The small market town of Chippenham in Wiltshire has some of the most wonderful attractions. It is the perfect place to explore the history of the area as archeological evidence would suggest that it was settled prior to the Roman control of England. It was also the home of a royal villa and hunting lodge during the reign of Alfred the Great. Today this heritage is proudly displayed at a number of fabulous museums that explore not only those times past, but also the part that the town and its surrounding area played in the English Civil War and just how important it was as one of the most vital centres of an extensive British transportation network that encompassed waterways, rail and road.
However, the town also has other attractions for those who choose to visit this wonderful part of England – and Bowood House and Gardens is one that attracts hordes of visitors each year – for very good reason.
Bowood House and Gardens is the home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, however, the family has graciously allowed free access to visitors during the daylight hours – and wandering the gardens designed by the justifiably famous English landscape architect Capability Brown (baptised 1716 died in 1783) who was also known as ‘England’s greatest gardener. He designed over 170 parks – and Bowood is one of those that survive.
Today, 100 acres surround the Georgian House and include the magnificent Italian style TerraceGarden, the private walled garden, the wonderful Woodland Gardens and the herbaceous border. Each season brings a new palette of colour to the gardens, but such was the genius of capability Brown that it remains a delight to the senses no matter the time of year.
For those who are interested in the flora of Great Britain, a visit to The Arboretum which is located behind the Walled Garden will be a richly rewarding experience. Here one can view over 700 species of trees, many of which are the biggest or tallest examples of their type in the U.K. The Private Walled Garden is usually off-limits, but on selected dates, the estate allows access to a select few who have the opportunity to purchase a ticket for their place in a party that will enjoy a guided tour of the four-acre sanctuary.
The Woodland Gardens are simply magnificent and are only accessible for the six weeks of the flowering season. Its 30 acres reveals floral magnificence with bluebells, magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons in abundance, as well as a variety of hybrids, many of which were once thought to be extinct.
The mile-long lake which was at the core of Capability Brown’s vision for the Parklands is surrounded by undulating lawns and is a further reward for those who have experienced some of the other attractions such as the Italian inspired terraces with their gentle water features and an abundance of alliums and Corinda geraniums, as well as roses. The attractions of the Cascade, the Doric Temple and the Hermits Cave add to the wonder of this magnificent piece of Parkland.
Children will be entertained and entranced by the adventure playground (and the ‘soft play’ area) with its aerial walkways which will allow them to explore the treetops. The many other installations such as balance beams, climbing frames, trampolines and much else will have the younger members of the family entranced. The very young (under 4) will enjoy ‘The Den’ where activities designed to evoke a sense of wonder and fun take place. A farmyard, tractor trail and cafe are only some of the attractions.
Refreshments are available at the Stables Restaurant or the Treehouse Cafe, which offers a variety of hot, light meals and the ever-popular ice cream kiosk which is a hit with young and old alike. The option of picnicking on the grounds should not be ignored. The sheer beauty of the grounds and the serenity of the surroundings makes a day outdoors something to be treasured.
If you are in the vicinity of Chippenham set aside some time to visit Bowood House and Gardens, it is an experience that provides unforgettable rewards – if only as a havan from a sometimes frenetic world.