Sunday 6 July 2014

Claremont Landscape Garden

I'm going to be dangerously honest here: I'm not very interested in gardening. I will change my mind eventually, I'm sure. One day I will get into my car and be really excited at the thought of going somewhere to see some peonies - AND I'll know what peonies are.

The problem with my lack of passion for gardens is that I am unwittingly excluding them from my National Trust Scone Odyssey. And then one freezing cold day in December none of the manor houses or castles will be open and I'll head off to a garden only to complain that THERE'S NOTHING THERE! GARDENS ARE BORING! Which would be very unfair indeed. 

So I decided to preempt this injustice and go to Claremont Landscape Garden in the summertime. 

The first thing I learned at Claremont today is that I don't actually know what a landscape garden is. I was expecting rigorously ordered flower beds, with blue ones lined up against yellow ones (I told you I know nothing about gardening). I think I was maybe getting confused with Langley roundabout near Slough, where someone has spelled out HONDA using red flowers (nope, no idea what they are either).

This is Claremont Landscape Garden:

Claremont Landscape Garden National Trust
It's more of a park, and a very good park too, for the following three reasons:
  • It's a good size - if you want to visit every nook and cranny of it, you could do so in one visit
  • It's full of features - there's a thatched cottage, a tower, statues...all sorts of things to see
  • It's a park for all seasons - because it's not reliant on flowers, you could happily visit Claremont all year round
Claremont also has an interesting history. The Duke of Newcastle bought it from Sir John Vanburgh, keeping Sir John on to expand the house and landscape the gardens. He built a thatched cottage a bit like this one for gambling:

Claremont Thatched Cottage

And he built the Belvedere Tower for supper parties and card-playing:

Belvedere Tower

Robert, Lord Clive of India, bought the house from the Duke and knocked it down to build a new one, but he died before he moved in. Between 1816 and 1922, Claremont was a home to British and foreign royalty, including the young Queen Victoria who visited her Uncle Leopold there and had such happy memories of the place that she brought her own children back to the estate.

Today, the house is a school and is not open to visitors - you could send your child there, though, if you're happy to part with £15,000 a year.  

The Claremont scone
The fourth and fifth reasons for why you must visit Claremont are a) the tea room and b) the scones. The tea room is lovely and relaxed - there's enough room for everyone. And the scones were a triumph. I've had a couple of visits lately where the scones have been a bit on the small side (namely Cliveden and Killerton). I know we live in times of austerity (or is that all finished now?) but I was starting to get a bit concerned that the National Trust was rationing flour.

Claremont delivered a bumper crop of scones. A cream tea cost £5.25, so probably one of the most expensive that we've encountered, but it came with the usual delicious National Trust tea and two beautiful-to-behold scones. And my word, were they good scones. They were without doubt the lightest, fluffiest scones yet seen on the National Trust Scone Odyssey:

Claremont Landscape Gardens Scone

So I think that the moral of this story is never judge a National Trust property by its name. Or think you know what a landscape garden is. 

Claremont Landscape Gardens: 5 out of 5
Scones: 5 out of 5 
Thatched cottage built for gambling, now full of toddlers: 3 out of 5

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