When Michael and Anne Heseltine were delayed on their way to speak to last October’s Festival audience about the creation of their magnificent garden at Thenford in Northamptonshire, disappointment threatened. When William and Caroline Waldegrave took to the stage instead, that danger was averted! The Waldegraves know the garden well, having visited it in the 70s when the Heseltines started the transformation, and having followed the expansion of a wild, overgrown and often dilapidated woodland into the beautiful place it is today.
Excellent though their impromptu talk was, it wasn’t quite the real thing. So the Festival organisers arranged just that: a coach to take any disappointed members of the audience to the gardens to see for themselves the results of four decades of inspiration, creativity and hard work. Very much the real thing! Today, the garden at Thenford has an arboretum which contains more than 3,500 different species of trees and shrubs, including rare plants which were wild-collected by respected plantsmen including Roy Lancaster OBE, Allen Coombes, Keith Rushforth and Chris Chadwell. Thenford is also well-known for its sculpture garden, which has an eclectic collection ranging from a white marble Tazza fountain to an enormous statue of Lenin.
The long journey was worth every mile; the sun shone warmly; the roses and herbaceous borders were at the height of their beauty; the cakes were delicious, and Lord Heseltine even posed genially for a photograph with Maggie Langdon (far left), the second Chairman of the Festival, Jenny Smith, who organised the visit, and Rosie Inge (right), committee member.