Words by Jessica Peace
How do we not hear about Hampton Court Gardens more? They are large enough to have their own map and staggeringly beautiful. I’ll fess up, I had a vague idea that the garden might look a bit good in the frost from a few episodes of ‘The Tudors’ in the noughties – but this place is something else mate.
A ticket gets you into the palace and gardens; I did get swept along amongst a Tudor re-enactment for 40 minutes before I got to the gardens, just getting into the swing of things. But once Katherine Parr decided she would marry Henry – poor Tom Culpeper, I stepped into The Great Fountain Garden. Wow. It’s like being smacked in the face with form, order, nature and beauty all at once. Boom. If you like your gardens grand and your topiary to resemble massive green blobs (guilty) then this will be right up your alley.
Queen Anne, gal after my own heart, originally planted these huge Yew domes in the early 1700’s, 300 years on and these mighty Yew trees are clipped to perfection.
However, if you’re more of a straight edge, conical kinda guy, take a right into The Privy Garden.
The gardens have been there since Henry’s reign but in 1702 William III got all Baroque on the lawns. Think parterres, cones, bowers and balls. This leads down to the sunken Pond Gardens and Orangery which are partly closed and now but still beautiful to walk around.
Keep the map. It is easy when imagining bumping into Henry Cavill to miss a gate or gravel path but every sheared tip, bowered bush and espaliered fruit tree is worth a look. The gardens house styles stretching from the late 1600’s to the present and name drop the likes of Capability Brown – he planted the ‘Great’ vine in 1768.
The Kitchen Garden is largely put to bed now but it is a nice big space and must be rad in the summer – you can get in here and a few other parts of the garden without a ticket. Just sayin. The gardens also lead into Home Park which is a site of Special Scientific Interest due to its acid grassland and veteran trees. (And there are deer here!)
Why come now? Because Henry’s old gaff looks wicked in the winter.
It’s hard to say its pricey when there is so much to see, I would say bang for your buck, just get in early and leave at closing time if you can.
It’s on the Thames Path