A walk through time

Wild_gardenImagine stepping out of the front door of Shipton Court, walnut trees and then an avenue of limes stretching ahead of you with open countryside either side. The date is 1780 and the avenue is only a few years old but already sufficiently established for Lord Reade to encourage his wife not to cut it down for firewood!

Walk to the end of the front garden to the road from Burford – no passers-by today, but you are always on the lookout for old friends or new faces to pass the time of day with. You just have to be careful crossing the road in case the weekly Bristol to Banbury stage-coach comes thundering through; it stops for no-one. The pillars and wrought iron gates do not yet exist; they were put up in 1905 – very modern!

The avenue draws one’s feet with a gentle insistence. It seems to lead to something different from the stately house and ordered gardens, a walk designed for meditation. As you approach the short slope up from the road you can hear children’s voices and clink of glasses. It is the 1897 party celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee with trestle tables laden with goodies down the length of the avenue.

Just watch your step now and stand to one side. It’s 1925 and the hunt is setting off down the avenue, having met at the gates of the Court; the hounds now in full voice looking forward to a day’s chase.

The limes are growing well now, almost 30 metres high. They date back to 1750 although with the ravages of time new limes were planted in the 1830s and again in the 1860s and 1900s.

About half way down, you pause and watch the sheep grazing in the fields either side. And you marvel at the tunnel under your feet allowing the sheep access to the pastures on both sides. The cricket ground and the levelling of the fields did not happen until the mid-1930s.

At the end of the lime avenue the route bends to the left, why? One theory is that the avenue originally pointed towards a Holm Oak on a distant ridge, capturing a distant landscape. But this was all changed in the 1870s when the ponds and canals were constructed. The remnants of the original lime avenue down the slope are still visible today.

Today, the garden has taken on a wilder feel but still meets the need for peace and meditation in our busy lives. Do take the time to explore what it has to offer.

Mike Watson

December 2018 – January 2019