Day 3 of my short break to Oxford was a visit to Rousham Gardens. I was surprised at the number of people who had not heard of Rousham when I spoke of our itinerary, it is clearly a little known, but very important in the history of garden design. Rousham is an original English Landscape Garden, almost unchanged since William Kent (1685-1748) remodelled the garden created by Charles Bridgeman in the 1720’s.
Rousham is a favourite of Monty Don and in this video he describes it as the best landscape garden in the country. I have included it in this post as it really does give you an excellent feel as to why it is such a great place. Having spent several hours at Rousham I now fully understand his love of the garden. Monty’s video concentrates on the landscape part of the garden with its Palladian style of architecture, classic temples, follies and statues. As you will see later in this post there is more to the garden than landscape.
A brief history of William Kent
William Kent was born in Bridlington, and started as a painter decorator. He was encouraged by an employer to study art, design and architecture and had a period of study in Italy. Kent became an eminent architect of both houses and landscapes originating English Landscape gardens. He was involved with Stowe Gardens and this is probably why when walking around Rousham it definitely has a Stowe feeling about it.
Kent’s folly The Pyramid has a quintessential English countryside view, over the river, to the cattle grazing in the field opposite.
Some of the views, such as the Praeneste Terrace are probably not the same as it was in Kent’s time due to the well established trees, leaving the intended view to your imagination. The eagle eyed of you who have watched Monty’s video (filmed I believe in 2012) will notice there are no benches in the Terrrace but there are now, so I wonder if they were being renovated. I would like to think they are the original benches.
As I said earlier, there is more to Rounsham than landscape gardening. When you walk around to the back of the house, which by the way is open by prior arrangement, you are met with an immaculate, manicured, expanse of lawn, known as the Bowling Green.
To the side of the house is the Walled Garden. The rose garden was very sheltered and warm which would probably explain why the roses are still in full bloom. We sat here and had our picnic. There are no refreshment facilities at Rousham and visitors are welcome to bring picnics and spend all day enjoying the garden. The dahlia border was spectacular with the overwhelming colour being purple.
Just before you enter the Rose Garden there is a very well cared for greenhouse and a shed with onions drying. i usually see them roped and hanging from a ceiling, I have never seen then drying like the ones above.
Further down is a well stocked kitchen garden and a large area of grass with a walk of apple trees and espalier trees. It was a hot day, despite being the last day of September, and as we entered the orchard the aroma of apples was wonderful. We spoke to the gardeners who told us that this part of the walled garden was the original vegetable garden, and the smaller kitchen garden was the fruit and berries garden.
Rousham Gardens are open every day of the year from 10 am. Last admission is at 4.30 pm and the gardens close at dusk. Tickets for the garden are from a self service ticket machine at £5 per person. Rousham House is open by prior arrangement.
I loved Rousham and would really recommend a visit. This is one garden I will definitely go back to see.