Sunday, 25 June 2017

A day at the marvellous West Woodhay Gardeners' Fair

I received an invitation the other day to go to the West Woodhay Gardeners' Fair; a quick check on the map and I thought it would make a nice day trip.  I happily said yes and waited for the weekend to arrive.

I have never been to West Woodhay before and I do not know that part of the country hugely well.  It is around two hours from where I live and the journey (particularly once I was off the motorways) took me through some delightful countryside.  In particular as I got closer to the fair I noted some impressive trees.  I also noted the impressive signage to the fair.  I have rarely seen such good clear signage that took me from when I left the main road straight to the fair.  I give a big thumbs up to this.
The day when it arrived was warm but rather overcast.  Actually in truth it was beautifully sunny at home but got cloudier the further south I drove.  It tried to rain a couple of times during the day but nothing significant and it was not unpleasant.  It has been a hot week so it made a nice relief.
The fair was thoughtfully laid out.  Lots of space to stroll and enjoy and some really good stalls to peruse.  We are talking a high standard of stall such as Hardys and Special Plants, a full list of exhibiters is here   There were beautiful things to buy as well as plants,
I loved this stall selling garden ephemera,
and also fell deeply in love with this bench.
There was also plenty of space to sit and eat, drink, buy Pimms and ice cream.
I am going to give special mention to the food which was by Honesty Catering who are based at a nearby pub.  The food was wonderful - thank you.

Seriously, everything you could want from a day out was here.  Including......
..... the grounds and gardens of West Woodhay House itself which were worth seeing fair or no fair.  Just let your eye follow the lines on the lawn that go up beyond the lake.  I loved this detail.
The signage at the fair encourages you to explore the grounds and the gardens, which also also partially across the road from the house.  The Walled Garden is must-see.
 The scent from all the roses bombards you as you enter the gardens.
The garden is made up of mainly narrow paths that open up to discoveries, like the matching dove-cotes atop their topiary mounds.
The planting is superb.  It looks casual but there are delights like the colour of this rose against the purple foliage behind.
and there is the kitchen garden, complete with bees.
These were immaculately gardened.  Everything was neat and tidy and looking perfect.  The scent from the sweetpeas wafted in the breeze.
You could wander through the glasshouses,
... pondering this amazing pelagonium that looked self-seeded into the ground.  If anyone knows what it is please let me know.
and this eruption of coleus just took my breath away.
The Justicia leapt onto my 'must find' list.
and I pondered on the use of this raised bed at the rear of the glasshouses.  I thought maybe squash/pumpkins?
Back into the main part of the Walled Garden and there are two matching incredible fruit cages set in a sea of roses.  They are beautiful and functional and, well, just awesome.  When I came out of the Walled Garden I felt like I had been on an Alice Through the Looking Glass journey, moving from space to space finding more wonders at each turn.
and of course a plant was purchased.  Just the one you say? Yes just one, I was very tempted by many but this one was on my list as it is a Sparmannia africana.  I first saw one of these when I visited Thenford earlier this year and I had been searching for one.  I bought this from Hill House Nursery who are part of the founding force behind the Independent Plant Nurseries Guide who are worthy of a plug.  This fair is all about independent plant nurseries and regular readers will know I am a huge fan of buying from independent nurseries.  The plants are the best because they are grown with knowledge and love.

The other impressive thing about this fair is that all the profits are going to various benefiting charities who include the NGS.

I leave you with this thought, there is a plant fair whose name is still whispered in hallowed tones by those who visited and those who wished they had.  All plant fairs since are measured consciously and unconsciously against this bright light that shone so brightly yet briefly.  As I walked around this fair the name of that show whispered through the trees and I nodded in agreement.  West Woodhay Gardeners' Fair is something special.  It has the capability to become something seriously seriously special and I will happily drive for two hours to visit again.

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