries. During the Hundred Years’ War the castle was controlled by armed bands and contested by the English and French until the companions of Joan of Arc, Olivier de Prez, châtelain of Ballon, and his nephew Ambroise de Loré finally subdued it and its territory. The development of artillery rendered this type of fortress, composed of a high keep and prominent towers, outmoded.

The gardens of Ballon have been created since 1960 by the a’Weng-Guéroult family. They are made up of a number of parts. The Alley of the Linden Trees, with large rectangular beds, leads to the Court of the Lions named for the lions which guard the donjon’s drawbridge. The Jardin Clos sits within the ramparts and is in the transitional Medieval/Renaissance style. It is made up of three sections: the geometrical Jardin du Puits which surrounds the forty-five metre well which supplied the castle with water; Le Jardin du Milieu, inspired by Renaissance gardens, with ancient standard roses, aromatic plants such as hyssop, kitchen and medicinal herbs, and plants for dyes such as rose madder; La Motte Féodale (the feudal moat) which leads to the location of the very first wooden fortress, precursor to the stone donjon. There are beech groves here and the moats themselves are planted with fruit trees from around the world. This garden section, high on the castle crag, commands stunning panoramas of the forests of Normandy and Maine. Below this is the rose garden and surrounding the whole complex is a beautiful wood.

Following a light lunch in the Donjon du Ballon, we next drive a short distance to the city of Le Mans which lies on the banks of the River Sarthe. We are now in the region of Maine, of which Le Mans is the old capital. Surrounded by the modern city, the historic centre is dominated by the magnificent cathedral of Saint Julien. This building has a Romanesque nave and west end and a marvellously light Gothic east end with some of the most magnificent flying buttresses in France. The cathedral also has excellent stained glass from the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is surrounded by a lovely precinct of timbered houses whose façades boast intricate patterns and some excellent carving. At points along the Sarthe are to be seen remnants of the city’s Gallo-Roman walls, Le Mans having been an important Celtic town before Julius Caesar invaded, and Augustus pacified Gaul. A local specialty is the famous “Rillettes du Mans”, made with pork meat cooked in its fat and best served simply with a farmhouse loaf. (Overnight Le Mans) BL

Day 14: Friday 16 September, Le Mans – Louplande – Saint-Biez-en-Berlin – Le Mans
• Gardens of the Château de Villaines, Louplande
• Le Jardin d’Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux, Saint-Biez-en-Berlin
This morning we drive to the Château de Villaines, built on the ruins of a twelfth-century feudal castle, of which all that remains is part of the defensive moat on the southern side. The present buildings date from the mid seventeenth century and the Château de Villaines is typical of châteaux from that period, oriented with the main facades facing precisely north and south, and being long and slim to allow light to penetrate from windows on both sides, making it very light and airy. The main buildings comprise the château itself, the orangery in the northwest corner of the garden, and a large dovecote to the southwest.

Marc and Marie-José Forissier have been the owners since 1997 and are responsible for developing the garden as it appears today. Before they began work there was an English landscape garden in front of the house; this has been replaced by a formal French garden with clipped box topiary and lawns. To the right of the house is a recently planted orchard, to the south the remains of a large moat and many newly planted trees. However, its main feature is an extraordinary ‘potager en carrés’, a highly formalised and decorative fruit and vegetable garden divided into dozens of raised square beds and surrounded by a high wall. This garden, covering 2.5 acres, was restored by the present owners and includes a fine array of peonies, espaliered pear trees and apple trees trained in cordons. An attractive collection of Old Climbing Roses trail across arches giving the garden height. In 2005 it was awarded the prize for best potager garden in France by the French Horticultural Society (Société Nationale d’Horticulture de France).

Following a light lunch at the Château de Villaines, hosted by the owners, we continue to the town of Saint-Biez-en-Berlin to visit Le Jardin d’Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux. This delightful garden was voted the “Preferred garden of the French” in the Pays-de-Loire region in 2014 by viewers of the France2 television channel. It was also awarded the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ label in 2007 by the French Minister of Culture. This private garden, which covers 1.5 hectares, has been created since 1987 by its owners. A wonderfully mature garden, it is full of trees under planted with hydrangeas, day lillies, hostas, ancient roses, acers and dogwood. Every season has its own interest and two large ponds provide focal points in the garden. There are more than 4000 different plants including collections of Acers, Hydrangeas, Cornus (including the beautiful Cornus kousa ‘Salomi’), roses and grasses. (Overnight Le Mans) BL

Day 15: Saturday 17 September, Le Mans – Vannes – Larmor Baden – Auray – Carnac
• Guided tour of the walled town of Vannes incl. Saint-Pierre Cathedral
• Boat tour from Larmor Baden for a visit to the Cairn de Gavrinis (weather permitting)
• Evening meal in the town of Auray
We depart early this morning and travel west to the south coast of Brittany. Nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan, in one of the world’s most beautiful bays, Vannes boasts all the discreet charm of a fortified town with two thousand years of history.

