One of the nicest things about blogging is the ability to share a peek into a magical place. I’d not be surprised to hear that even some of the people who have visited Cothay Manor have left without experiencing the courtyard garden. I happened upon it as if by mistake on my second or third circuit of the garden. It seemed such an intimate space that I asked the lady quietly gardening there whether visitors were welcome.
She assured me I was welcome and we talked a little about roses. The walls of the manor are clothed with roses and other vines, including Rosa mutabilis trained as a magnificent climber which I had not seen done before. We’d missed seeing most of the roses in full flower, but there was plenty more to admire.
The courtyard garden was so amply accessorised and planted that only a narrow path led through to the manor house. It was hard to know where to tread. An artful combination of Verbascum with love-in-a-mist foliage and seed heads appeared to grow out of the gravel and pavement; Erigeron actually did. Topiary lent a little formality, in an Alice Through The Looking Glass fashion, while a tree fern and other tender plants paid tribute to the shelter that walls and a thoughtful gardener can provide.
The garden feels romantic, idyllic, yet ridiculously domestic, despite the splendour of its setting and its status as a visitor attraction. I can imagine that the planting might seem very informal to some people, but I loved it. I believe the whole garden had been ‘relaxed’ a little, to meet the brief for a film set: I could be wrong. Either way, it suited my imagination from the rooftops down to the ground.
Cothay Manor’s website notes that in medieval times, the rent for the land surrounding the manor was a rose and a pair of silver spurs, payable at Christmas and mid-summer’s day. It must be wonderful to wake in the morning and look out from one of the many windows over the courtyard, and relax in the sun on the bench or under the parasol, but a little less wonderful, perhaps, to be responsible for the estate’s upkeep today.
In tempting people to visit by sharing these pictures, it is only fair to mention that it takes a bold spirit to navigate the winding, tall-hedged, rabbit run lanes around the garden – make sure you know how to find the car park before setting off!
Cothay Manor is in Greenham, Wellington, Somerset, England TA21 0JR