WP_20150714_10_41_49_ProThe volunteers and staff at Blickling had a fabulous day out recently, visiting two nearby gardens not normally open to the public. Our first visit was to the medieval manor of Oxnead Hall.

Wikipedia says:

‘Oxnead is a lost settlement in Norfolk, England, roughly three miles south-east of Aylsham. It now consists mostly of St Michael’s Church and Oxnead Hall. It was the principal residence of the Paston family from 1597 until the death of William paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth in 1732. Under Sir William Paston (1610–1663), Oxnead was the site of several works by the architect and sculptor, Nicholas Stone, master-mason to Kings James I and Charles I…

The house was originally built for Sir Clement around 1580 but was remodelled by Nicholas Stone, for Sir William Paston, between 1631 and 1632. At its zenith, the house had seventy-nine rooms but under the Earls of Yarmouth it declined until by 1744 it was described as ruinous….

Nothing remains of the garden statuary installed by Nicholas Stone, though his Hercules, originally from Oxnead, can be seen in the Orangery at Blickling Hall. Blickling, in its parterre, also has a sixteenth or early seventeenth century fountain, consisting of a basin on a base, bought from Oxnead in 1732.’

The gardens here are extensive, with some lovely changes in level as they tip towards the River Bure. A recent occupant ws also something of an enthusiast for garden features; he added a ‘folly’ near the river and one or two other garden buildings broadly in keeping with the overall style. He also added a rather grand extension which, whilst in keeping with the roginal building, did not have planning permission, so is not occupied. The gardens are formally laid out near to the house, with agrand parterre of box and simple landscaping of the ruins of the old Hall, which have been left exposed and which in one or two cases, have been graced with further statuary.

I particularly liked the water gardens which weave among the River and give lovely views to the Hall and the rest of the gardens. the Head Gardener here (a former Blickling gardener), is making steady progress in restoring the grounds to their historic pattern, including a walled kitchen garden.

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To end the trip we all enjoyed some coffee and cakes prepared by the Gardener’s wife. Though impressive and well looked after, Oxnead’s gardens by and large lacked floral or other planting interest to suit my own taste in gardens, which leans towards the arts and crafts tradition where planting design and variety takes a more central role.

WP_20150714_11_39_31_ProOur second visit of the day was to prove right up my  alley…

Read more in a day or two’s time!

Old School Gardener

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