Following some time at leisure for lunch we take a guided tour of its remarkable old quarter, home to the impressive Saint-Pierre cathedral. We also take a walk along the town’s ramparts. These thirteenth-century fortifications which were remodelled until the seventeenth century provide wonderful views of the city’s formal gardens and the cathedral.

Mid-afternoon (and weather permitting) we continue our journey around the coast to the port of Larmor Baden for a short and pleasant crossing to the island of Gavrinis. Here we take a guided tour of the Cairn de Gavrinis, one of the most interesting megalithic monuments in Brittany. Built around 3500 BC, it is made of stones piled on a hillock and is 6m high and 50m in diameter. A fourteen metre-long covered gallery, made of nine cap stones resting on twenty-three carved supports, leads to a small funeral chamber (2.5m x 2.5m) which is roofed in by a single granite slab resting on supports covered with carvings. The magnificent carvings, while difficult to interpret, are typical of Neolithic art and include axes, sticks and deities etc.
In the late afternoon we continue around the coast to the pretty town of Auray which features the picture-postcard ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful fifteenth and sixteenth-century houses. The bend in the River Loch was a natural setting for the town and it soon became one of the busiest ports in Brittany. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence. We shall take a short walk through the village and dine together at a local restaurant before continuing to Carnac for the night. (Overnight Carnac) BD

Day 16: Sunday 18 September, Carnac – Mûr-de-Bretagne – Perros-Guirec
• Carnac: stone alignments and circles
• Les Jardins du Botrain, Manoir de Botrain, Mûr-de-Bretagne
We spend the morning in Carnac examining the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC), with almost three thousand upright stones arranged in eleven almost parallel lines over several kilometres, and consider the various explanations which have been offered for their purpose and function.

After lunch we depart for Les Jardins du Botrain located outside the small town of Mûr-de-Bretagne. Inspired by English garden design, this romantic garden in the centre of Brittany is a place of relaxation and contemplation. Surrounding an eighteenth-century manor house with its unique apiary, the gardens consist of many rooms including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, an iris garden, an area of hostas, acers, a pond and even a small lake.

In the late afternoon we continue to our hotel located outside the town of Perros-Guirec, on the northern coast of Brittany at the centre of the ‘Coast of Pink Granite’. The combination of pink rocks, blue sea and a few islands on the horizon make this area very picturesque. While based in Perros-Guirec we shall visit a number of private gardens as we journey through the area’s rocky coastline, deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

Day 17: Monday 19 September, Perros-Guirec – Trédarzec – Tréguier – Penvénan – Perros-Guirec
• Les Jardins de Kerdalo, Trédarzec
• Tréguier
• Jardins de Pellinec, Penvénan
We begin this morning with a visit to the gardens of Kerdalo. The garden, in a valley near the Brittany coast, was the subject of a book by its owner-designer, Prince Peter Wolkonsky: “Kerdalo: Un Jardin d’Exception” (Paris, 1995). He began to create the garden in 1965. Originally a manor farm in its enclosed valley with natural springs, the formal garden develops into the wooded valley with a lake, pools and grotto with a rich collection of trees and shrubs. Since his death in 1997, his daughter Isabelle and her husband Timothy have restored the garden. They both trained as horticulturalists at RHS Garden Wisley.

Midday there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the old town of Tréguier, which dates from the sixth century. The port and harbour are picturesque, containing many pretty waterfront restaurants and crêperies. There are dramatic views of the quayside.

We end our day with a visit to the private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Inspired by the gardens at Kerdalo, the seven-acre garden on the Pellinec estuary with good soil was started in 1997. The microclimate has encouraged Monsieur Jean to grow a huge diversity of plants laid out in visual harmony. This superb garden was awarded 1st prize “Bonpland” in 2008. In the late afternoon we return to the hotel and enjoy dinner together. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

