Coming up Roses in the Cotswolds: Broadway, Worcestershire

PUBLISHED: 13:41 12 October 2012 | UPDATED: 21:42 20 February 2013

Coming up Roses in the Cotswolds: Broadway, Worcestershire

Coming up Roses in the Cotswolds: Broadway, Worcestershire

Karen Bowerman visited the picturesque village of Broadway and discovered a rich artistic and horticultural heritage

Broadway: a stopover for stagecoaches

Its thought Broadway began attracting visitors (on a regular basis) in the 17th century when it became a staging post for travellers between Worcester and London.

Coach drivers used the village to change horses ahead of the steep western Cotswolds escarpment, while passengers sought refreshment at one of the public houses - there were 33 to choose from! One of the most popular, the Lygon Arms, is still open today.

With the rise of the railways in the 1850s, stagecoach travel declined. But Broadway didnt lose its appeal. In fact the lack of traffic attracted a new king of visitor: Victorian artists, writers and designers in search of peace and solitude. Among them was William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Broadway Tower: from folly to art studio

In the 1880s Morris adopted Broadway Tower, a folly built in the 1790s, as his studio. I drove up Fish Hill to find it. The tower stands in fields, its 65ft turrets overlooking rolling countryside. On a clear day its said you can see several counties from the top.

By the late 19th century Morris enthusiasm for Broadway was shared by his friends. Alfred Parsons, a British illustrator and landscape designer and Francis Millet, an American artist, just two of Morris regular visitors, fell in love with the village and settled there. Millet rented Farnham House while Parsons commissioned Andre Noble Prentice, a Scottish Arts and Crafts architect to design Luggers Hill, now Luggers Hall.

The grand house was completed in 1914. Parsons spent the last six years of his life there combining painting with his passion for roses.

Mary Anderson, the first American actress to play Rosalind at Stratford, was also drawn to the village. After visiting on a riding holiday, she and her husband bought Court Farm at the top of the High Street.

Karen Bowerman visited the picturesque village of Broadway and discovered a rich artistic and horticultural heritage

IT was a serious poisoning job, Michael de Navarro said.

We were strolling round his garden in Broadway, a small Worcestershire village on the edge of the north Cotswolds.

Given de Navarros a barrister, anyone listening to our conversation may have thought he was recounting a recent court case. He was actually telling me about his struggle with a batch of infernal weeds that had plagued his garden for months.

I met de Navarro on a summers afternoon after deciding, on impulse, to visit the Cotswolds. A leisurely drive led me to Worcestershire and Broadway where chestnut trees and cottages of butter-coloured stone ran the length of a wide, main street (or broad way) which gave rise to the villages name.

There were tea rooms, boutiques and art galleries; neat grass verges edged with yellow and purple irises, perfectly clipped hedges and houses with ramshackle roofs and pale pink English roses arching over their front doors.

Hikers (Broadway is on the Cotswolds Way) were tucking into cream teas; children were queuing for ice creams, and couples, on a day out, were wandering around in the sunshine.

Peonies, poppies and magnolia

Michael de Navarro deadheads a tulip. He tells me about the garden of his childhood the one he now owns and has planted with aliums, peonies, giant poppies, lupins and magnolia. He recalls how as a child he played cricket at the far end of the lawn when the pond was still a swimming pool.

De Navarro owns Court Farm. Mary Anderson was his grandmother and more than a century ago she asked the landscape artist, Albert Parsons, to design her garden. For the past two years de Navarro has been trying to recreate it.

Parsons had a particular plan in mind, he explains. His basic idea for Court Farm was that there were formal beds close to the house then lawns spreading into the hillside. I know there was a nut walk, a herbaceous border, a row of bleached limes and some eccentric topiary, but after this its difficult to know what else he had in mind.

I read my grandmothers diaries but they were frustratingly lacking in detail. They speak of the day Alfred came and discussed the garden but then she goes on to talk about something else. Elsewhere she describes the garden as a sea of blue but I dont know if this means the beds were planted with larkspurs or delphiniums. In the end I chose delphiniums because I prefer them!

My companion pauses to pull up a weed. I cant help tweaking things he says. Besides, time is running out. He tells me hes opening his garden to visitors as part of Broadways Art Festival which is celebrating the life and work of Albert Parsons.

I ask him how he feels about having members of the public scrutinise his flowerbeds. Im reasonably chilled, he replies, then adds, Am I overwhelmed? Yes. But its exciting too.

Historic gardens and hidden ponds

Parsons own garden, that of Luggers Hill (now Luggers Hall) is also open for viewing. Its been beautifully restored by its present owners, the Haslams, and reflects Parsons Arts and Crafts style with a delightful mix of colour and texture.

I stumbled across a hidden pond, mossy steps, a yew tree arch, walled garden, topiary, poppies, exquisite irises and lavender in abundance.

As the skies clouded over I brought the afternoon to a close with a traditional cream tea round the corner from Broadways 19th century St Michaels and All Angels Church.

Half an hour later I drove past Court Farm. There was no indication anyone was there, but I had the feeling that round the back de Navarro was still outside, weeding, tweaking and deadheading tulips

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