Thenford Gardens and Arboretum

Covering over seventy acres, the fabulous arboretum and gardens are a plantsman’s dream.

Discover lakes as well as other water features, a Walled Garden, Sculpture Garden, avenues, a Rose Garden and a Rockery.

A magnificent collection of over 600 varieties of snowdrop including unusual species such as ‘South Hayes’ and ‘Walrus’, all carefully labelled.

Over the last 45 years, Anne and Michael Heseltine have developed the gardens and arboretum with advice from amongst others, Harold Hillier, Lanning Roper and Roy Lancaster.

The two acre Walled Garden was designed by George Carter. It contains copper domed pavilions, wooden obelisks, mirror pools, fruit cages, an aviary and at its centre, a water feature by William Pye. Scattered outside the walls are the Armour Boys by Laura Ford. Ford wrote in 2006, ‘It is hard to believe that the soldier striding forward, engaged in battle, full of adrenalin, when struck down can become so quiet, so without life, so still. Armour Boys are not only about our tendency to violence but also our sense of invulnerability which is instantly and shockingly reversed in the presence of death.’

The fabulous herbaceous border lies due south of the Walled Garden. In an article in Country Life in 2020, Lord Heseltine explained  how ‘Darren Webster, our head gardener, was repairing the top of the wall around the old kitchen garaden and pointed out that the outside was facing south. We seized the opportunity to create a herbaceous border and a grass walk; they were so successful that we have just doubled the border’s size.’

Nearby is the rill with a scallop shell pond designed by Maggy Howarth at the far end.

The sculpture garden was designed by Anne as a series of rooms, each separate from one another. This allows none of the sculptures to compete against one another. There are works by numerous artists including Elizabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick and Michael Ayrton.

‘Collecting plants and trees is the most wonderful therapy and form of escape,’ explains Michael. ‘You go into a different world and it took me away from my red boxes. We are both born magpies and the process of collecting has been an essential characteristic of what we have done at Thenford.’

The gardens are only open 18 days a year – they are extremely popular so book early to avoid disappointment.

 

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INFORMATION

Address: Banbury, Northamptonshire, OX17 2BX View map Length of visit: 3-4 hours
Dog friendly: No
Cafe: Yes
Car park: Yes
House open: No
House open - occasionally: No
Family friendly: No
Toilets: Yes
Wheelchair - limited: Yes

For information on opening times and to buy tickets: Click here

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