The wonderful biennial Burford festival is a feast for the senses and runs for a surprising 10 days, inncorporating amongst other things talks and lectures, music, literature, film and of course gardens. Over the opening weekend of this year’s festival, 25 private gardens were opened to the public, offering a glimpse through the garden gate of some of the secret gardens of Burford.
Being such a honeypot for visitors, Burford’s busy and thriving main street of shops (I recommend the Madhatter book shop; hats for sale amongst books with the bonus of engaging and lovely staff), cafes, restaurants and pubs belies the fact that just a few hundred yards away lie several surprising and well-tended gardens of all shapes and sizes.
Sadly with only a couple of hours to spare we were unable to visit even half of the gardens open but the ones we did see gave us a taste of Burford and we vowed to return next year.
Our garden visiting centred around Sheep Street where our first discovery was an absolute gem. Annoyingly I have lost the ‘gardens map’ so am unable to give names of all the gardens and this one I shall have to refer to as Radford’s – after its owners. Here behind a wooden gate lies a pocket-handkerchief plot packing maximum punch. This small town garden centres around a simple central square of immaculate lawn flanked by billowing perennials such as delphiniums and peonies beyond which the hillside town gardens of Burford flow into the distance towards the River Windrush. High walls form two sides of the garden whilst the warm stone of the house wall forms the fourth side to this charming garden. Box topiary and teracotta pots provide a formal element with more formality in the shape of an exquisitely trained Ribes speciosum forming neat squares against one of the stone walls beside a stone face sporting an attractive head of lobelia!
Across the road, the enchanting former inn, Greyhounds enticed the visitor into the garden through a coaching arch giving tempting views into the house and where a still-life pool had been created in a stone planter.
A sloping path bordered by a wall on one side and a wide border bursting with plants and topiary on the other opens out onto a topiary framed lawn overlooked by an enchanting summerhouse which was more like a miniature house, being built of stone and furnished.
Next door, another sloping garden was accessed through a narrow path where the most exquisite pale pink Albertine rose made a delicious still life beside an old painted cart-wheel. Steps beside a rectangular pool with resident mallard duck led up the garden through a wild orchard towards a potager.
The final garden we visited was Calendars, accessed from the rear. Because of the higgledy piggledy-ness of the town’s layout, a long path led down towards the garden, opening out in terraces. A water rill surrounded by very upright clipped ash trees overlooked a peony-framed lawn which led down to a formal box parterre planted with roses and cosmos beside the wisteria-clad stone house.
How tempting it was to peep through the windows of these beautiful houses (indeed I watched one visitor unashamedly walk into the kitchen of Calendars before quickly walking out again!) Such is the nature of opening gardens to the public.
What a shame we did not have more time to explore the record number of gardens open this year. I shall have to watch the website carefully so as not to miss the next Burford open gardens in 2019. Perhaps attending a lecture or concert should be in order too!