The tour starts and finishes in Bath and stays at The Cross in a quaint old village near Wells. Bath is easily accessible by fast trains from London Paddington to Bath Spa station.Hestercombe
The tour will begin with coffee in the elegant Georgian Spa pump room after which we shall be driven to see the Royal Crescent and other Georgian buildings of historic Bath. We are staying at The Cross Guest House, an old 16C Inn which has been recently tastefully furnished to a very high standard. During the next four days we shall visit many gardens as well as the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace in Wells. This is in Somerset where there are the limestone gorges of the Mendip Hills and the wilderness of Lorna Doone’s Exmoor. There are excellent gardens in both these counties, in Wiltshire Iford Manor and Stourhead which is perhaps the most famous ‘English Landscape’ garden replete with magnificent temple follies, a lake, rustic bridges and a grotto. In Somerset we visit Milton Lodge, Kilver Court, Hestercombe designed jointly by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, Montacute House, Tintinhull, East Lambrook Manor and some small private gardens.
The Cost of this tour is £1350 which includes B&B and a home cooked evening meal. Included is a tour of Wells with a visit to its magnificent cathedral, transport to the gardens, garden entrance fees, leading throughout and optional evening power point talks.
Flora’s small group tours typically have 5-7 of us in a comfortable 8 seater vehicle. Dr. Sommerville plans and guides all tours, enthusiastically describing the plants, scenery and architecture which we encounter.
We meet at 11am in the Pump Room restaurant which is an easy walk from the station and after coffee a taxi will drive us around Georgian Bath to visit the Royal Crescent. We shall spend a bit of time in “Number one” which is a Museum of Georgian life and then have lunch at Victoria Park cafe close by. Our tour driver will collect us about 2pm and drive to the station to collect the luggage where it was left on arrival in Bath. On our way to Croscombe we shall visit gardens open on Sunday afternoons for the “National Garden Scheme” [NGS] and arrive at The Cross about 5.30pm.
We shall leave The Cross at 9am to visit a private garden open on the NGS and move on to Great Chalfield Manor near Melksham. This is a charming 15th-century manor house with an Arts and Crafts garden. The beautiful medieval manor with soldiers, griffons and monkeys adorning the rooftops has a moat, barns, gatehouse and there are romantic gardens with terraces, topiary houses, gazebo, lily pond, roses and springfed fishponds. We shall lunch in Bradford-on-Avon by the huge medieval Tithe Barn. After lunch we shall visit Iford Manor, a Tudor/Georgian house with a twentieth century garden in the valley of the River Frome crossed by a delightful medieval bridge. The garden belonged to the Arts and Crafts designer Harold Peto, from 1899 to 1933, and shows his love of Italy. It has a cloister garden of Pompeian scale, terraces, columnar cypresses and Peto’s vast collection of statues, urns, sarcophagi and terracotta. This is where we shall have tea before returning to The Cross at about 5.30pm.
Leaving The Cross at 9am we drive to Stourhead, the gardens open at 9am. This is one of the world’s finest landscape gardens. A magnificent lake is central to the design at Stourhead, with the lakes edge being adorned with classical temples, enchanting grottos and rare and exotic trees to discover. The Hoare family history can be uncovered in Stourhead House, a majestic Palladian mansion housing a unique Regency library with fabulous collections of Chippendale furniture. We shall lunch here and in the early afternoon visit East Lambrook Manor which is one of the bestloved privately owned gardens in England created by the late Margery Fish, a celebrated plantswoman and gardening writer. She and her husband Walter finished making the garden in the 1938 and her natural gift for combining old-fashioned and contemporary plants in a relaxed and informal manner has created a garden of immense charm. The Grade I listed garden is a renowned example of the English Cottage Garden style and is noted for its specialist collections of Hellebores and hardy geraniums.
We shall return to the Cross about 5.30pm.
We leave The Cross at 9am to visit a small private garden on the NGS and then on to Montacute House, a masterpiece of Elizabethan architecture built by Sir Edward Phelips and completed in 1601. The Long Gallery houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery and is the longest in England. There are beautiful gardens surrounding Montacute. After lunch we move on to Tintinhull garden which has a delightful formal garden as well as a working kitchen garden and orchard. There are glittering pools, secluded lawns, colourful borders and clipped hedges. The 17thcentury house has two rooms open, the majority of this beautiful house being a National Trust holiday cottage. The tour ends at The Cross about 5.30pm and those that wish may be driven to Bath but there are rooms available at the Cross for those wishing to stay although the cost for this B&B is not included in the tour price.
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