Day 18: Tuesday 20 September, Perros-Guirec – Ploëzal – Lanrivain – Perros-Guirec
• Château de la Roche-Jagu, Ploëzal
• Guingamp
• Le Grand Launay, Lanrivain
This morning we travel to Ploëzal to visit Le Chateau La Roche Jagu, which is surrounded by a contemporary garden in a magnificent setting overlooking the River Trieux. Inspired by medieval gardens, it features a kitchen garden, a medicinal garden and a flower garden. There are wonderful walks in the woodlands, where you can find areas of palms and camellias and water features.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the market town of Guingamp we continue our journey inland to Le Grand Launay, a remarkable garden located in Lanrivain featuring a unique design, perfectly shaped topiary and beautiful hedging. The garden was designed by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit, in collaboration with the landscape designer Gael Boedec. Their work resulted in a beautiful, modern garden with mostly green plants and some white climbing hydrangea here and there. The garden itself is built around an old castle which gives it a specific charm. One of the most fascinating parts of the garden is the so-called “garden of temptation” where boxwood snakes climb the apple as in the garden of Eden. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) B

Day 19: Wednesday 21 September, Perros-Guirec – Saint-Malo – Bazouges-la-Pérouse – Dinan
• Time at leisure in Saint-Malo
• Château de la Ballue, Bazouges-la-Pérouse
We depart Perros-Guirec early this morning and travel along the north coast of Brittany to the port city of Saint-Malo. Encircled by its strong granite ramparts, this corsair city was destroyed in August 1944, but has been so well restored that its centre exudes an austere yet characterful harmony. Here we shall have some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the city’s ramparts.

In the afternoon we continue to the Château de la Ballue, located between Brittany and Normandy, in a unique rural setting with mild hills and woods. This seventeenth-century château, which once welcomed guests such as Balzac and Victor Hugo, is surrounded by dramatic theatrical gardens. When the castle was built in 1620, it was surrounded by Italian-style gardens. They were abandoned in 1942 and could have remained fields of potatoes if the editor Claude Arthaud had not bought the property in the 1970s. Thanks to his inspiration the architects Paul Maymont and François-Hébert-Stevens created a classic garden and a mannerist garden before the gardens were discovered again by Marie-France Barrière and Alain Schrotter. The new owners have redesigned and reinterpreted the gardens with a modern twist. There are neat traditional geometric terraces, a lush fernery and scented groves.

In the late afternoon we continue to Dinan. Once a fortified stronghold of the Dukes of Brittany, Dinan is one of the prettiest and best-preserved towns in the region. It’s noted for its ‘maisons à piliers’, medieval half-timbered houses built on stilts over the sidewalks. For centuries the town has served as a hub of cultural and commercial activity, from the original merchants and traders to today’s artists and craftspeople. (Overnight Dinan) B

Day 20: Thursday 22 September, Dinan – Mont Saint-Michel – Dinan
• Mont Saint-Michel
• Time at leisure to explore the medieval town of Dinan
• Farewell Evening Meal
One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the tenth century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the eleventh. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the eleventh century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

We return to Dinan in the early afternoon, for some time at leisure. The centre of town, with its medieval half-timbered houses, is dominated by an impressive castle, and surrounded by ramparts. The 2700m of ramparts once protected the medieval citadel, which spread over thirty hectares. The ramparts were built in the thirteenth century when Dinan became a duchy and were continually improved until the Wars of Religion of the sixteenth century, after which they lost their defensive role. You may wish to take a lovely circular walk along the ramparts starting from the castle. Tonight we enjoy an evening farewell meal in a local restaurant. (Overnight Dinan) BD

Day 21: Friday 23 September, Dinan – Rennes (tour ends)
• Transfer to Rennes’ TGV Station
This morning we drive from Dinan to Rennes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport or other French destination. B

2016 Britain and Ireland Garden Cruise with Sue McDougall

2016 Britain and Ireland Garden Cruise, hosted by Sue McDougall

 

DAY 1 Saturday June 11, 2016 Depart Australia
Today we depart Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth on our flight to London.

DAY 2 Sunday June 12, 2016 London, England
This morning we arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport. After clearing customs, we will be met by our private coach and transferred to our well-located hotel before travelling on a sightseeing tour with a local Blue Badge guide. Some of the great sights included on our tour are Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Palace of Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby to suggest restaurants for dinner.

DAY 3 Monday June 13, 2016 Southampton, England
In the morning we are transferred to Southampton to board the Caribbean Princess for our voyage around the British Isles. Southampton served as Britain’s historic ocean liner gateway for the British Empire and the intense North Atlantic passenger trade to the U.S. and Canada. Today it is the U.K.’s leading cruise port.

Day 4 Tuesday June 14 2016 St Peter Port, Guernsey
This morning we arrive at St Peter Port, Guernsey’s main town, built in a steep valley leading down to the harbour, with spectacular views across to Alderney and the other islands. The granite buildings now occupied by shops were once the homes of the town’s wealthy and the High Street still has its original cobbles. The town was put on the map in 1855 when Victor Hugo, exiled from France, made his home at Hauteville House and where he wrote Les Miserables. We visit the Victorian era Candie Gardens, where we see spectacular antique greenhouses. The view from the gardens over St Peter Port is stunning.

