I have been travelling around in my van for some weeks over the last two months, partly selling at Fairs and partly enjoying seeing this beautiful country of ours, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of my latest trip was visiting Great Chalfield Manor near Melksham in Wiltshire.
It is so quintessentially English and romantic; a medieval moated manor house with walled gardens, topiary and sumptuous planting.
Above all, the garden was just dripping with roses; in the borders, climbing the walls, smothering the trees.... it reminded me of the description of the moment when Mary Lennox first passes through the door into the Secret Garden (though of course Mary sees the garden in winter, in its dormant state, but knows what beauty is to come):
'It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses, which were so thick that they were matted together. All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown, and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rose-bushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves.'
The Manor is currently being used in the filming of Hilary Mantel's novel 'Wolf Hall', as the home of Thomas Cromwell. I look forward to seeing that when it comes out!