Hidcote Manor Garden: Something For Everyone

There are a few significant gardens in the UK which are on any keen gardener’s ‘must-see’ list; Hidcote in Gloucestershire is one of them. Today it is owned by the National Trust and, unlike most NT gardens which seem to open in March or at Easter, Hidcote opens in mid-February, giving visitors the opportunity to discover its winter bones. From our new Bee HQ, Google Maps took me winding through 3 counties and many narrow lanes, and despite being in the very back of beyond, I finally found it after a couple of wrong turns here and there. Just in time to get a take away coffee and start my mooch about, note-book in hand. Being February, it wasn’t too busy, despite it also being half-term. It was peaceful and tranquil. The hover-flies massing on the Mahonias were about as loud and hectic as it got.

Hidcote Manor Garden Gloucestershitre

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Evergreen ‘bones’ to any garden are fascinating I think. This is a garden which was built on the idea of different ‘rooms’, by the famous American plant-hunter and gentleman gardener, Lawrence Johnstone (1871 – 1958). Other gardens are set up in a similar fashion (notably Sissinghurst in Kent) and it is now a technique often employed in modern gardens.  The bones at Hidcote are mainly box hedging, plenty of yew, pleached hornbeam, pergolas and topiary. Gates, pillars, vistas and gazebos abound and there are beautiful views of the Malvern countryside too. I have a particular interest in vertical structures and am always on the look-out for exciting ideas for my own garden. It is often easier to see these in the depths of winter than when they are smothered in luxuriant flowers later in the year.

 

Beech Allee at Hidcote

It was very noticeable just how many actual gardeners (as opposed to visitors) were at Hidcote today. Presumably a mixture of volunteers (the National Trust has thousands of volunteers who help maintain their properties and gardens) and paid staff. None of them seemed at all put out by my many questions (primarily about box blight and pruning times for some shrubs). Indeed the advice was thorough, expert, interesting and willingly given.

Lawrence Johnstone's Tool Shed, Hidcote

Hidcote Facts & Figures

If you have never been, I thoroughly recommend a visit. A cafe, National Trust shop and a plant sale area all add to the delight.

 

Annie Bee x

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Surprising Finds #5 ~ A Revolving Writer’s Hut

If you read (and hopefully enjoyed) my recent blogpost on The Rise Of The She Shed, you will know what a fan I am of interesting small workspaces.

I am fortunate to live fairly near Shaw’s Corner, the National Trust’s country home of Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw. He lived in the Edwardian villa for over 40 years from 1906; he was hugely prolific, writing nearly 60 plays, over 250,000 letters and untold numbers of articles and pamphlets. Today the property is open to the public and is well-tended by staff and volunteers.

His writing hut at Shaw’s Corner (as the local villagers called the Rectory) in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, was, and is today (after restoration) a remarkable spot indeed. The strange thing about his hut is that it spins. Mounted on a revolving mechanism, when finding himself writing in the shade, he simply put his shoulder into it and shifted it to chase the sun.

Shaw is known to have written many of his major works in his home-built revolving hut located at the bottom of his garden. So how did it work? The tiny structure was built on a central steel-pole frame with a circular track so that it could be rotated on its axis to follow the arc of the sun’s light during the day. Shaw dubbed the hut “London”, so that unwanted visitors could be told he was away “visiting the capital”. Ingenious. Today the garden is rather more heavily planted than when he was using it to top up on Vitamin D, but it is an enchanting spot nonetheless. He had a phone, desk, electricity and (I LOVE this bit) a bed!.

I took these photos today and hope they give an idea of the charm of both the hut and the house and gardens. Sadly the house was closed for what turns out to be some major electrical renovations, but, while the grounds are small, they are most appealing. Information on visiting can be found here.

Some further research on the hut and Shaw turned up some other photos and an article from 1929 detailing the health benefits of his revolving hut – plenty of Vitamin D. Funnily enough there was a recent report in the news here in the UK about the variable amount of Vitamin D us Brits can obtain from our often dodgy weather. Public Health England says more than one in five people have low levels of vitamin D. Shaw, who by the way lived well into his 90s, was clearly well ahead of his time.

I love this picture of him with his surf board in South Africa when he was 75:

George Bernard Shaw surfing at the Muizenberg beach at the age of 75

Other notable writer’s huts are plentiful: perhaps the most famous in the UK are Roald Dahl’s:

Roald Dahl's hut

Roald Dahl’s writing hut, Buckinghamshire

……… and Dylan Thomas’s hut in Laugharne, Camarthenshire.

Inside Dylan Thomas's hut

Inside Dylan Thomas’s hut


Dylan Thomas's hut, Laugharne

Dylan Thomas’s hut, Laugharne

There are more inspiring photos of sheds and writer’s huts: here.

If you are lucky enough to have a hut where you work, I would love to hear about it.

Well, the sun is out (we have had a dismal summer in my view) so I am off out to top up on some vitamin D myself.

Annie Bee x

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