And to Rousham…

16 July 2012
Ben Pentreath

A couple of weeks ago, to Garsington; and yesterday,  to another dream Oxfordshire garden, Rousham. I am sure this needs no introduction to most readers, and in a sense I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to visit – the problem being that I’m not very often headed towards the Cotswolds, I suppose. Still, there it is. The best things are to be discovered by those who wait; and is this the best garden I’ve ever visited? It could be.

Rousham is a dream. Of course, I know it from photographs, but it is not until you’re there, and walking its wooded paths and routes, that you appreciate the genius of Kent’s design; how he manipulates the relationship between buildings, landscape, views and elements in a way by which everything is resolved; where spaces reveal and conceal themselves in a passing moment, and new vistas open up as others close.

And to find a landscape in such a magical state of unchanged preservation: so quiet, so tranquil, so free of the clutter and crap (banners, jokes, interactive signage, useless shops, expensive tea rooms) that assault you on every visit to the National Trust – well, then, the dreamlike status achieves perfection. It’s good to be treated as a serious, intelligent person who doesn’t need every last corner explained on an interpretation board. All the more amazing, then, that even on a summer Sunday afternoon, it was all but deserted.

The gardens combine an arcadian, green, shaded architectural landscape with the quiet blowsy perfection of the walled rose garden, dovecot, vegetable garden. The drama begins from the moment you arrive through Kent’s magnificent stone arched stable block and stays until the last moment of your time here. The Praeneste, overlooking the River Cherwell at the point of a great meandering bend, has to be one of the sublime moments of English landscape. I don’t think anything can prepare you for Rousham, but here is a brief taste of some corners.




15 comments on this post

Hey! Thank you so much was this lovely blog. The place is like a dream indeed. The snapshots are revealing the beauty of the place.

I have visited Rousham once awhile back and it brings back a lot of memories because I was with someone special to me then. It has since become one of my most favourite and memorable places I have ever been to. I should pay visit soon.


This is why Kent is known as the heart of England, simply magnificent.


All this sounds a bit like Barbara Pym…What I want to know is were those plants in beautiful real terracotta pots actually for sale? If so did you get anything?



Ah no the plants are just for display. One of the great things about Rousham is that nothing is for sale!


I don’t think I was carrying anything, except maybe a cream woolly cardigan I kept taking off and putting on.
And I don’t think you’d have noticed us, I was there with two others in my yellow mini and wearing a denim skirt and doing a lot of baby newt-enthusing in the herbaceous walled garden and wondering if too cold and weedy to swim in the swimming pond.
All of which reminds me of when I lived in Edinburgh. The List (Time Out for Scots) had a great page at the back called ‘I Saw You’, more fun than reading the Personals. I never featured I don’t think, but this can be your entry

It’s one of my favourite places, it’s like going back in time. luckily I live very close, so I can visit through the seasons.


We were there that afternoon too – were you with a friend, carrying a Waitrose bag and using a compact camera?
Of course it’s my favourite garden, all the better for the lack of visitors (and children, sorry to be unPC). Last winter I was passing on my way home after a slightly dire training course and stopped in for an impromptu early evening visit. There was noone there but me and longhorn cows on the park, the landscaping cured my mean reds completely


OOooh Chloe who were you!?! and what were you carrying! Yes 😉 !!!

It’s really lovely. I’ll be in the Cotswolds on a visit later this year–I’ll have to keep Rousham in mind.

Ben, thanks for sharing these magnificent photos. The colours in the photo with the bench are just delicious! It’s so lovely to see lush green – everything in my part of the world (Eastern Canada) is utterly parched and crunchy underfoot. We so desperately need some of your rain. Please send.

Deby (in Canada)says:

So beautiful… thank you for the wonderful pictures. Somewhere new to dream about and to plan a vacation to include.


wow! just wow.

deb millersays:

Gorgeous . . . I’ve seen this place in my dreams.

I shall be visiting Rousham in September for the first time even though I live in the Cotswolds. I look forward to my afternoon there even more having now seen your photos. I would love a rill in the garden like the one at Rousham.

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