An August 2006 trip
to Westbury-on-Severn by MichaelJM
Quote: We travelled from the Brecons through the mystical Forest of Dean to the banks of the UK's longest river and then into Herefordshire.
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Hawford, United Kingdom
+44 01743 708100
Hotel | "The Weir"
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The Weir Garden
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01981 590 509
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Westbury Court Gardens
Westbury-on-Severn, United Kingdom GL14 1PD
+44 (1452) 760461
Westbury Court is in Gloucestershire at the side of the River Severn in the small-unspoilt village of Westbury-on-Severn. It was only a 30-mile journey from Abergavenny and we passed through some exquisite countryside on route, crossing picturesque canals with pleasure boats idling their way down stream and having great overviews of the Wye valley before encountering the mighty Severn, which at 220 miles is the longest river in the UK. It starts its journey high in the hills of mid-Wales before arriving at the Bristol Channel and as we started our descent to Westbury-on-Severn we were able to appreciate its indisputable majesty.
The Forest of Dean places an important role in the local’s eyes and is full of history having ancient megalithic sites (Clearwell Caves) through to the industrial revolution and the coal mining of the 20th Century. Further enquiries certainly suggest that this is a place to return to and investigate more fully. Today we just enjoyed a leisurely drive through this royal forest that was the first forest to be designated, in 1938, as a National Forest Park. It was known as "the queen of all forests" and is said to have been inspirational for JRR Tolkien in writing the Hobbit, Dennis Potter and more recently JK Rowling in the magical adventures of Harry Potter. Certainly there is no denying the mystical qualities of the forest although I have to join in the scepticism of a recent disclosure that Robin Hood was based here rather than in Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood.
Westbury-on-Severn is itself a pretty little village and claims to be one of the best villages in which to view the "Severn Bore" (The Severn is a tidal river and "the Bore" is the wave) and it’s apparently not unusual for surfer or canoeists to ride the "bore" as it progresses up the river. I’d love to have seen that! On low tide (as long as you’ve got Wellington boots) you’ can check out the foot of the Garden Cliff, with its distinctive red and grey bands, for prehistoric memorabilia – notably fossilised plesiosaur bones and sharks teeth copralites (fossilised dinosaur dung), fool's gold, and "devil's toenails" (fossilised oyster shells).
We were on a mission Westbury Court Gardens – here we come!
Forest of Dean
+44 1594 812388
Attraction | "Westbury Court Garden"
Across the well-manicured parterre the detached steeple of Westbury's 14th Century parish church towers above as we enjoy the garden views, the sound of the gently flowing Westbury Brook and the overall tranquillity of this National Trust property.
A gentle walk around the whole garden would only take about 10 minutes, but we spent a couple of hours here without any difficulty. Next to the walled garden is the recreated rabbit warren with a detailed, but somewhat weather worn, information sheet. It seems that these imported animals (although they are now so common place that it's hard not to think of them as indigenous) were cared for by a warrener and were a great source of food for the gentry. Of course the by-product (their fur) was not wasted either and because they were prone to predators they were carefully protected within the warren (this recreation is only a seventh of the original) by walls and a moat.
The walled garden (dating from 1725) was introduced by Maynard Colchester’s nephew and is believed to be an exact replication with only plants (over 100 species in total) detailed in Maynard’s stock audit. It wasn’t spectacular when we visited with many plants having gone a "bit leggy".
A gentle walk along the northern wall - now separating this tranquil garden from the main road - and we have a perfect view of "Neptune astride a dolphin" (one of only a few statues in the garden). Water fowl frolic at the water's edge and tease us with their heavily signalled intention to dive into the canal - they either had second thoughts or slid ungraciously into the water.
We meander down the side of the long canal with its border of yew hedges, taking a detour through the vegetable garden to the enclosure at the base of the "T" where 5 large trees have been nurtured over the years. Taking pride of place is the "Holm Oak, which is one of the oldest green Oaks in England having been planted around the year 1600. Alongside this is the similarly aged and equally magnificent Tulip Tree.
What a great place to chill out and take in a bit of history!