JUN 15,2016 - JUN 15,2016 (1 DAYS)
Blenheim Palace - Part 2 (outdoor and indoor attractions): the Formal and Pleasure Gardens, the 'Untold Story' Exhibition.
Main Attractions: The Water Terraces, Italian Garden, Secret Garden, Churchill Memorial Garden, the Rose Garden, the Cascades, Lakeside path (or: river side walk), Pleasure Gardens, the 'Untold Story' Exhibition.
We start Part 2 of the Blenheim Place blog with the meticulous formal gardens. There is a daily tour (if weather permitting) that "covers" all five parts of the formal gardens: Water terraces, Italian Garden , Secret Garden, Rose garden and Churchill Memorial garden. It starts at 11.30 and lasts for approximately one hour. Book your place at the Visitor Centre (beyond the East Gate).
The 4th Duke of Marlborough brought Capability Brown and William Chambers to make major changes to Palace Park and Gardens. The 5th Duke of Marlborough who was an avid horticulturalist developed extensive gardens. These are all sadly lost except for the Rose Garden recently restored by the present (12th) Duke. Most of the formal gardens were added by the 9th Duke of Marlborough in the 1920s, with help of the French Landscape Architect Achille Duchêne.
Almost all formal gardens are recently restored: The Water Terraces, , the Italian Garden, the Secret Garden, the Rose Garden and Grand Cascade.
It took five years, from 1925 to 1930 for the Water Terraces to be built and involved an immense amount of planning. The three terraces in the Water Terraces of Blenheim Palace are reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of the Versailles Gardens. Achille Duchene, the famous French designer built and restored over 6000 gardens, mostly in France. Blenheim was his only significant project in England. Built between 1925 and1930, the juxtaposition of the palace and the two levels of the Water Terraces opening up on to 'Capability' Brown’s lake landscape is a breathtakingly good piece of design. Duchene didn’t get it all his own way.The 9th Duke of Marlborough, his client, insisted that the number of fountains be substantially reduced and counterbalanced with pools of still water. This makes the transition to the Brown landscape more subdued than it might otherwise have been. On this very spot, in the Terrace Gardens, brief scenes were filmed for the 1995 movie Restoration, starring Robert Downey, Jr., Sam Neill, Meg Ryan, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Grant.
You can dine at the Water Terrace Cafe' and Champagne Bar (a bit expensive, the terraces outside are beautiful setting for your lunch):
The Italian Garden is the 10th Duke of Marlborough’s private garden. It can be seen by a public walkway. Clipped box and yew form the structure of this garden which is both formal and architectural.
Found in the Italian garden is the "Untitled" sculpture by German artist Georg Baselitz. It is a contemporary response to Antonio Canova’s sculpture The Three Graces (1814-1817), reinventing the iconic mythological trio. Unlike Canova’s depiction, Baselitz’s maidens are monumental, rough-hewn and faceless, their bodies carved in a manner which recalls African sculpture, evoking the primitive line of early Modernists such as Picasso and Braque:
Blenheim Palace - a view from the Italian Garden:
The Secret Garden was originally the 10th Duke of Marlborough's private garden but was restored under the auspices of the 11th Duke as part of the Battle of Blenheim tercentenary celebrations in 2004. This newly renovated garden lies to the east of the South Lawn. In contrast to the formal gardens, because it has an informal style, and sweeping parkland. The garden has been designed to look interesting all year round with foliage (leaves) of different shapes, colors and size. The garden does not have many flowering plants.It also is a secluded area which leads you down paths over bridges and to the tranquil stream. There is a small cascade and several pools with water running continually between them. The best month for visiting this garden is March-April. There are 10,000 bulbs in the ground that flower in these months. There are several Blue Cedars in the garden:
The circular Rose Garden is equipped with arched hoops that support climbing roses. A central statue is surrounded by symmetrical beds of roses which form a delightfully-scented display of floral beauty:
Andalucian Stallion - sculpture of Hamish Mackie near the Rose Garden:
The Churchill Memorial Garden (designed by Kim Wilkie) has a 90-metre path dotted with milestones from the glorious biography of Sir Winston Churchill (1900 - MP, 1901 -= Edward VII Crowned, 1905 - Under Secretary of State, 1908 - Marries Clementine, 4th August 1914 - WWI begins, 1911 - Becomes First Lord of the Admiralty, 11th November 1918
WWI ends, ..... 1965 - Buried at Bladon), an Oscar Nemon bronze bust and very young (still not blooming) of selected flowers. Halfway along the granite path with these milestones - there is a bench, plinth and Churchill bust. In the words of Kim Wilkie: "Churchill was enormously fond of Blenheim Palace and it is an honour to design a memorial for the great man within the Palace grounds he loved so much":
Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965):
A tarmac path leads the visitors from the Rose Garden to the Cascades. The gardens aren't that packed, probably, because they are huge. It's impossible to get crowded. BUT, here, in the cascades - you have to queue for photos of the waterfalls though.
Grand Cascade and Pump House:
From the cascades - there is a VERY CLEAR SIGNAGE for the short walk (1/2 hour at most) along the river. You'll thoroughly enjoy your lazy walk westward by the river. It is so romantic and everything is so green and quiet. On your right (part of the path) - you'll notice interesting ironworks and Wisteria branches. The trail might be a bit slippery - if there is fine rain during your day of visit. Avoid it - if it is raining heavily !
