Last Sunday (21 October) it was a fairly grey autumnal day and I was in a fairly grey mood, being in the early stages of a cold. However, my wife was keen to visit Highnam Court Gardens. They only open a few times a year, mostly to raise money for charity, and today was one of those days. I decided that a bit of fresh air would probably do me far more good than moping around the house feeling sorry for myself, so off we went – armed, of course, with my trust Canon.
Highnam Court is just a few miles from my house, but I had never been there before. It was built in 1658, after the original house was seriously damaged in the Civil War. The Highnam Estate was bought in 1838 by Thomas Gambier Parry, who laid out the magnificent gardens starting in 1840. Sadly, as seems to have been the case with many of these great Victorian gardens, it fell into disrepair shortly after the turn of the twentieth century and became totally overgrown.
The process of restoration started in 1994, and for the last 13 years Roger Head has been the owner. He has restored the gardens to their former glory and is presumably the person responsible for the many statues and carvings that adorn the place. One of the first things we saw on arrival was a man wielding a chainsaw on an old tree stump, not to cut it down, but to transform it into a clump of mushrooms. Everywhere you look there are carved eagles, deer, owls, bears, otters and all manner of other creatures, intermingled with the more formal classical statuary.
The grey weather, if anything, added to the atmosphere of the gardens as we walked around. It was not too cold and the mist added a pleasant autumnal ambience to the place. The trees were bursting into autumnal reds and oranges and the air was still, creating perfect reflections on the lakes.
All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon and I look forward to going back to see it again in the spring.