Located about 2km west of Princes Risborough in the central Chilterns, Bledlow really is off the beaten track.
With the Lions of Bledlow pub at one end, wobbly brick and flint cottages either side of the shady street, the parish church described as ‘fabulously wild’, and a manor house with a secret water garden at the other end, it’s quite a place!
Bledlow is in fact derived from ‘Bled-Hlaw’ meaning Bloody Hill, from a battle between the Danes and Saxon’s – way back. Two ancient trails pass by the village; the Icknield Way and Ridgeway National Trail. It would be no coincidence that the communities who lived here either welcomed visitors, or had to defend themselves at the sound of soldiers boots on the chalk. Not hard to imagine as there’s something refreshingly untamed about the place. Footpaths and signs for the long distance trails inviting you both up and away over the hills, or inviting you down into the village.
Manor House and Gardens
The Manor House dates from the 17th century and has been long associated with the Carrington family. Built by the Blancks family, it was bought by the first Lord Carrington for his eldest son in the late 18th century. It has endured multiple change of function, and is once again being renovated by current owners, the seventh Lord and Lady Carrington. His father held key government posts during 1980’s and was the sixth Secretary General of NATO.
Before 1950, there wasn’t a garden. What is here now was designed by landscape architect Robert Adams following destruction of a 15th century tithe barn in 1967 that necessitated a re-design.
A kitchen garden, sculpture garden, fish ponds, snail gardens and orchard now surround the house in a carpet of deep green, lilac, lots of bees and whichever shade of rose you prefer.
Situated beside the church in a deep, shaded ravine, is the the Lyde Garden. Also landscaped by Robert Adams for the sixth Lord Carrington in the 1980’s.
The ravine is full of noisy tumbling streams. They converge into clear pools marking the rising of the River Lyde, a tributary of the River Thame. No wonder it was the site of watercress beds, a once popular Chilterns crop.
I could see why Bledlow is called a spring line village. This is a settlement formed around chalk springs through which water escapes between a layer of permeable rock above impermeable rock.
‘They who live and abide,
shall see Bledlow Church fall into the Lyde”Medieval nursery rhymn
The shady gardens have a distinctive sub-tropical feel, with some leaves the circumference of tractor tires. Moody willows droop into the ponds, exotic ferns jostle with Californian trees and brightly coloured Himalayan flowers line the path. Even the duck house looks exotic!
Holy Trinity church is described by Simon Jenkins, (author of England’s Thousand Best Churches), as ‘fabulously wild’. This largely unaltered Romanesque church dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. Sadly, due to Covid restrictions, I have not yet been able to go inside. I will return.
A microcosm of an English village, Bledlow is a blip on the landscape, but very much shaped by it. The church is still standing, but who knows, in thousands of years, perhaps the nursery rhyme will come true?
The Manor House Garden, Bledlow HP27 9PB is open to visitors by appointment.
The Lyde Garden, is on Church End and is open all year around from 9 – 5pm. No dogs please.
Explore the veritable feast that is the Central Chilterns including extensive Ashridge woodland, Dunstable downs, a Norman castle, historic market towns and the Grand Union Canal.
Discover holidays and long-distance hiking holidays along the ancient Ridgeway National Trail.
Celebrate the seasons in the Chiltern Hills with a NEW range of beautifully designed gifts and souvenirs to take home with you. Chilterns Gifts are available for delivery to mainland UK addresses only.