There are few things I enjoy more than a visit to a garden, and few books I love more than those by the writer Dora Saint who wrote as Miss Read. So the opportunity to marry these two passions was just too hard to resist.
Published in 1993, Farewell to Fairacre was the penultimate book in the beloved Fairacre series. Miss Read is invited to an evening concert at Rousham House by John Jenkins. Alas, it is dusk when they arrive and the garden is in darkness, but the two of them promise to return in the summer. ‘It’s one of my favourite places,’ John tells Miss Read.
Set deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, Rousham House was built in the early seventeeth-century and remodelled in the eighteenth by William Kent. But it’s the garden by Kent that is the real draw, created in the first phase of English landscape design. My husband and I visited with Dora’s daughter, Jill, on a warm, sunny day in May and the countryside looked resplendent with cow parsley and buttercups dancing in the fields and hedgerows.
And what a delight the garden was with its dovecote, fruit trees, kitchen garden, statues, temples and riverside walk. Jill and I chatted about the Farewell to Fairacre, wondering if the J S Goodall illustration in chapter eight was of the steps at the front of the house. I asked Jill if Rousham helped to place Fairacre as a village, but Jill confirmed that Dora was never precise in her location. Fairacre was ‘a downland village’, blending characteristics of many which Dora knew and a good amount from her imagination too.
We never find out if Miss Read and John Jenkins returned to Rousham to see the gardens in the summer, but I really hope they did because it’s such a magical place. Thank you, Miss Read, for inspiring a wonderful day out!
If you’re also a Miss Read fan, do join my Facebook group ‘I want to Live in Fairacre’. We’re a very friendly bunch and would love to see you there.