I had been doing a little undercover sneaky organising as last weekend it was Mr HenHouse's birthday so I decided to whisk him away. I managed to organise outings for each of the three days and on the way to our main destination and bed for the night, we happened to be passing near to somewhere I had long wanted to visit. Through Hampshire's green and rolling lanes we travelled until we found ourselves at Mottisfont.
Mottisfont is a village but it's also the way people tend to refer to the infamous house there, now owned by the National Trust, which is renowned the world over for its walled rose garden. As a die-hard rose lover, I had longed to go there; it being June and almost the longest day, it was the perfect occasion upon which to visit. We were shocked to see how many cars there were in the car park and I mean the overflow car park. Mottisfont's secret is well and truly out. We got in quickly though, we are members of the National Trust anyway, and headed straight for the main attraction (for me, at least). There's something about a walled garden which is inherently romantic I think, so when paired with roses, it's a dreamy combination. Roses are really set off against old brick and stone walls.
There is a large area for rose sales when you first enter. I wonder how many people do not go home with a rose. I know we did, in fact the very first one we saw, which will enhance The Beehive Garden here at home. There was a large selection of potted David Austin English Roses (of which I am an ardent fan) as well as lots of beautiful older varieties.
It was difficult to know where to look first. What I wasn't to realise was that the space we first entered was only the beginning and there were further rooms to the walled rose garden.
There were traditional box-edged borders along the edges, with climbing roses trained against the walls underplanted with more shrub roses and pretty herbaceous perennials. Now was the perfect time to see the peonies and catmint and there was a lot of lavender ready to flower.
There were areas of classic English lawn, green and stripy, and many places to sit and enjoy the views.
As you may imagine, the scent in the air was pretty heavenly. I couldn't resist a sniff and lots of people were doing the same. I find it impossible to buy roses for my own garden which don't have a fragrance because on seeing a rose, I think your first instinct is to smell it. It's always a disappointment when there isn't at least some perfume.
Onwards, there was a whole other large area of the walled rose garden to admire.
The planting combinations were really beautiful with lots of old cottage garden favourites: love-in-a-mist, foxgloves, lupins and so on. All plants I adore.
We were further rewarded when spotting this little chap; a baby robin who was very vocal, no doubt calling for his mum who was not too far away.
A sweet little garden shed had been filled with ephemera relating to the walled rose garden and a voice recording was playing of Graham Thomas who planned the rose garden back in the 1970s.
We decided it was time for a rest and a spot of lunch. We had taken a picnic with us so we set it out on the lawn in front of the house. It was a fine spot and good to use the picnic quilt I made when I first started quilting. There was a river running to the side of the lawn with a beautiful rose growing over the bridge. A duck and her family of ducklings were splashing along on the water. Glorious.
We set off to explore the house which was once a medieval abbey, in fact elements of it remain at the core of what is now largely a Georgian house. You can look round many of the rooms on the main floor. The house was bought by a wealthy banker and his wife back in the 1930s and the identity of the house was a mix of all eras inside. There were still hints of the Georgian grandeur, many of the walls were covered with Victorian marbled paint effects (a bit dark and oppressive for my liking) and the main drawing room was in a decadent '30s art deco style with the original furniture.
I was more interested in the top floor which is where the housemaids' quarters were. Up a steep and narrow wooden winding staircase a series of small rooms opened out. There was a little scullery (I do love one of those!) complete with its carpet beater, enamelled pots and carbolic soap.
Several bedrooms were open on display. They were simply furnished but contained the old metal bed frames, patchwork quilts and ragrugs that I love.
The house shut at 5pm and we just about managed to scamper round in time. I am glad we managed to see inside even though the rose garden was my real passion.
Ah Mottisfont, I wasn't sure you would be able to live up to the hype but in fact you surpassed it. Places like this make me really proud to be British. I shall return.