Friday, 7 June 2013

Gardens in Normandy: Château de Brécy

My husband is an historian specialising in the Norman bishops, so we often travel in Normandy. Over the years we have visited most of the abbeys and cathedrals in the region, so on our most recent visit I insisted that we try something new - namely châteaus and gardens. And since most châteaus also contain gardens, you often get both for the price of one.

We decided to start by exploring the Château de Brécy, halfway between Caen and Bayeux. This is a private residence and garden, only open in the afternoons. The interior of the château is not open to visitors, but the exterior is an integral part of the garden vista.

The château and garden are said to have been designed in the late 17th century, and the garden is one of the few of this period left in France. Over time the garden fell into disrepair, but was restored in the early 1990s.

The garden contains a mixture of topiary, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Early June was probably not the best time to visit as the plants seemed to be between seasons - we had just missed the spring flowering, but summer had not quite arrived. Neverthless, it was well worth the visit, including the pleasant drive through lovely countryside to reach it.

When you arrive you are greeted by a magnificent gateway and a statue of a unique mythological animal - part deer, part bird, with the head of a rabbit turning back and forth.

The first garden level at the back of the château presents a parterre de broiderie - or "embroidered" hedges.

The rest of the garden rises in a series of terrasses. The second level is lined with a tree arbour, perfect for strolling out of the summer sun.

The next level, the largest, contained vegetable, fruit and flower beds, and also a water fountain in the form of a basket of arthicokes.

poppies like crushed silk

taking a break among the raspberries

The view from the top of the garden offers the orderly perspective of château, paths and topiary.

And then when you turn around, you get the best view of all, looking up the hill on to a grand perspective of infinity.