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Things to see and do in the garden at the Courts

The conservatory and pond outside at the Courts Garden, Wiltshire
The conservatory at the Courts Garden | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Out of the ashes of a once industrial site grows the Arts and Crafts garden we see today at the Courts. Formerly the location of Holts Mills, the seven acre garden is laid out in a series of intimate garden rooms providing an oasis from world outside. An example of English garden style at its best, where owners rather than professionals made the creative decisions.

The Entrance and Pillar Lawns

The Entrance Lawn was once the main drive, but was altered by residents Major and Lady Goff who moved to the Courts in 1921. Approach through an iron gate to a path flanked by pleached lime trees. The large lawn is surrounded by hedges and topiary, softened with herbaceuous planting in the borders. The nearby Pillar Lawn is named after the stone pillars, originally linked by chains, installed by the Goffs. Vibrant colours can be seen in the Hot Beds and the Fernery Pond provides a peaceful retreat in the corner.

The Water Garden

In the 1920s Cecilie Goff created the Water Garden including the Lily Pond and Dye pool. The Lily Pond provides a still sheet of water to reflect the surrounding foliage along Withy Walk, warm colours of the smoke bush contrasting with the Siberian Iris and elegant angel's fishing rods in the pond. The Dye Pool is fed by water from the Lily Pond and is named in honour of textile heritage of the site. In 2017 a bridge was added at the end of the Dye Pool evoking an impressionist painting feel to this area of the garden.

Unlikely to exist at the time of the working mill, this secluded area is dark and mysterious with naturalistic planting. Original trees from the 1930s include the swamp cypress, a rare yew and two birch trees. In autumn the vibrant leaves of the katsura tree smell of burnt caramel and the deciduous taxodium spreads its lacy golden needles across the water.

The apple archway with the gardener working in the distance at the Courts Garden, Wiltshire
Apple archway at the Courts Garden | © National Trust Images/Hannah Burton

The Temple and Temple Borders

Dr George Hastings resided at the Courts for just three years, selling it on in 1905, but he was responsible for much of the structure we see today. He introduced several of the garden buildings and structures including the Temple. The generous Temple Borders are one of the highlights of the summer and autumn garden, planted with a carefully considered blend of colour, texture and scale.

The House Lawn

The raised Terrace beds that divide the House Lawn from the main lawn give variety to the otherwise flat terrain, and views over either side of the garden. From June to September the House Law, Terrace and Queen Elizabeth bed come alive in vibrant pinky-purples with salsify, or vegetable oyster. Curiously shaped yews planted in the 1920s are known as 'The Dancing Bears'. Globe thistle and a mixed border of herbaceous perennials line a winding stone path in the Yew Walk.

A border of spring tulips and greenery leads into the distance alongside a slightly winding stone path. There are box hedges in the background with a gap leading to a lawn beyond. The sun is shining.
Spring tulips in the Courts Garden, Holt, in the Yew Walk. | © National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

The Kitchen Garden and Orchard

The formal design incorporates trained fruit trees and regimented rows of vegetables, planted with heritage varieties where appropriate. During spring walk through a tunnel of apple blossom towards the Orchard, formally a tennis court and now a good spot for a picnic. Find the tea and coffee trailer situated by the second hand bookshop.

The Arboretum

Four acres of trees provide a relaxed contrast to the formal gardens. Developed in 1953 many of the trees have now reached full maturity; broad-leaved deciduous species conveying the gentle character of an English woodland. During spring in the lower arboretum look out for blossom on the Indian bean tree and the Chinese dogwood, and watch as the ground is carpeted with scillas, varieities of narcissus and snake's head fritillaries.

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