The Courts Gardens, Holt

For foodie garden lovers everywhere, we have a day outing that will put all others in the shade. The Courts, a National Trust property in Holt, Wiltshire, boasts one of the most pretty spring gardens and potager we have seen in the country, and it has a restaurant café in the grounds that is really worth bugling about.

The Courts is first and foremost a family home, still lived in by National Trust tenants. It was originally built in 1720 by John Phelps, a Quaker cloth merchant, on the site of what were the original Law Courts for the area, hence the name. He decided to settle in this area because, as the River Avon runs through it, he was able to source the power and water required to spin and weave cloth, an industry which made him a sizeable fortune.

It was not until 1900 that Sir George Hastings bought the property and began making a garden here. He was more a structural designer than a plantsman, and put in yew, box and holly hedges, creating enclosures as a background for the stone ornaments he bought back from London. He built a neo-Georgian conservatory next to the house in 1909, and today it is filled with beautiful terracotta planters filled with tender and exotic plants, as well as a very ornamental wrought iron bench.

Credit for all the wonderful planting must go to Major Clarence Goff and his wife Lady Cecilie and daughter Moyra, who purchased The Courts in 1922. There is definitely a strong Gertrude Jekyll influence, with exuberant borders, subtle colour combinations and a sense of flowing harmony and balance.

The Courts is a great example of a 1930’s English formal garden, set in 7 acres, of which half is Arboretum. The kitchen garden is a little jewel, set within small box-lined squares behind the house and café. Within it you will find meticulous rows of fruit and vegetables that are flanked by metal archways covered in flowering apple trees. Pear trees are grown espaliered against walls and all around there are long grass and wildflower areas left for bees and butterflies in the orchards.

Vistas draw the eye forwards and beyond, but there is always a sense of mystery and surprise as you turn each corner. Different vines are trained on eight metal columns in the terrace garden.

The National Trust gardeners have also left a small area of the kitchen garden for display purposes, to show the rotation of planting for a four foot square vegetable garden, to demonstrate that anyone in any location can grow their own food.

The real treat of the day is a meal at the café restaurant, which is housed in a lovely oak panelled room. The kitchens are not actually run by The National Trust, which is quite unusual for the Trust, and the standard of service is very high, so obviously the arrangement is successful. The food is very simple, homely and delicious, with pies, quiches, soups, salads and stews featuring seasonally. There is also a large cake and pudding fridge, which displays the most sumptuous homemade cakes we have ever seen at a National Trust property. The seating area is quite small, and you may need to queue during the peak season, when the garden attracts hundreds of visitors from all over the world. Do take a look at the crockery: very bright, jolly, patterned Portmerion plates, cups, saucers and bowls.

Outside the reception area there is a small trolley filled with plants for sale, including fresh, potted herbs, and you can also buy a few National Trust souvenirs. Do not forget to go across the road into The Glove Factory Trust shop (see our other article) as this houses a really amazing collection of National Trust artisanal homeware goods.

We could not recommend this outing more, The Courts is spellbinding, and if you want to learn how to plant an ornamental kitchen garden, and then how to cook its produce, this is the place to come.


The National Trust Website:

E-mail The Courts: [email protected]

Telephone The Courts Office: 01225 782340

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