Slow Cotswolds

  • Blossom at Blenheim

    The blossom at Blenheim Palace is outrageously pretty in pink in the spring sunshine. I saw it today in all its loveliness. Coloured against a soft blue sky, every shade is there - from the garish cerise of tight buds waiting to open to the delicate ice-cream pink of delicate petals.

    Both the grounds and formal gardens are looking resplendent at the moment. And of course, with the Palace celebrating 300 years since the birth of the landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown - the man who made the grounds at Blenheim Palace look so resplendent originally - there's every reason to visit right now. You've got 2,000 acres to explore within the walled Great Park, so you're sure to find a quiet spot! And you don't actually have to walk very far to find peace and quiet. Today, I was mesmerised by The Secret Garden, just a few steps away from the Palace where winding paths lead you to secluded benches to sit and enjoy the 'peace' of tiny cascades and vibrant King Cups turning the little riverlets yellow.

    The vast swathes of daffodils are gone for summer but, in their place are delicate bluebells in number, particularly within the new (2015) Winston Churchill Memorial Garden, and a riotous kaleidoscope of tulips. Though great cauldrons of double daffs still decorate the Water Parterres - a wonderful spot from which to look upon the palace lake, through which the River Glyme flows. And, should you want to go beyond the usual boundaries that most daytrippers short on time don't cross, a wander along the Lakeside Walk is soothingly therapeutic.

    Within Slow Cotswolds (pages 140-141), I've included a four-mile walk around the Great Park, and I maintain that it's still one of the most scenic walks. Away from the house and formal gardens, it takes in magnificent views, some of the best vistas of Capability Brown's landscaping - including the Grand Bridge, parts of the Wychwood Way and the old Roman road, Akeman Street, woodland, the Column of Victory and the most beautiful of hidden lakes and valleys. You also return past the 'Harry Potter Tree', a notable cedar that has become something of a shrine to Potter fans as it was used during filming.

    It would be a great shame to miss the oh-so-beautiful blossom but if you do, the Rose Garden will soon be in full bloom and Capability Brown's landscaped park will continue to inspire. And, throughout the year an exhibtion on Brown's work at Blenheim Palace, which took 11 years to fulfil, continues. The exhibition features maps, plans, paintings, pictures, costumes and historical artefacts and has been developed in partnership with The Embroiderers' Guild, whose talented members have created some stunning pieces of artwork depicting the Parkland at the palace. These are also on display.

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