Driving to Devon II: Knightshayes Court

Knightshayes 25Lunch was at Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton in Devon, a splendid Gothic Revival house with a lovely garden and the necessary café in the stables. In Rory Stuart’s book What Are Gardens For? the Green Garden here is listed as one of ‘The World’s Best Garden Experiences’. It is a secluded space, with an oval pool, a silver pear tree, a statue and a stone bench. I have visited Knightshayes many times before and I must admit that I only remembered this part of the garden vaguely; I think I had probably glanced round, thought ‘Yes, nice’ and moved on. This time I was determined to look properly.

There are terraces below the house, leading to the almost-obligatory spectacular view. But this is not to deride the view; it is spectacular. The path then leads to the Paved Garden, which has silvery-leaved plants together with purple and yellow flowers. ADD. The entrance to the Green, or Pool, Garden is guarded by two delightfully shaggy topiary dragons. They had sprouted summer growth since their last clipping and now looked furry, rather than fierce. The garden itself is beautiful, very beautiful, in a quiet, contemplative way. The simplicity contrasts with the riot of colour in the borders outside and the greys and silvers of the pear and the statue provide just enough variance to the greens of the grass, lily pads and hedges. Luckily I had it to myself and I was able to appreciate the fact that, in this case, less is definitely more. I would like to visit Rory Stuart’s other recommendations, many are in far flung destinations such as China and Brazil, but Hidcote and Snowshill Manor are easily reachable.

I walked back through the Chase Garden, where (again charmingly fluffy) hounds chase a Basil Brush-like fox along the top of the hedges. Knightshayes also has lovely woodland walks and a jealous-making Walled Kitchen Garden with mulberry trees, cutting borders and the full range of fruits and vegetables that one would expect to find providing a manor house. I have a deplorable tendency to speed through the interiors of National Trust houses, but Knightshayes itself is definitely worth venturing into, with, amongst other things, a splendid imitation vaulted Great Hall, which the family used for afternoon tea. Jane

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