Day 5 Wednesday June 15, 2016 Cobh, Eire
This morning we arrive at the port city of Cork, the third largest city in Ireland after Dublin and Belfast. On our tour today we first visit the privately-owned 1.2 hectare Glenview garden. This gorgeous garden features a white sunken garden, a Mediterranean and Japanese garden, as well as a beautiful wildflower meadow. In the afternoon we visit The Cobh Queenstown Story Visitor Centre. We will explore the conditions on board the early immigrant vessels, including the “coffin ships”, experience life on board a convict ship bound for Australia in 1801 and discover the connection of Cobh with the Titanic.

Day 6 Thursday June 16, 2016 Dublin, Eire
Today we arrive in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland and well-known as being a place of friendliness and ‘craic’, and a city well over 1000 years-old. Ireland’s famous capital is located on the River Liffey and looks seawards to its port and the waters of Dublin Bay. In the morning we visit Helen Dillon’s acclaimed garden often featured in lists of top ten world gardens. Within a walled rectangular garden, typical of Dublin’s Georgian town houses she has created one of the best town gardens in Ireland. Set around a newly created canal, the mixed borders of shrubs and herbaceous perennials change every season revealing unusual plants and exciting colour combinations. During our sightseeing tour in the afternoon we see elegant Georgian squares and streets including Merrion Square laid out in 1762. We see Trinity College founded in 1592 by Elizabeth 1. It developed according to the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge. Many buildings were added to the university in the 18th and 19th century. We visit Grafton Street, Dublin’s finest pedestrian shopping street. We see Leinster House, converted to house the Republican parliament in 1922, and St Stephen’s Green, formally common land, enclosed in 1663. They are now beautifully landscaped gardens.

Day 7 Friday June 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland
We dock in Belfast this morning. Belfast is one of the great industrial and commercial cities of the Victorian era. We see Donegall Square the hub of Belfast. Bordering the Square are Yorkshire House and the Linden Hall Library two grand buildings. We see City Hall, the Grand Opera House and St Anne’s Cathedral and learn about the troubles that blighted the cities growth for 30 years. This afternoon we travel to visit Mount Stewart House and Garden. The magnificent formal gardens extensive parklands and the palatial mansion were home to one of the most eminent and influential families in the Unionist cause. Sir Edward Lutyens and his garden designer Gertrude Jekyll were employed to design a garden that linked the garden to the house. The Italian garden grows a superb array of herbaceous borders. There is a Spanish Garden and a Sunk Garden which displays yellow, blue and orange flowering plants, Jekyll’s favourite colours.

Day 8 Saturday June 18, 2016 Liverpool, England
This morning we dock in Liverpool and travel to Cheshire to visit the vast Tatton Park Estate, home of the Egerton family for nearly 400 years. There are historic parterres around the house, a palm house, a conservatory, an impressive Japanese garden and a sunken rose garden. We will visit the garden and house. On our return to Liverpool we have free time to explore Liverpool’s restored city centre.

Day 9 Sunday June 19, 2016 Glasgow, Scotland
Today we arrive at Glasgow, a city full of style, energy, and its own gritty history. From its humble beginnings, Glasgow reaped the wealth of the industrial revolution, as we will see on our tour when you pass Glasgow Cathedral and travel through the Merchant City. From Glasgow Cross we move into the medieval part of town and Glasgow Green. Here we see the People’s Palace and the Victoria Fountain, the world’s largest terracotta fountain. We travel to Fintry to visit two stunning privately-owned gardens. At Dun Ard we see an exceptionally well-planned organic garden, incorporating many of the elements of contemporary horticultural design. We will see a potager, a rose parterre and more.

Day 10 Monday June 20, 2016 At sea
A day at sea to enjoy the facilities of the ship. Late morning, come and test your knowledge with a fun game of Garden Trivial Pursuit organised by Sue McDougall. The group will be divided into teams with prizes awarded to the winners.

Day 11 Tuesday June 21, 2016 Invergordon, Scotland
This morning we dock at Invergordon. We travel along beautiful Cromarty Firth to Cawdor Castle, which dates from the late 14th century, and explore the various gardens within the castle grounds. The Walled Garden is the oldest garden, dating from 1620, and cultivated with soft fruit, flowers, vegetables and orchards growing closely together. The Flower Garden was laid out circa 1710 by the Thane of Cawdor’s brother, Sir Archibald Campbell. The Thane as a young man was sent to Blois and Paris to study law and fencing, which may be the reason behind the French influence in the formal design of this garden.

