Wednesday 21 June 2017

Branching Out - Boughton House

Together Tree by Carole Miles

In the first of our new Branching Out Wellbeing Walks we visited the gardens at Boughton House

Our group gathered at the Green Patch and made our way to Boughton House where we shared a marvellous picnic under the shady trees.

We were then met by one of the Garden Guides who took us on an informative, inspiring walk through the grounds. The gardens were originally laid out to impress by the 1st and 2nd Dukes of Montagu with stunning vistas, tree lined avenues and bold water features.When the house passed to a different family in 1749 it was used mainly for hunting and the once formal gardens remained untended and almost lost for 200 years.

Recent generations have returned the gardens to their present splendour through an ambitious and far sighted restoration programme and the canals, waterways and reflecting pools conjure other times, other people.

Map of the gardens and link to it's history

“Ralph first Duke of Montagu has so much embellished by the grand gardens, by an extensive canal, by the large ponds, by the extraordinary water jets, by a waterfall that outshines any in Italy and in France.” – Michel le Vassor – from his Histoire du Regne de Louis XIII ,  1705

Our group gather to admire the water feature

Grand Etang - more about the restoration here

Ralph Montagu had supported the cause of William III and became a member of his Privy Council. The new Dutch King of England was a passionate garden lover, particularly keen on architectural evergreen shrubs, and on his visit to Boughton in July 1695 Ralph would have been keen to impress the monarch with his developing gardens and his Stateroom ceilings, painted by the Huguenot artist Louis Chéron to co-incide with the royal visit.To create the water gardens Ralph Montagu diverted the River Ise into a canal system flowing through various complex features all linked by terraces and tree-lined walks and ending in a great cascade.

“Ralph first Duke of Montagu, polished Lord, magnificent, zealous defender of the freedom of his country, has so much embellished by the buildings, by the grand gardens, by an extensive canal, by the large ponds, by the extraordinary water jets, by a waterfall that outshines any in Italy and in France.” Michel le Vassor - from his Histoire du Regne de Louis XIII, 1705.

Heading towards

Two of our group deep in conversation

perhaps they are discussing the Orpheus Project which 
forms part of the vision for a 21st Century garden

Sue wearing her Kettering Food Festival tee shirt

This was one of the group's favourite garden features
they were a little less sure about Life-flow as it has
such a disturbing, visceral quality.

Although Boughton House is close to both Kettering and Corby very few of the group had ever visited. For some it was lack of awareness that such glorious outdoor spaces were just on their doorstep, but for many funds and transport would have made a visit difficult.

Having had a taste of what the property has to offer some said they would love to return to view the house as well. 

It was a beautiful day, surprisingly hot and the walk was further than some had anticipated, those with minor mobility issues felt that a few more benches along the route would have aided them greatly. Nevertheless they were delighted by the gardens and inspired by the planting in the Rose Garden and the Walled Garden.

We were unable to see the Gardens Exhibition - Vistas of Vast Extension, but it is possible to access the exhibiton boards in a downloadable PDF which gives fascinating insights into the importance of plants, plant collections and gardens of this intriguing story of both history and landscape at Boughton House.

Some of the group thought they might go home and watch the film A Little Chaos which follows Sabine (Winslet), a strong-willed landscape designer who challenges sexual and class barriers when she is chosen to build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles, causing her to become professionally and romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape architect André Le Notre (Schoenaerts).