In July I was lucky enough to be visiting the UK, and quite by chance we decided to visit Haddon Hall, near Bakewell in Derbyshire. It is one of the most intact medieval/Elizabethan fortified manor houses in England. Parts of the house date from the 12th century, and the same family has owned it for a mere 800 years. Inside it is wonderfully untouched, yet still feels like the home that it is, and not a museum. (The family touch extended to beautiful flower arrangements throughout the house and chapel, thanks to a recent family christening).
If you are a movie buff, look out for it in ‘The Princess Bride’ as Prince Humperdinck’s castle. ( I wish I’d known that before I went! ) You can also see it in the films Elizabeth, The Other Boleyn Girl, Pride & Prejudice, and Jane Eyre!
The house itself is marvellous, with its Great Hall, Long Gallery, and Tudor kitchens. But stepping outside into the gardens on a perfect midsummer’s day was an unforgettable experience. The Elizabethan terraced gardens have been redesigned in recent years by the famous Arne Maynard, and they are just beautiful.
In an article in Gardens Illustrated , June 2014, Maynard talks about wanting to create an atmosphere fitting to the romance and age of the house. He has achieved this in spectacular fashion.
Roses such as ‘Mannington Mauve Rambler’ and ‘Veilchenblau’ climb impossibly high up the walls. Roses are also used in deep borders, mixed in with herbaceous perennials, sometimes trained up tripods and domes made of hazel stakes.
A central formal lawn is bordered on two sides by wide borders reminiscent of wildflower meadows.
This garden is a perfect blend of structure and informality. There is an exuberance to the planting which just makes you smile. Nothing is there by accident, but there is a looseness around the edges that makes it all look so effortless. The garden is at one with both the house and its surrounding landscape.
By all means experience the grandeur of nearby Chatsworth. Chatsworth will remind you of your insignificance. There, the scale of the surrounding park-like grounds doesn’t really invite exploration on foot. At Haddon Hall, you want to tell the butler you’ll take tea on the lawn before gathering up your trug basket and secateurs to collect an armful of flowers for the house. If you are ever within 100 miles of Haddon Hall, especially in summer, go and soak up the atmosphere and see those roses. I can guarantee you will leave happy.