There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Monday, 14 September 2015

September in a Castle Garden.

In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning 
glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of 
months of thought and care and toil. 
And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil 
time, do we get such superb color effects 
as from August to November. 
 - Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905

A beautiful mixed border runs along the
 backdrop of an ancient wall at Broughton Castle.
Last Sunday Stuart and I, in great need of a little afternoon break, re-visited one of our favourite places in Oxfordshire, Broughton Castle, near Banbury. It was a spectacular September day, not still summer, but not yet fully autumn; the light soft, slanting through the trees. It was a perfect day to meander together through a castle and castle garden.

The air is different today the wind sings with a
 new tone sighing of changes coming the harvest
 gathered a flower, a nut some mead, and 
bread a candle and a prayer returning 
the fruits in thanksgiving to the grove
 and receiving it's blessing again.
- 'Rhawk', Alban Elfed

You might recognize Broughton's exterior from 
the movie 'Shakespeare in Love', the most recent 
'Jane Eyre', or 'Wolf Hall', where it played the 
part of Catherine of Aragon's home in exile. 
Broughton is a true castle, with a moat, castellations and battlements, and a gatehouse which at one time housed a drawbridge. Because the limestone in north Oxfordshire is a deeper bronze than most Cotswold limestone, Broughton gleams a deep and rich golden colour, especially with a blue, blue September sky behind it.

The back of Broughton Castle,
looking out over the gardens.

Our friend Susan with the current
Lord Saye, who will soon
celebrate his 95th birthday.
Broughton is the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, who are also related to the actors Joseph and Ralph Fiennes. Stuart has known Lord and Lady Saye for many years (from his 'Spires & Shires' touring days), and I've been fortunate to meet them both several times. They are the very best of British aristocracy, as gracious, kind, and unassuming as their home is beautiful. They're always on hand, greeting guests, answering questions, and no one would guess they were the Lord and Lady of the castle. My American friend Susan, who's studying in Oxford at the moment, joined us on our afternoon at Broughton, and it was great fun to be able to introduce her to a real English lord.

We toured through Broughton's public rooms, seeing the now familiar sights of the great hall, the beautifully panelled dining room, and the long gallery. My favourite room is the 'room without ears', at the top of the house in the back. It's a room with four outside walls, which was used for secret meetings when spys might be lurking in Broughton's shadows. Broughton sided with the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, so a room without ears was crucial for scheming and strategizing against the king and crown. It's my favourite room because of the views--it looks down onto the Ladies' Garden, the borders and the countryside beyond the moat.

The 'room without ears' looks down 
onto the 'Ladies' Garden and beyond.
The moat still encircles Broughton. From the vantage point of the
roof you can see the gentle countryside surrounding the castle.

I was anxious to get outside to the gardens and they 
didn't disappoint.  As soon as we stepped out 
of the drawing room door, we were met with 
gentle grey stone steps lined with Chinese anemones. 

The steps lead out of the house from the 
drawing room and down into the walled 
Ladies' Garden. Windows along the north  wall
 let in the soft and dreamy early autumn light.

The last traces of summer roses remained
and the anemones were the last of the
summer pinks......

.........the rest of the colours were turning 
shades of gold to bronze, and russet.

The borders lining the walls of the Ladies' Garden
are a perfect English herbaceous border--artfully 
relaxed and an impressionist's blend of colours, 
textures and heights. At their peak, Broughton 
 employed 14 gardeners, while today
 they have just one (very lucky) gardener.

Benches are scattered throughout for 
sitting and taking in the sights and smells........

The greatest gift of the garden is the
 restoration of the five senses.
 ~Hanna Rion

Doorways and windows add to the 
backdrop, giving depth and mystery.

That's me hoping to get a glimpse of the little
 future Lord who belonged to the toy train engine.

We circled around the gardens, going back in and out of doorways, looking at it all from different vantage points, and each time noticing something new. A little wooden toy train of a future Lord Saye, just sitting on it's own in the grass, kept the garden real. It was also a good reminder that Broughton Castle has been a family home first and foremost since the 14th century and we're so grateful they open the doors and share the beauty and wonder of their home--especially on a perfect September afternoon.

The 14th century church stands on the grounds of
Broughton Castle and is a very active parish church still.
Just before we left the castle, Lady Saye slipped two admission tickets to Stuart instructing us to return again next year, so I have my heart set on visiting next June. It will be the peak of rose season and the height of romance, with cascades of blooms climbing walls and tumbling through the garden with reckless abandon. A castle garden, blooming with roses on a perfect June afternoon -- now that's the stuff of my winter dreams.

One of the most delightful things about a 
garden is the anticipation it provides. 
~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

Broughton is now closed for the 2015 season, but will reopen in the spring of 2016, usually around Easter Sunday.

*Broughton Castle, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 5EB:
Broughton Castle is 2.5 miles from the centre of Banbury, 3 miles from Junction 11 of the M40. At Banbury Cross take the B4035 west signposted to Shipston on Stour then, after about two miles, turn right in Broughton village at the crossroads by the Saye & Sele Arms pub. At the bottom of the hill turn left into the drive. The car park is on your left before the Church.

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