What’s not to like about a garden visit that includes a stately home with resident family, a Capability Brown landscape and glorious gardens? Bowood, near Calne in Wiltshire ticks all these boxes in spades with the added bonus of a tour around the private walled garden belonging to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.
The impressive house is actually only a fraction of the original Georgian pile, in fact this year, 2021 marks the 65th anniversary of the demolition of the main house at Bowood which was demolished in the period following WW2 when so many large country houses were obliterated due to rising financial costs. Today, the part that remains actually appears as a complete house and it is hard to imagine without seeing photos what the original pile would have looked like. Luckily I found a photo online:
Today a wide flower border and lawn take the place of the demolished building, but the original Italianate terraced garden remains.
The Grade 1 listed parkland surrounds a mile-long lake, completed between 1762 and 1768 for the 2nd Earl of Shelborne. Naturalistic park-type settings were the height of fashion at the time, replacing more formal gardens. In addition to the expansive parkland, there are water cascades and a grotto, both latterly added following advice by Charles Hamilton who later owned and designed Painshill Park in Cobham.
An Italianate terraced garden graces the facade of the orangery, designed by Robert Adam in the mid 1700s. The formal Italian garden, laid out by Robert Smirke in the mid 19th century was designed to link the orangery with the now demolished main house. Symmetrical gravel paths surround immaculate lawn and flowerbeds, punctuated with topiary and fountains.
For me the most interesting part of the garden is the private four acre walled garden – not always open to the public. Divided into four separate areas, each quarter is completely different. My favourite by far was inhabited by the most pampered chickens, their own enclosure like a mini-meadow with mown paths amongst long grass when they pecked happily. Surrounded by wide gravel paths, this part of the garden offered the most interesting flower borders; one in cool greens and whites and the other in hot fiery mid-summer colours. Walled garden tours can be booked via the website: https://www.bowood.org/bowood-house-gardens/tickets/
Like all large country estates, Bowood has had to diversify in order to survive and welcomes families, providing an adventure playground and soft play area. In addition, Bowood hosts workshops and open-air cinema screenings as well as sporting events such as triathalons.