Posted by: marymarthatours | January 30, 2011

Return to The Manor House at Upton Grey – by Martha

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At the top of our list of “things to do” for the Mary and Martha fun trip to England last fall, was a return visit to The Manor House at Upton Grey. Our 2007 English Garden tour had included a stop there to explore the restored 1912 Gertrude Jekyll gardens. The garden re-creator, Rosamund Wallinger, was not home that day, so Philip, the resident gardener, gave our group a most delightful tour with history of the gardens. John Wallinger and the dogs greeted us, but we missed seeing Rosamund. Many of our travelers voted this the most enjoyable garden of all 23 on the tour. The story of our 2007 visit is told on our posting of Feb. 4, 2010. 

We had included The Manor House at Upton Grey on two other tour itineraries, but sadly those tours did not materialize, and Mary had to communicate with Rosamund that we had to cancel. Both Mary and I have made PowerPoint presentations on the history and restoration of the Jekyll gardens at The Manor House with the support and encouragement of Rosamund. The full history of the restoration project is on www.gertrudejekyllgarden.co.uk.

Well, to make a long story short, we received an invitation from Rosamund to come to the Manor House for lunch while in England last fall. We took the train from London to Basingstoke where John Wallinger picked us up in the Land Rover for the drive to Upton Grey. It was fun to talk with him and learn of his youth in Austria and Hungary in the 1940s and 50s. Upon our arrival at the Manor House, Rosamund greeted us with the question, “Would you like to have champagne in the garden?” Now I knew we had entered paradise!!

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The terrace where we had champagne (photo from 2007 M&M tour)

We discovered that Rosamund is also an outstanding cook, as lunch was outstanding. We ate at the enormous round table in the dining room, where I had a view out the large windows to the garden terrace. Rosamund’s sister, Toni, joined us for the meal and with the five of us, conversation was fun and most interesting. Later Mary and I had some chuckles about expressions used by our British hosts, and we suspect that they were also smiling about how the Americans didn’t know which silver or plates to use during the meal. We could only hope that our manners where not so far out of line to be considered rude.

After lunch, Mary and I went off to tour the tiny St. Mary’s Church next door (www.uptongreychurch.info) which has layers of history and many architectural styles. When we returned to the house, we found Rosamund, John, and Philip all busy working in the garden. We realized how much labor and devotion the 4-acre garden requires and that if gardening were not their passion, the restored garden would soon be derelict again.

John drove us back to the train station and on the ride back to London, we marveled at the gracious hospitality of the Wallingers and their fun personalities. We were so privileged to have the experience of a grand meal with charming hosts. I admire them greatly for the restoration work they have accomplished not just with the garden but with the house as well and for their generosity of sharing with others.

Rosamund is working on writing a second book about her experiences. The first, Gertrude Jekyll’s Lost Garden, recounts the history of the garden and the restoration project. For anyone who loves gardening, I highly recommend reading her book and watching for the new one.

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Mary, John and Rosamund at the Manor House, Oct. 2010

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Responses

  1. How humbling. I think I’m doing well to have Shasta Daisys bloom — and my guests get lemonade made from frozen concentrate! Clearly we American country cousins have some things to learn . . .
    EllenR

  2. Readers should be grateful to folks like Mary and Martha who do so much legwork.
    This story in the NY Times alerts us to travel scams that can nail anyone:

    http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/burned-a-london-vacation-rental-scam/

    • Ellen, I always enjoy your comments and questions. You are a great M&M blog traveler. The scam written about in the NY Times seems obvious to me; loaded with red-flag warnings. There are many on-line sources for good travel advise. Rick Steves’ site is very helpful and hopefully so is my posting on “Tips for A Great Trip on A Budget” (posted Nov. 29th, 2010). Happy and safe travels, Martha


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