Day 12 Wednesday June 22, 2016 Edinburgh, Scotland
Today we visit Edinburgh, the Royal and ancient capital of Scotland, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. On our panoramic sight-seeing tour we see the ancient Royal Mile with its cobbled streets that form the backbone of the medieval Old Town and lead from the Palace of Holyroodhouse (HM The Queen’s official residence in Scotland) all the way to Edinburgh Castle. This impressive fortress is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the historic Stone of Destiny. During the afternoon we will visit Greywalls. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as a golfing holiday home in 1901. The 2.5 hectare formal gardens were designed by Gertrude Jekyll and the main gardens, lying to the south, has recently been re-designed by Laura McKenzie using many of Jekyll’s favourite plants. There is a single herbaceous border, a lavender border and a charming parterre of box.

Day 13 Thursday June 23, 2016 At sea
A day at sea to enjoy the facilities of the ship. Perhaps enjoy a little pampering or a massage in the Day Spa. Late morning join us for an interesting talk by Sue about her life involved with gardening.

Day 14 Friday June 24, 2016 Le Havre, France
We dock in Le Havre this morning. We visit Claude Monet’s famous house and beautiful garden at Giverny. This garden, with its ponds and water lilies and its Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Another section of the garden has a more formal layout, featuring espaliered apples and pears and abundant plantings of roses, irises, poppies and more. It has been magnificently restored and gives a vivid impression of Monet’s inspiration. On our return journey we visit Honfleur, which overlooks the Seine estuary. It is a very picturesque port with streets and quayside full of character. The old harbour shelters a fishing fleet as well as yachts and pleasure craft.

Day 15 Saturday June 25, 2016 Canterbury, England
Early this morning we arrive back in Southampton. After breakfast and clearing customs we travel to the county of Kent. Known for its apple orchards and hop oast houses the county is very lush. We visit the house and gardens at Great Dixter. One of the best-known gardens in Britain surrounds a thatched 15th-century manor house. The sunken garden was designed and constructed by Christopher Lloyd, a noted plantsman, gardener and writer who lived and gardened here all his life, composing a series of gardens, including fine topiary and a magnificent mixed long border. This garden is a true gem. We continue to bustling Canterbury where we check in to our hotel and the remainder of the afternoon will be free for individual activity.

Day 16 Sunday June 26, 2016 Canterbury, England
This morning is free to explore Canterbury. It was an important town in Roman times. With the building of the cathedral and the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in 1170 AD it became more famous. This afternoon we visit Goodnestone Park Gardens, a haven of beautiful tranquillity. The gardens, with centuries of history, have been lovingly created by generations of the Fitzwalter family who have lived here since they built the house. The Walled Garden has climbers and wall plants such as clematis and jasmine hanging from its wall, some of which are older than
the house itself.

Day 17 Monday June 27, 2016 Canterbury, England
Today we visit two of the finest gardens in England. We first visit Scotney Castle Garden. The formal garden overlooks a quarry garden while the grounds of the old castle enclose a rose garden. The lakeside planting adds an air of informality. Evergreens and deciduous trees provide structure while many shrubs and flowering plants ensure something is in bloom at every season. This afternoon we visit the renowned garden at Sissinghurst Castle, created by Vita Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicholson. This romantic garden is one of the outstanding gardens of the world. Sue will make sure that you get the most out of this inspiring garden. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby.

Day 18 Tuesday June 28, 2016 London, England
This morning we drive to London. On the journey we will visit the Royal Horticultural Garden, Wisley. The RHS was given Wisley Estate in trust by Sir Thomas Hanbury in 1903. The garden will capture the imagination with richly planted borders and luscious rose gardens and amazing glasshouses which recreate tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate habitats. Trials of flowers, vegetables and fruit were expanded at Wisley and they continue to be some of the principal features of the garden. Several Chelsea Flower Show prize winning gardens are displayed in the grounds. We continue to check into our London hotel. The remainder of the afternoon will be free. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner, or you might like to catch one of the many splendid London shows.

Day 19 Wednesday June 29, 2016 London, England
We visit Capel Manor Gardens, with over 12 hectares and more than 60 gardens and landscapes to explore, surrounding a Georgian manor house this morning. It contains some previous gold-medal winning show gardens from Chelsea, including The Australian Garden from 2011, as well as a 17th-century walled garden, Italianate maze, vegetable plots and plant collections of scented pelargoniums and salvias. Capel Manor College is an esteemed horticultural college. We continue to with a visit to the private garden of Mr and Mrs Raworth in West London. This is a true collectors’ garden with some rare and unusual plants. Among its many features are impressive hedges of privet yew. We will enjoy afternoon tea during our tour of the garden. We will have a farewell dinner this evening to say good-bye to our new friends. D

Day 20 Thursday June 30, 2016 Departure
This morning is free for individual exploration. We continue our day with a visit Mr and Mrs Whittington’s garden, Southwood Lodge in north London. An imaginatively designed garden created in 1963 from a much larger one. By the house dense planting and container displays surround a paved area enclosed on two sides by tall hedges. Through an arch in the beech hedge, steps lead down to a grassy walk edged by mixed borders. After our visit we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Australia.

