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- Rousham Gardens, Oxfordshire -
May 2023

I was intrigued by Rousham upon hearing Monty Don describe William Kent as the genius of eighteenth century garden design and Rousham as his masterpiece. 

 

 

Rousham, pronounced Rowsh-ham, was amongst the first landscape gardens to be created in England, and considered by many to be the most influential. William Kent, a polymath, was commissioned by the Cottrell-Dormer family in the late 1730s to design the gardens and grounds. The family still own and reside at Rousham today. Its charm draws in landscape architects, garden designers and garden lovers from all corners of the world. 

The approach to Rousham is through unassuming and peaceful parkland grazed by an ancient breed of cattle the Old English Longhorn, with the house nestling beautifully into the landscape. Void of a cafe or shop, there is a feeling of intimacy, and tranquility ensues. It is unlike any other garden I have seen. With not bumping into another sole, it felt rather like the gardens were mine for the day.

 

April showers and inclement weather kept me away for what felt like eternity, but finally, after three weeks, I ignored the forecast, and arrived mid-day with the mindset to stay until sunset. Throughout the day, persistent rain with murmurings of thunder in the distance severely limited my time behind the camera, but did not detract from the joy of immersing myself in the theatre that is Rousham.

Spring garden Rousham Oxfordshire Dove Cote Photograph 2023

Parterre garden & Dovecote dating back to 1685

a grade II listed building in the walled garden

There are many ways to enjoy Rousham, the intended starting point is from the Bowling Green in front of the house looking out to Steeple Aston. Part of Kent's genius was to blur the lines between garden and countryside; which he achieved through a folly that stands on the outskirts of Steeple Aston, to suggest Rousham's boundary. I started in the Parterre Garden after spying the Dovecote from the courtyard car park, and finished at the base of the Vale of Venus next to the River Cherwell, a perfect finale.

 

The circular Dove house is the most striking feature of the walled garden, made all the more so by an Espalier fan trained pear, and apple trees adorning its walls, with a Cornus Nuttallii Monarch in spectacular full bloom by its side.

 

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Rousham Gardens Oxfordshire in Springtime, vegetable garden and Rousham Church

St Leonard & St James Church

I love this view of the Church of St Leonard & St James, that dates back to the 12 century, with the neatly clipped Yew topiary hedge and archway. Since my visit, I discovered that the church can be approached through an arch between a set of cottages and along a short path lined with neatly clipped Yew topiary. Something to be mindful of during my next visit.

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The Walled Garden

After walking through the archway of the immaculately clipped hedge seen earlier in the image of the church, and passing through the walled vegetable garden, I found myself in the walled garden with a pathway named 'the long walk' adorned by trained apple and pear trees that were in blossom.

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Roman Dying Gladiator

Statue of a Roman dying Gladiator tomb monument by Peter Scheemakers. If you were to peer down from the balustrade behind the monument, you would see beneath the seven arched Praeneste.

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Seven Arched Praeneste

 

Kent modelled the seven arched colonnade on the ruins at Palestrina outside of Rome, Italy.

The Praeneste can be reached via a pathway to the right at the end of the Bowling Green, then left after walking partway toward the River Cherwell.

 

After creating a few images, I sat a while inside the Praeneste to take in the serene view of the Cherwell before moving onto the Vale of Venus.

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The Vale of Venus

The Venus Vale, with statues of Pan, a Faun, and Venus de Medici stood amidst two swans before the large ornamental octagonal pond at the upper cascade. A serene green space of darkness and light.

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As I reached the River Cherwell, I looked back up through the Vale and whispered a fond adieu to Venus. The gentle sway of the trees, and the evening chorus from the birds, made this a particularly sweet parting.

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