Earlier this July, Tom and I took a trip to Ragley Hall, near Stratford upon Avon and the Hall’s park and gardens are free to RHS members. Ragley is the family home of the 9th Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford and their children and hosts a wide range events across the year – including the Game Fair, one of the largest such fairs in the UK. (It’s also a popular wedding venue!)
But for our trip, we wanted to take in the ten hectares of ‘Capability Brown’ gardens that surround the Hall and include a wide range habitats from the Woodland Walk, to the Fumpary and the Prairie Garden. This means there’s pretty much something to see all year round but the traditional Rose Garden was perfectly in bloom for our visit.
It’s believed that Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown sculpted over 170 hectares surrounding Ragley Hall in the 18th century. At some point renowned horticulturist, Robert Marnock, enclosed the present ten hectares as pleasure grounds, planting them up with trees, shrubs, meandering pathways and a formal Victorian flower garden.
The Rose Garden was originally Marnock’s Flower Garden until it was replanted by 8th Marquess and Marchioness in the 1960s. In 2009 the Rose Garden was officially relaunched following a three-year rejuvenation with a more modern contemporary layout.
We discovered that a ‘Fumpary’ is a stumpary plus a fernery. In this particular area of the garden the mature trees and high water table make this part quite difficult to manage. Using old tree stumps reclaimed from Ragley woodland provides and excellent habitat but create A beautiful foil for woodland plants such as hellebores and ferns.
Mark Morell is now Head Gardner and says this about the prairie gardens…
“The wild feel of the meadow is complimented by the adjoining prairie with its grasses and herbaceous flowers producing a stunning display of molten colours, structure, and texture especially on a late summer afternoon.”
The Hall also includes a vast boating lake and on our visit, its banks were teaming with families enjoying picnics, ball games and days out. There was also an EPIC adventure playground which quite frankly Tom and I were desperate to have a go on, but thought it might look a bit suspect amongst the other eight-year-olds.
I would add that when the Hall is shut for functions – which in the wedding season is quite regularly – the main restaurant is closed to the public. Leaving the small cafe in the park for refreshments, ideal if you’re looking for an ice cream, but not much more.