Day 21 Friday July 1, 2016 In flight

Day 22 Saturday July 2, 2016 Australia

Carolyn Robinson’s Gardens of England Tour

Carolyn Robinson’s Gardens of England Tour Itinerary

 

Day 1 Thu 23 June: Brisbane – Singapore 
This morning depart Brisbane on your Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to you r accommodation. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 2 Fri 24 June: Singapore (B,D)
After breakfast you will enjoy a tour to the Gardens by the Bay. The key attractions of the gardens include from viewing the amazing plants from cool dry areas in the Flower Dome, to tropical plants in the Cloud Forest. Gaze up in awe at the dramatic vertical plant displays of the Supertrees. This evening enjoy a night out in bustling China Town, dinner is included at a local restaurant. Afterwards stroll through the night markets and the enjoy a rick enjoy a Chinese banquet

Day 3 Sat 25 June:  Singapore – London (B)
This Morning you will be transferred to the airport for your Singapore Airlines fight to London. Afternoon arrival at London Heathrow, you will be met at the airport by an English-speaking assistant and transferred to your centrally located Hotel for overnight accommodation by coach.
Hotel: Queens Gate Hotel, London


Day 4 Sun 26 June:  London (B,D)
Breakfast this morning. Day at leisure.
This evening please meet your Tour Manager for departure on a Thames dinner cruise, duration 2.45hrs. Enjoy a 4-course a la carte dinner as you cruise down the River Thames, gliding past some of London’s most spectacular landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge. Return to your hotel around 10:00pm.
Hotel: Queens Gate Hotel, London


Day 5 Mon 27 June:   London – Wesley – Tunbridge Wells (B,D)
This morning after breakfast travel with your Tour Manager to the RHS Gardens at Wisley with a stop for morning tea. An official expert guide will meet you at the gardens and take you on a conducted tour with free time later to explore on your own. Early afternoon, travel to fashionable Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent for your 4 night stay. Tonight enjoy a 3-course welcome dinner. 
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 6 Tue 28 June: Tunbridge Wells – Edenbridge – Ticehurst – Tunbridge Wells (B)
This morning travel to renowned Leyden Gardens for a special opening and presentation by the owner and highly regarded garden designer, Roger Platts. This is one of the special highlights of the tour. This afternoon we visit award winning Pashley Manor Gardens where your guide either be will be the owner and creator or the head gardener. Free time in the gardens before returning to your hotel late afternoon. 
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 7 Wed 29 June: Tunbridge Wells – Sissinghurst – Rolveden – Tunbridge Wells (B)
Today first to one of the most famous of English Gardens – Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens. You are booked for an earlybird tour at 10 am before the crowds arrive and you’ll be shown around these wonderful gardens by one of their expert guides. Later you will have free time to explore on your own. This afternoon travel to a hidden gem, Hole Park Gardens, where the Barham family have been residents for 4 generations. The 200 acres of superb classic parkland with gardens incorporating a skilful mix of formal design and more naturalised planting, give colour throughout the year. Your tour will be conducted by the owner or head gardener with free time afterwards before returning to your hotel. 
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 8 Thu 30 June: Tunbridge Wells – Northlam – Hurst Green – Tunbridge Wells (B)
You travel today to a pilgrimage place of horticulturalists from across the world and home of gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – Great Dixter Gardens. During your guided tour by the head gardener you will wonder at mixed borders of shrubs, climbers, hardy and tender perennials, annuals and biennials, all growing together and contributing to the overall tapestry. This afternoon a short drive to Merriments Gardens where the owner will guide you around the 4 acres of peaceful, colourful gardens followed by an included Vintage Tea Party on pretty bone china with delicious home made treats.
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 9 Fri 01 July: Tunbridge Wells – Feering – Colchester (B,D)
Say farewell to Royal Tunbridge Wells and travel across the Thames to Essex where you first visit RHS Feeringbury Manor, the amazing 10 acre garden on land originally owned by William the Conqueror. Free time to explore the gardens before travelling to another tour highlight – Beth Chatto Gardens. Starting in 1960, Beth created the famous gardens from overgrown wasteland with poor gravel soil and boggy hollows. The gardens today are an inspiration to gardeners everywhere! After a guided tour enjoy a delightful included afternoon tea overlooking the Gravel Garden. Later arrive at your hotel for 2 nights at the Best Western Rose and Crown Hotel (or similar). Tonight enjoy a 3-course dinner at the hotel. 
Overnight: North Hill Hotel, Colchester

