As we are staying on the Castle Ashby Estate in Northamptonshire we thought we should go and visit the gardens. So this morning as it dawned fine and sunny we put the leads on the hounds and headed out. The route looked delightfully straight forward on the map, so we left the map behind. Big mistake! We started well and then got a tad lost, and turned left when we should have turned right. More steps, we thought, more walking off of my stunning chocolate Birthday cake! And we did get there in the end and it was certainly worth all those extra steps.
Castle Ashby is the ancestral home of the 7th Marquess of Northampton and is not open to the public. But the 35 acres of beautiful gardens are! The estate amounting to 10,000 acres was granted to the Compton family in 1512 by Henry VIII. And some 62 years later Elizabeth I approved the building of the present house. Then when William III visited in 1695 he suggested the construction of four great avenues of trees, which were duly created. Then along came Capability Brown in the 1760s and decided to get rid of three of these so today just one three mile long avenue remains. I felt quite sorry for the poor old Comptons paying for all these tweaks on their perfectly nice home!
Castle Ashby Gardens and Capability Brown
Something I learnt today was that, the landscape architect Capability Brown’s christian name was actually Lancelot. “But because of the amount of gardens he landscaped he was thought of as a very capable fellow hence the nickname Capability,” the sign at Castle Ashby told me. And I just thought that was so delightfully English I had to share it with you.
The gardens comprise many different “rooms” our favourite being the exquisite Italian Gardens. But being an animal lover I adored the Menagerie. We had to take turns visiting the animals in here, because dogs whilst allowed everywhere else, were not welcome in here. And Brin and Tilly behaved like a pair of bored kids I can tell you as they waited with each of us in turn! I was thrilled to see a tortoise, chipmunks, marmosets and meerkats amongst the animals in the Menagerie.
The route home took us through the village of Castle Ashby, where we should have come first time. I was still dubious but James stuck to his guns and we got home, and indulged in a well deserved piece of Birthday cake. And two dog biscuits a piece for our knackered pooches who are both asleep on their beds by the Aga as I type!