I began my walk to Hidcote Manor from the small town of Mickleton. The walk begins on a footpath beside the churchyard in Mickleton and continues up Kiftsgate Hill behind the church through three sheep fields. The last sheep field being the steepest climb.
Before beginning this walk I was given repeated warnings from locals about the very steep Kiftsgate Hill. I found the walk easier than I expected after all of the hype. The bigger obstacle was that there had been rain the day before and the ground was saturated with water.
Wet ground can be one of the challenges when walking the Cotswolds. Walkers are asked to stay on the public path to the edge of the fields so as not to disturb the grazing land. The paths are well worn, so in especially wet conditions you are really slogging through mud with very little ground cover left on the paths.
The trickiest parts can be the turnstiles between the fields. The design of some means that you are stepping in a bit of a hole as you walk through. Not a problem on a dry day. On a wetter day, the experience ranges from muddy to stepping in six inches of brown, murky water. This day was one of the more challenging when it came to passing from field to field
The walk from Mickleton to the main road leading to Hidcote Manor takes under an hour. Once you are the top of the last field you exit on to a paved road and continue uphill, a short walk to the driveway to Hidcote Manor.
Major Lawrence Johnston bought the manor in 1905. The eleven acres surrounding the manor house had been neglected for many years. Johnston, a horticulturalist, spent the next 40 years redesigning and planting the gardens.
Many of the plants now found growing in the garden were collected from Johnston’s plant hunting trips around the world. The Manor House is worth the short self-guided tour. However it is the gardens at Hidcote Manor that are the big attraction.
The garden’s design was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. The design is more formal near the manor house and becomes less formal as you move further from the house, finally phasing into the surrounding pasture land.
Hidcote is considered to be one of the first gardens to create a series of outdoor “rooms” through plantings. Each of these rooms has a specific theme, sometimes a color, sometimes a specific type of plantings. Many of the rooms at Hidcote are separated by yew-tree hedges.
The individual garden rooms at Hidcote include the White Garden, the Fuchsia Garden and the Pool Garden. In 1948 Johnston gave Hidcote Manor to the National Trust which continues to maintain the estate.
The Kitchen Garden, where produce is grown for the onsite cafes, is also open to the public. If you need a break and a bite to eat the Barn Café has outdoor seating and is a good spot for a cup of tea or a light meal. Winthrop’s Café and Conservatory has both indoor and outdoor seating and serves more complete meals.
Plants are for sale in the plant house. There is also a shop where packaged local food and drinks are available for purchase as wells as other gift items.
The Monarch’s Way path passes close by Hidcote Manor. From the car park a brief walk on Monarch’s Way will lead you into Hidcote Bartrim, the nearest small hamlet to Hidcote Manor. Across the road from Hidcote is Kiftsgate Court Garden.
The walk back down the Kiftsgate Hill was, of course, much easier than the climb up!
Check out Insight Guides: Great Breaks Cotswolds (Insight Great Breaks) for ideas on what else to see in the Cotwolds.
Miles Geek articles about other walks in the Cotswolds.