Buckden Towers Knot garden
How often do you find that it takes the arrival of a visitor to sally forth and re-discover some of the jewels in your own backyard? The arrival of our dear American friend, Libby (whose family hosted me back in 2005 when I was doing a teaching assignment in an American High School) prompted a flurry of visits to local points of interest.
To name but a few:
Historic centre of Kimbolton and its Castle
Scarecrow festival in Abbotsley
Fotheringhay, its church and castle mound, and its connections with Richard III and Mary Queen of Scots.
Aldwincle with its connections with the poet John Dryden
Achurch, where John Quincy Adams (6th President of the USA) had his ancestral roots.
Little Gidding, with its connections with Nicholas Ferrar and TS Eliot.
But a point of special interest, on the Katherine of Aragon trail, was Buckden Towers and its Knot garden. With the expert
guidance of our botanist friend, Jane, we discovered the formal beauty of a Tudor garden, with its aromatic array of herb borders containing thymes, marjorams, hyssops, lavenders, rue and much much more.
Called the Queen Katherine garden, it would be easy to think that when Katherine of Aragon had been held prisoner here, she would have looked down from the Tower on such a thing of beauty. But most unlikely. Such gardens only came into vogue during the reign of Elizabeth I, and the inclusion of so many culinary and medicinal herbs testified to two tantalizingly contradictory notions: first, that Tudor cooking was gaining richly in its use of new and unusual flavours, but its medicine (alas) was still based on the unproven methods of medieval England. Herbal medicinal mixtures simply did not work in the majority of cases, as testified by the very low life expectancy in the 16th century. Scarcely 10% of the people lived to the age of 40.