Children’s author Francis Hodgson Burnett once wrote, “if you look the right way, you can see the whole world is a garden.” Certainly, for the English, a large part, if not the whole, of their towns and cities is one. Whether it’s the urban greenery of London’s parks, the manicured grounds of sprawling estates, or the wild beauty of the countryside, the flora and fauna of England never fails to enchant.
While in London, the parks and gardens provided a welcome escape from the buzz of the city. Some of my favorites were Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. While walking in Hyde Park’s Kensington Gardens, I had a welcome surprise. Apparently, this park has been taken over by bright green parakeets. After the small trouble of purchasing an apple, I was able to feed them.
My program ended last week, and these past ten days, I have been driving around England with my Dad. The word “driving” fails to encompass the range of emotions involved in trying to drive on the left-hand side of the road for the first time. Furthermore, the joy of going down seemingly one-way roads and cow paths, hoping another car will not be coming the opposite way, is immense. It was on one of these stirring drives through the countryside that I gazed upon one of the many rolling hills. The top of the hill seemed to be dyed red. Upon closer inspection, we found it to be a field of poppies.
As well as being littered with breathtaking scenes like this one, the English countryside boasts many obscenely large houses. While in the Peak District, I had the privilege of visiting three estates: Lyme, Chatsworth, and Haddon Hall.
Each of these houses has beautiful gardens to explore. Indeed, the grounds are so large; you could spend all day wandering through them. Lyme park had a gorgeous lake walk, waterfall, Italian garden, rose garden, and greenhouse. Similarly, at Chatsworth, there was a rock garden, farm, maze, 300-year-old cascade fountain, and five miles of walking paths. However, Haddon Hall, a romantic medieval manor house, was my favorite.
Haddon Hall has a gorgeous Elizabethan garden. Set on a hill, the gardens afford a view of the meadows, river, and surrounding countryside beyond. What I loved about it was its wildness and seemingly unkempt nature. Roses and vines crept up old walls, wildflowers overtook pathways, and staircases were fighting the encroachment of various species of plants upon their steps.
If I have learned anything about England, it is that they know how to do gardens. They are made as to look natural, something you would encounter in the “wild.” However, they retain such evidence of thought and care that could only be bestowed by a human hand. Thus, I will remember long after I go home, the smell of roses passing through the gardens at Haddon.