AMAZING GROUNDS-8 – CASTLE ASHBY HOUSE, NORTHAMTONSHIRE, ENGLAND
In front of Castle Ashby House
PHOTO COURTESY : TRIPADVISOR.COM
Castle Ashby House
Cricket was first played at this lovely location in the late 19th century when the house took on the stables and estate workers. Those games remain today in the annual House vs Gardens XI match.
The once manor house grew in significance in the 14th century. Elizabeth I stayed there in 1600, and her successor James I in 1605. Although it is entitled to the formal name ‘castle’, it is more like a mansion. Since the mid-16th century, it has belonged to the family of the Marquess of Northampton, whose family name is Compton (no relation to the famous cricketing name).
A pavilion was constructed in 1904 and positioned so the then Earl couldn’t see it from his bedroom. In 1974 a more convenient and less architecturally impressive pavilion was built by members and financed by the 6th Marquess of Northampton. The playing area includes an ash tree that sits adjacent to the playing area and awards a “ 6” to a batsman who hits it on the full. The boundary was once the road which runs around the edge of the large field, however, much to older player’s delight, the boundary has been shortened with the use of markers.
The impressive and the most glamorous cricket pitch in the County, is home to the Castle Ashby House CC. Its backdrop is the Castle itself, and it is shielded from the winds by avenues of ancient oak trees on either side. The old pavilion is set back into the trees so it doesn’t impede the view of the Marquess when he looks out of his bedroom window in the morning.
The grounds provided the venue for the Greenbelt christian music festival each year from 1984-92. Two open air concerts were given by Sir Elton John in the grounds in front of the house in July 2000. Local amateur acting group Parish players, drawn from various people of nearby villages holds regular performances in the castle- a tradition carried on now for some years.
CASTLE ASHBY GARDENS
Castle Ashby is the ancestral home of the 7th Marquess of Northampton.
Wander through its gardens, open 365 days of the year, and you are taking a walk through history. Set in the heart of a 10,000-acre estate, the 35 acres of extensive gardens are a combination of several styles including the romantic Italian Gardens, the unique Orangery and impressive Arboretum.
The full Castle Ashby experience also involves a menagerie, children’s play area, plant centre, tea room and gift shop.
King William III visited in October 1695, and was very taken with the grounds, suggesting improvements to make it even more impressive, bringing the gardens into focus. The King suggested that four avenues of trees radiating out from the house would add to the formal impact. This suggestion was accepted, and the double avenues of Lime and Elm, accompanied by formal ponds, took 25 years to establish.
But it was during the later Victorian era that the gardens acquired many of the landmarks we enjoy today. The beautiful Orangery with its deep pool full of fish and tropical feel dates from this time. The Birmingham Houses were constructed, with their elegant spiral staircases. These are greenhouses where most of the bedding plants used in the gardens are grown. The other favourite structure is the round Fuchsia House, home to over 180 varieties in summer. This area of the Gardens is also home to the Rainbow border, the Secret Garden, the Butterfly Garden and the Walled Garden. In summer these areas are filled with beautiful fragrant and colourful annual planting. Take a step further down, and the woodland nature trail takes you towards some impressive ancient trees, and alongside waterways and bridges with natural planting, wildlife and aquatic birds.
The gardens of Castle Ashby are a wonderful place to meet and picnic with your family and friends, as there’s lots to explore and discover, and even better, they are open 365 days a year! It is rated as one of the best places in the county for a game of hide and seek!
Spring, summer and autumn are a riot of colour, as the gardens are well tended despite their large size. There’s even a menagerie with marmosets and meerkats, a sure-fire way to entertain visitors of all ages. Dogs on leads are permitted, and there are places where a well-behaved canine is allowed off-lead. There’s a play area for children, an essential café, a plant centre and small souvenir shop, clean loos.