Lakeside path. The Boathouse Best wildlife and fauna seen from here...:
Immediately, beyond the boathouse - you'll notice the palace silhouette on your right. We climb, again, to the palace through the water terraces.
The next OUTDOOR section - is more suitable for children. A miniature train, a great favourite with all ages, connects the Palace to the Pleasure Gardens. The railway operates daily from February until October at half-hour intervals and at weekends only between November and December. The diesel locomotive, pulls three canopied carriages and can reach a speed of 12 mph. One carriage is wheelchair accessible. The fee - 50 pence. Train Times: From the Palace: First train 11.00 and then on the hour and half hour, last train 17.10.
The Pleasure Gardens, where a range of fun activities for children, are located including the Marlborough Maze, the Butterfly House, the Lavender Garden, Adventure Playground and Blenheim Bygones exhibition. This area is more oriented for families. The maze is the world’s second largest symbolic hedge maze, designed to reflect the history and architecture of the Palace. The maze covers an area of just over an acre (0.4 hectare) and has two high wooden bridges which provide perfect vantage points. Within the maze area is a model of a Woodstock street, putting greens, as well as a giant chess and draughts set.
The Butterfly House is a temperature-controlled greenhouse containing butterflies and plants native to their environment. In the Butterfly House, exotic tropical butterflies can be seen in free flight. The special hatchery contains the pupae of many of the species, bred on site, so at Blenheim, it's possible to study the full life-cycle. More exotic butterflies can be seen, depending on the season:
The Adventure Play Area is a purpose built wooden play area including plank bridges to run across, ladders to climb, swings and slides to enjoy:
The whole property is well protected by its enclosing wall:
After exploring the formal and pleasure gardens - we return to the Blenheim Palace - to complete its (free) indoor attractions. You can lunch, at this point, for example in the Water Terrace Cafe' (Indian Room). It cost me £11.05 for baked salmon + potatoes and some vegs. Tasty and filling. Indian themed murals and views of the Water Terraces provide an elegant setting for your afternoon meal.
This section is much different. This part starts with the palace stables and continues with the second floor of the palace and the 'Untold Story' exhibition.
Many of Churchill’s decisions were influenced by his love of horses, a love that began when he was a very young child. He first learned to ride while visiting with his grandparents at Blenheim Palace. Later, in his book 'My Early Life', Churchill described the cavalry training he underwent as a Recruit Officer after leaving Sandhurst: disciplined, demanding drill in the Riding-School, at the Stables and on the Barrack Square.
The lion's share of the stables is devoted to the Churchills' Destiny exhibition. 'Churchills' Destiny' tells the story of two great war leaders and explores the story of two great war leaders' - highlighting the fascinating parallel lives of Sir Winston Churchill and his much admired ancestor John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Open: daily from 10.00 - 17.30. Free:
Churchill, Hero's Funeral (24 JAN, 1965):
There is Indoor Cinema, located in the Stables Courtyard. The indoor cinema shows a variety of documentaries and films about Blenheim Palace, and offer an alternative experience to the 'Untold Story' (see below) for wheelchair and buggy users. Daily from 10.00 - 17.30. Free.
The Grand Court from the Stables Court:
The 'Untold Story' is an exhibition that takes part in the second floor (ask the staff members - how to climb to the 2nd floor. It is NOT straight-forward... Upstairs, you'll discover more than 300 years of captivating stories from the Palace’s past in this animated and interactive visitor experience. This exhibition is not accessible for wheelchairs. The Blenheim Palace Trust wanted to create an alternative to the existing tour of the palace staterooms. They wanted to exhibit history in a more intimate way, often seen through the eyes of servants and staff. Outside a room with a video screen that gives you an introduction to the inhabitants and the story of the building of this monumental structure. Grace Ridley, ladies’ maid to the first Duchess of Marlborough, transcends time to lead visitors from 1705 to the present, introducing them to Dukes, Duchesses and servants in bedrooms, corridors, boudoirs, a theatre, a laboratory and Blenheim’s sumptuous Great Hall. 11 rooms are transformed into theatrical sets and exhibition spaces, to allow visitors to enjoy the 300 years of history Blenheim has witnessed. After the video, an automated door opens and you step through it into a room that looks like a movie set. The doors close behind you and animatronic figures come to life and enact sections of the early history of the palace. Each segment is about 5 minutes long, and at the end of each vignette, the doors on the opposite end of the room open and you move onward to the next room. Some rooms have museum exhibits that you can linger at, others have cross-overs between animatronic displays and videos. The entire attraction takes about 45 minutes. Note: you are trapped in a 40 minute controlled tour, which is tedious and quite sticky. It consists of period rooms and a "ghost' character guiding you along. No way for retreating back or forward...
18 JUN 1705 - Laying the Foundation Stone of Blenheim Palace:
Blenheim Palace Theatre - year 1789:
John Churchill - 1st Duke of Marlborough. Married with Sara Jenings in 1677-8. Formerly, he had love affair with Barbara Villiers (famous lover of King Charles II). He got the Dukedom from Queen Anne in year 1702:
To leave the palace - you have to pass through two gift shops to get out to the Grand Court. You have to return to the Inner Court, walk through the East Gate and walk 10-15 minutes to return to the Woodstock road to catch your Gold Stagecoach S3 bus back to Oxford.