Saturday 26 June 2010

Grounds of Greys Court, Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire

If you are approaching Greys Court from Henley, this little piece of olde England can be hard to find - the brown signposts with the National Trust symbol are few and far between. Even so, you may have to queue to get into the car park as Greys Court can get very busy on summer weekends and you should arrive before lunch if you want to be sure of a timed ticket to go inside the handsome red-brick sixteenth century manor house. But even if you miss out, the gardens and the views of the rolling Oxfordshire countryside should make the trip worthwhile. From the main lawn, there is a lovely bucolic view across to another fine old country house on the other side of the picturesque valley.

Ramshackle red brick walls
Greys Court is surrounded by a clutch of equally venerable stone and red-brick cottages and houses, one of which shelters the National Trust tea room, which doesn't seem quite up to the charity's usual standards. The buildings are surrounded by rose, wisteria, white, cherry and kitchen gardens, mostly enclosed by ramshackle red brick walls and criss-crossed by attractive stone paths. To survey the whole estate, you can climb up a medieval stone tower taking a series of steep staircases to the top. Several mature trees flank the tower, soaring high above the manor house. Near the car park, is a fun maze of circular paths, not enclosed by hedges, marked out on one of the lawns. If you can't get into the main house, you should do one of the walks around the 280 acre estate, such as Sir Felix's Gentle Path. This short stroll takes you through some pleasant woodland and past several fallen trees that kids will enjoy clambering along. On the way back, you can stop to investigate a nineteenth century ice house and take the little Moon Bridge over the ha ha into the gardens. Admission to these evocative and timeless gardens is a reasonable £5.20 for adults and £2.75 for children. 7/10