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A wry view of life for the world-weary

Rural Rides (26)

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The Cotswolds

After far too long the metaphorical Mr Cobbett was able to release his trusty (and rusty) steed and head off towards that beautiful part of England around Chipping Campden in the heart of the Cotswolds. We spent a couple of nights in village of Mickleton at the Three Ways House, home of the world-famous Pudding Club. Coincidentally, we timed our visit with a Pudding weekend – it meant that parking spaces were at a premium – but were able to sample their wares. My spotted dick with a huge jug of custard was delicious.

One of the principal attractions of the gaff was that it was within walking distance – a couple of miles or so as the crow flies across the undulating fields – of one of my favourite gardens at Hidcote Manor. The walk was pleasant enough and not too arduous and we were blessed with fine weather and firm dry conditions underfoot. One of the benefits of arriving by foot is that you feel amply justified in taking advantage of the many benches dotted around the garden and take in the wonderful scenery and drink in the floral scents.

The garden was originally designed by an American, Lawrence Johnston in around 1910 and is heavily influenced by the work of Alfred Parsons and Gertrude Jeckyll. The clever use of stone walls, box hedges, hornbeam and yew creates a series of areas or outdoor rooms, each with their own theme – the White Garden, the Fuchsia Garden (magnificent on our visit) and the like. Each time you go through an archway or turn a corner you encounter new delights and a different vista. It is well worth a visit.

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Just down the lane is to be found Kiftsgate Court Gardens which, unlike the National Trust run Hidcote, is privately owned and only allows the great unwashed to tramp around between 2 and 6 o’clock. Perched high up the garden offers wonderful views of the vale of Evesham and the surrounding countryside.

The gardens are the work of three generations of women. Heather Muir started work in the 1920s creating a paved formal garden in front of the portico of the house. The steep slope was tackled and a summer house was built half way down. A path leads you on to the Lower Garden complete with a semi-circular pond. The views are stunning. Muir’s work was carried on from 1950 by Diany Binny and then her daughter and current owner, Anne Chambers, bore the responsibility from the 1980s.

Surrounded by a magnificent yew hedge, planted in the 1930s, is now a rather incongruous pool with water feature, adding a touch of modernity to what is otherwise a garden with a traditional feel. It was originally a tennis court but the upkeep proved too expensive. The other notable feature of the garden is the Kiftsgate Rose – alas, it had finished flowering by the time of our visit – which, at over 50 feet high and 80 feet wide, is the largest climbing rose plant in Britain.

We retraced our steps and rewarded ourselves with a couple of pints at the Kings Arms in Mickleton where TOWT was stung four times by a wasp which managed to inveigle its way into her trousers. At least it gave us the opportunity to rediscover the delights of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

The countryside can be a dangerous place at times.

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