While gardens aren’t my number 1 go-to way to connect with nature, they’re certainly up there in terms of places that make me happy. Like most things for me, I think this is largely down to nostalgia; I have countless memories of visiting gardens with my granny and my aunties pottering around in her garden when I was little, and I was also lucky enough to grow up in my other grandma’s wild jungle garden after she passed away when I was 3. She was a magical woman and a botanist, so visiting gardens and learning about plants not only makes me feel connected to wildlife but to her as well.
When I was doing lots of travelling in new, faraway places, the first thing I would always look for was a garden. It has only been since visiting gardens on UK trips over the past year that I’ve realised I always did that. I think it was probably because there was always a little underlying pool of anxiety for me solo travelling and gardens helped to quiet that a little, whether I was in Brussels or Singapore. Though I lived in London until I was 6 and thought it was very cool to denote myself as a ‘city girl’ in my teens, I’ve actually never been drawn to cityscapes or ‘impressive’ skylines and am definitely a countryside girl through and through. I can appreciate the work that goes into human-built structures, but I just can’t see the wash of grey as anything other than depressing and meagre compared with mother nature’s power and the wild world that surrounds us and is yearning to be appreciated. I think there’s something about gardens, even, that I sort of hate because of their human qualities. Lawn stripes, invasive (but pretty) plants that have no benefit for local wildlife and paths of concrete to make walking through them easier – all of these things are almost as sad to me as a long stretch of apartment and office blocks or a huge shopping mall. It’s all about what humans want to see, rather than what we need to connect with. That being said, when gardens do offer something a little more wild, you can’t drag me away!
I have been so lucky to have spent the last 19 years of my life living on the outskirts of the Cotswolds AONB. It almost sounds silly to say that we ‘went’ there recently because it’s such a huge area that we pretty much live in – but our “trip to the Cotswolds” last week is what this blog post is all about. We visited several absolutely beautiful gardens, each with their own little pieces of magic, but I’m going to talk about my 3 favourites for the time being.
Hidcote National Trust
Counting down from number 3, we have a National Trust beauty. I almost didn’t include this one because I didn’t have the best time there, but on reflection, I was feeling really anxious that day which wasn’t the garden’s fault! I found it really hard to settle and ground myself; the fragrances can be quite overpowering and most of the paths are one-way, so you can’t take your time as much as you can in other gardens which is what I would typically do. But looking back over my photos and videos, it’s a pretty special place and I’d love to go back when I’m feeling a bit more in the right frame of mind! The layout of the gardens has clearly been a labour of love; each part is thought of as a different ‘room’. I particularly loved meeting the plant ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ – so much so it got a bit of story time on my Instagram. I walked around for a couple of hours, but honestly you could spend a lot longer here. There is so much to see, and they even have a croquet lawn for visitors to use if you decide to make a day of it!
Miserden is a family-run estate with a wonderful assortment of garden sections, including a new hidden ‘secret garden’ (although I was a bit disappointed when I found it and it was mostly gravel… maybe it’s not finished yet/I got lost). The garden was so quiet despite it being a sunny Sunday, and at multiple points I had entire sections of the garden to myself. I think my favourite part was rounding a corner at one point and being bombarded by the smell of roses as I found myself underneath a rose arch. The sweet peas were also lovely, and a mini wildflower meadow that brought a tear to my eye when I stumbled upon it unexpectedly. A large portion of the garden here is a huge expanse of lawn, so if you’re like me and aren’t really interested in the more formal aspects like that, you could easily take your time and still only need around an hour or two here.
Snowshill Manor Gardens
My definite favourite of this trip was Snowshill. It was probably helped by the fact that Bridget Jones was filmed in the village and Cotswold Lavender is literally around the corner – the key to my heart. But going from the sometimes overpowering scents at Hidcote to the subtle, perfect combinations at Snowshill was lovely. Again, the garden was so quiet and teeming with wildlife – definitely helped along by several wildlife conservation areas within the garden. I really appreciated the effort that had gone into signposting nature hotspots, explaining why it was important not to disrupt the wildflower meadow and encouraging visitors to look for ant hills and count bees. It’s not a huge garden but you could easily spend a couple of hours here just reading about the history of the manor and Charles Wade who lived there and created the garden. I particularly loved the variety of lupins, one of my favourite plants.