With blackest moss the flower-plots,
Were thickly crusted...
Now I've actually been to a moated grange. Birtsmorton Court, between Tewkesbury and Ledbury in Worcestershire, home of Nigel and Rosalie Dawes, is one of the few surviving moated manor houses or granges in private hands. Much of it dates from the Fifteenth Century, though parts of it are older, and there was a sympathetic rebuild in the 1930s following a fire a hundred years previously. In consequence it is an architectural delight and the major rooms remain in regular use as a wedding venue, as well as being part of the family home. There are also connections with Cardinal Wolsey and he is said to have sat under a fine Yew in the garden.
The moat, or moats, as there is an adjacent smaller moated plot where livestock would have been kept, and the huge Westminster pool, said to be the same dimensions as the nave of Westminster Abbey and dating to about the same period, complete the impression of a mediaeval landscape in which little has changed over the centuries. Interestingly these three water bodies are at different levels, so the water moves between them - in fact they form part of the stream that feeds into the Severn near Tewkesbury. The house is raised well above the water level and has never flooded.
The occasion for the visit was a lunch of gardeners hosted by Rosalie to celebrate the recent eightieth birthday of Juliet Berkeley, a very popular character in local gardening and galanthophile circles. Her own garden is in the walled garden of Spetchley Park, just outside Worcester, where her brother John has continued to develop the very fine garden of their ancestral home.
Birtsmorton Court (see http://www.birtsmortoncourt.com/ for more information) is open for the National Gardens Scheme this Sunday, 13 June - see the Yellow Book for details. It is well worth a visit.