Day 10 Sat 02 July: Colchester – Chelmsford – Colchester (B)
This morning travel to one of the finest gardens in the East of England – RHS Garden Hyde Hall. Your guided tour will introduce you to some of the delights of this 360 acre estate and later plenty of free time to explore on your own. Return to Colchester after lunch with time to explore this historic city which is the oldest recorded Roman town in Britain. 
Overnight: North Hill Hotel, Colchester

Day 11 Sun 03 July:  Colchester – Helmingham – Cambridge (B,D)
Depart Colchester and travel north to Suffolk to historic Helmingham Hall Gardens, home of the Tollemache family since 1510. You’ll have ample time to explore the ancient gardens in the 400 acre estate at your own pace as well as perhaps enjoy lunch in the tearoom. Later travel to Cambridge for your overnight stay at the Best Western PLUS Cambridge Quay Mill Hotel (or similar). Dinner tonight is at a nearby restaurant. 
Overnight: BW Plus Cambridge Quay Mill Hotel, Cambridge

Day 12 Mon 04 July:  Cambridge – Buxton (B,D)
Firstly enjoy a guided visit to the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens with plants from all over the world in gardens and glasshouses. Later meet a local tour guide who will take you to see the major sights of this famous University City including Kings College, The Backs, River Cam and Bridge of Sighs. Then travel to Buxton in Derbyshire for your overnight stay. Dinner tonight is at the hotel. 
Overnight: The Old Hall Hotel, Buxton

Day 13 Tue 05 July: Buxton – York (B,D)
Today you visit magnificent Chatsworth House and Gardens, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The house dates from the 1560s and the 105 acre gardens is a blend of 6 different centuries. You will enjoy introductory guided tours of both the house and garden before free time to explore on your own. Late afternoon travel on to York for your 3-night stay. Tonight dinner at your hotel.
Overnight: Best Western Monkbar, York

Day 14 Wed 06 July:  York – Harrogate – York (B)
This morning a comprehensive morning tour of this ancient city with local guide when you will see many sights including Clifford’s Tower, the Shambles and York Minster. This afternoon travel to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr Garden. There your guided tour will include the jewel of the garden, the famous Streamside Garden as well as the Kitchen Garden, and fascinating Alpine House. Later return to York to overnight.
Overnight: Best Western Monkbar, York

Day 15 Thu 07 July: York – Malton – Ripon – York (B)
Today first to Malton for a guided tour of Scampston Walled Garden. This unique garden, set within the 18th century walls of a kitchen garden is the result of a vision by Lord and Lady Legard and the designer Piet Oudolf. At the Chelsea Flower Show in 2000 it won the prestigious Gold and ‘Best in Show’ award.
This afternoon travel to Newby Hall where you will have free time to wander through this relatively small but enchanting award winning garden of just 25 acres with one of Europe’s largest double herbaceous gardens and lovely woodland walks.
Overnight: Best Western Monkbar, York

Day 16 Fri 08 July: York – Caton – Lancaster (B,D)
Today you leave York and drive to Caton for a tour highlight – Gresgarth Hall Gardens. The gardens are open just a few days a year but we have arranged a special opening for you with a tour and talk by the head gardener. The creation of the owner and distinguished garden designer Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, Gresgarth has been described as one of the greatest gardens of our times and as such is a “must see” of our tour. Late afternoon we travel to the nearby Penny Street Bridge Hotel (or similar) where we also dine. Overnight Lancaster.
Overnight: Lancaster House Hotel, Lancaster

Day 17 Sat 09 July: Lancaster – Halifax – Chester (B,D)
Today travel south to Halifax to visit a fascinating and unique small garden – Dove Cottage Garden. This very special small garden was created by the Rogers family to feature a wide range of perennials and grasses, many from the North American Prairies. This naturalistic 1/3 acre garden is north facing which is unusual to say the least and is surrounded by Yorkshire stone walls and hedges. The garden “looks good, feels good and smells good” say the owners. You will love it and will have plenty of time to browse and observe. Mid- afternoon travel on to Macdonald New Blossom Hotel (or similar) for your two night stay. Dinner tonight at the hotel.
Overnight: MacDonald New Blossom Hotel, Chester

