Monday 8 October 2012


Visited Lord and Lady Heseltine's inspiring gardens and arboretum in Thenford, Northamptonshire, at the weekend and enjoyed a lovely walk around the grounds, followed by a welcome cup of tea in the great barn. With only four Open Days per year, this magnificent 70-acre estate is a true labour of love, featuring over 4,000 species of trees and shrubs sourced globally across the past three decades.

Glorious highlights from Thenford, including the Dame Elisabeth Frink raven

The Thenford estate would be a magical location for a fashion shoot; it's almost like stepping into Alice in Wonderland with its play on proportions, colours and textures, plus numerous secret doors and archways. Think of photographer Tim Walker's extravagant fairytale stories for British Vogue, and you'll get the picture.

Thenford House, built in 1765, plus details from the gardens

The Heseltine's have introduced a huge collection of statues, sculptures and quirky architectural features. Scattered amongst the many formal- and informal garden rooms, extensive arboretum, water features and lakes, plus the dedicated sculpture garden; the sculptures are both inspiring and, in some cases, thought provoking. Ranging from an imposing granite bust of Lenin, rescued from Latvia, to a black bronze-cast raven from Dame Elisabeth Frink's 1952 bird series, the sculptures are an integral part of the planting scheme. 
The huge walled kitchen garden boasts several wonderful greenhouses with cold frames by Alitex, that I always lust over at Chelsea Flower Show. One can but dream! There is also a collection of vegetable- and fruit beds unexpectedly edged with miniature espalier apple trees, plus a dramatic water sculpture by William Pye, called the Thenford Coanda - named after Henri Coanda, the father of fluid dynamics.

Formal planting juxtaposed with soaring woodland and pastures green

I've no doubt that Thenford is a wonder to behold all year round, with its majestic trees, formal castellated yew hedges and reflective pools.  If you get the chance, this glorious estate is definitely worth a visit. Hopefully I can come again in the spring or early summer to experience the rose- and flower gardens in full bloom and, you never know, I might even bump into the White Rabbit!


  1. Interesting article and a some great pictures of a lovely garden. But I would like to correct an error - Thenford is actually in Northamptonshire, not Oxfordshire.

  2. Thank-you so much for your comments and you are quite right, Thenford is in Northamptonshire.

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