The home of William Morris Lord Nuffield, the founder of Morris motors and famous
philanthropist, opens on alternate Sundays during the Summer. On the day that I visited there was a gathering of the Rover P6C club, and a sort of social atmosphere prevailed. It was a pleasant afternoon with children playing, picnics on the lawn, and a collection of spotlessly preserved motor cars. I was there, of course, to look at the garden, a small but attractive area surrounding the house. It is located high on an area surrounded by mature trees. As I entered on the gravelled drive there was an impression of other smaller properties nearby, but they are all probably owned by the estate.
The house is owned by Nuffield College, part of the Oxford University. Currently the future is uncertain, as the College wish to relinquish ownership, and the Friends of Nuffield Place are trying to raise the £2.75 million needed to purchase the property and retain it for public ownership.
Lord Nuffield lived here 1933-1963. The garden was designed around 1920 by Milne of Stinchcombe.
As I walked up the entrance drive I was immediately struck by the wide range of attractive tree plantings, a feature of this 4 ha garden. It is not a large garden compared with many others open to the public, but nevertheless well worth a visit. Immediately to the left as I walk in is a nice circular bed and a range of plants for sale.
Then down the side of the house and into a hedged pathway opening into an attractive lawned area with trees having a variety of green and red foliage. The tree colours make an interesting tapestry of contrast.
Walking on through the gap in the hedge the view opens out into a large sunken lawn with a wall down one side. Along the top of the wall there is a row of cypresses looking impressive in the sunshine, and making a frame work for the rest of the garden in front of the house.
Along the top of the wall is a flower bed with a few plants, but this is not the main feature of the garden. The lawns, the hedges and the trees here have been well maintained, but the border really needs some additional plantings to exploit it's potential fully. A woodland walk leads away from one of the lawns into a nice area of broadleaf trees, and affords cooling shadows in the heat of the Summer sun.
I cross the lawn and past a scalloped yew hedge to view the flower beds to the side of the house. These are a blaze of colour, with glowing Monarda and Crocosmia contrasting effectively with the white of the Leucanthemum.
The trees at this end of the garden are an indication of the effects of using a combination of conifer and broadleaf, and make a delightful boundary in many shades of green. Opposite the formal beds is a pergola underplanted with Petunias and other flowers. It is probable that this had climbing flowering plants earlier in the season, but in mid Summer not quite so colourful.
In the corner of another lawned area there seems to be a childrens' teddy bear party gathered, adding to the relaxing social atmosphere of the day. A small pond fed from a little stream is totally covered with a thick mat of pond weed, yet nevertheless looks rather nice sparkling in the sunshine.
An old gnarled tree has been painted to form a sort of architectural feature, and although not one of my favourite garden artifacts, looks good in stark contrast with its surroundings. Amazingly, the apparently dead tree has managed to produce a small shoot, promising a revival of life. I am surprised that the paint hasn't finished it off!
Location: Oxfordshire RG9 5RY
Map: SU 679879
Geology: Pebbly silty clay, nearby limestone.
Refreshments and toilets: yes
Opening: see web site
or phone 01491 641224