Day 18 Sun 10 July: Chester – Northwich – Chester (B) 
This morning travel to nearby Northwich to Arley Hall and Gardens for a guided tour by Lord Ashbrook (booked but subject to confirmation closer to the date). Arley has been the family home of the Ashbrooks since the 15th century and the gardens are some of the finest in Britain. The 8 acres of formal gardens feature amongst other things the famous Herbaceous Border, Pleached Lime Avenue of trees and the furlong walk. This afternoon return to ancient Chester for a tour by a local guide when you will see the amazing Roman Walls, Eastgate and its clock, and The Rows.
Overnight: MacDonald New Blossom Hotel, Chester

Day 19 Mon 11 July: Chester – Neston – Chipping Campden – Cheltenham (B,D)
First travel to Ness Botanical Gardens of the University of Liverpool, founded by the cotton merchant Arthur Bulley who was responsible for introducing hundreds of new plants to Britain, especially from China and the Himalayas. You will have some time to explore at your leisure before a 3 hour trip south to the Cotswolds and renowned Hidcote Gardens. Here you will have free time to explore the maze of narrow paved pathways and discover secret gardens, magnificent vistas and plants that burst with colour. Many of the plants found growing in the garden came from the creator Major Lawrence Johnston’s many plant hunting trips to far away places. It’s the perfect place if you’re in need of gardening inspiration. Late afternoon travel to the George Hotel (or similar) for 4 nights in fashionable Cheltenham. Dinner tonight at your hotel.
Overnight: The Thistle Hotel, Cheltenham

Day 20 to Day 22 Tue 12 Jul – Thu 14 Jul:  Cheltenham – Lower Wardington – Chipping Campden – Cheltenham (B) 
The final timings and days of garden visits for the next 4 days will not be known until February 2016 when we are able to book and confirm the precise day when you will visit Highgrove Gardens of His Royal Highness Prince Charles. However we can confirm the following visits –
• Pettifer’s Garden – Another garden where we have gained special entrance and you will have time to marvel at the small garden created since 1984 by Gina Price. This is a “gem” of an English garden.
• Kifsgate Garden – This famous garden is the work of 3 generations of ladies beginning in the 1920s. A wonderful small English garden which gets rave reviews.
• Sezincote Garden – This incredible Indian House was the inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. It is set within a romantic water garden with pools, waterfalls, grotto and Hindu Temple. You will love its eccentricity.
• Sudely Castle and Gardens – You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy at your leisure the gardens of this historic castle. Don’t miss the Queens Garden, White Garden, Knot Garden, Tudor Physic Garden and the Herb Garden Walk. Lovers of history can visit St Mary’s Church to see the tomb of Queen Katherine Parr, the only English queen to be buried on private land.
• Highgrove Gardens – The home of HRH Prince Charles is a definite tour highlight and a “must see”!! Over 30 years in the making, the organic gardens at Highgrove are both innovative and inspiring. One of the Prince’s experienced guides with take you on a tour which includes The Stumpery, the stunning wildflower meadow and the impressive walled garden.
• Tour of Bath with local guide viewing all the major sights including Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent. Plenty of free time to enjoy this wonderful city and see more of what interests you. Visit the Roman Baths and Pump Room if you have never been before.
• Ilford Manor Gardens – Your visit to this picturesque garden will allow you to enjoy the work of the founder Harold Ainsworth Peto who created Italian gardens set into a very steep hillside with wonderful views of the valley.
• Heale Garden (near Salisbury) – You’ll tour this lovely formal garden beside the river Avon and see its walled garden, Japanese garden and catch a glimpse of the trout for which the river is famous.
Overnight: The Thistle Hotel, Cheltenham

Day 23 Fri 15 July: Cheltenham – Bath – Salisbury (B,D) 
Tonight arrive at the Mercure White Hart Hotel (or similar) and dine at the hotel. 
Overnight: Mercure White Heart, Salisbury

Day 24 Sat 16 July: Salisbury – London Heathrow Departure
This morning meet your local guide for a city tour of Salisbury with time at the conclusion to pay a visit to Salisbury Cathedral. You then travel to Windsor where you first tour the castle with an audio guide and later visit the Savill Gardens, Britain’s finest ornamental garden.
The Savill Garden is a true wonder, a garden for all seasons and a place of beauty and colour that’s loved by horticulturalists and enthusiasts alike. Visitors can journey through 35 acres of interconnecting gardens and exotic woodland. Don’t miss the Rose Garden opened by H.M. the Queen in 2010.
Late afternoon your coach will take you to London Heathrow Airport where you say farewell to your tour manager and driver and board for flight with Singapore Airlines for Australia.

Day 25 Sun 17 July: In Transit at Singapore

Day 26 Mon 18 July: Arrival Brisbane
Early morning flight arrival into Brisbane.

NOTE: At many gardens there are musical events, craft days, markets, car rallies and all sorts of happenings during the summer. No doubt some of these will be happening whilst you are there and you will be able to enjoy them.