The land on which Owls’ Wood was built was from the middle of the I8th century, a paddock in the ownership of Winthorpe Hall and across which land the carriageway to the Hall traversed. Its considerable charm is due to the thoughtful planting of trees both to the carriageway and for landscaping the Hall’s many acres reaching as far as the River Trent. In addition small areas of woodland on each side of the Hall were created. Now, some 250 years old these many deciduous native trees form a screen about 80 feet high. Such places where a home can be built are scarce and very hard to find. By mere chance such an opportunity came to my wife Freda and I about I958 and Owls’ Wood was ready to be our new home for Christmas 1960. Freda was emphatic that we should create a romantic looking house, quite unlike the prevailing and rather dull type of post war architecture, devoid of gracious curve. Among our closest friends was Dick Bradbury, an architect who was also an accomplished artist as can be seen from the relief sculpture, which is built into the west wall of the garden room. His interpretation of what Freda and I wanted resulted in a home of considerable charm, particularly when viewed from beneath the oak tree on the lawn which is, it, a feature some 250 years old. The house windows were placed at a low level in order to enjoy views of the garden when sitting in the main rooms of the house. More charm was added by the choice of Canadian Cedar Shingles to tile the roof. They were put into position ‘random and stagger’ as well as being curved over the windows. Owls’ Wood and the house nearby (which Dick Bradbury built for his own use) are believed to be the only two houses in the Newark area to feature this type of roof. The best place to appreciate the charm of the Cedar Shingles is the wall cladding above the front door where they are still quite unspoilt by the passing of time. Another feature of Owls’ Wood is the Garden Room, constructed in Scandinavian style. The inspiration for this room came from visits to Denmark where Freda and I enjoyed valuable friendships over many years.
The size of the garden at Owls’ Wood, so far as I know, has never been accurately measured but is assumed to be about two acres. One frequently reads in books on gardening of the opportunity in gardens of sufficient size to be divided and discovered by visitors with surprise. So it is at Owls’ Wood. There is the main garden with lawn surrounding three sides of the house (East, South and West). Unseen from the main garden and nearer to the road is the old carriageway with its delightful vista of long established trees of varying types. The humus covered original gravel drive is now a lawn. Then, on the far side of the main garden, away from the house the ground slopes steeply down for about 20 feet to the flood level of the Trent Valley and bordered by a stream, once originating on Beacon Hill but now diverted and leaving it to flow only with land drainage to the Trent. Across the stream is one of the areas of woodland already mentioned? This area, not in sight from the house is just kept tidy. Returning to the central area, the ground here is red clay, covered, where near to the trees, with many years of leaf mold, a very good growing medium. Away from the trees much is lawn, needing careful treatment to ensure adequate drainage despite the clay.
From the very beginning, after it was decided where the house would stand, a basic plan how that area, adjacent to the house would be developed was drawn up and it is today, forty years later, very much as it was then planned. It just took a long time, even after retirement; to put into practice new ideas while maintaining what had been done already. Even so, since 1998 two major changes have been achieved, both of which have greatly added to the attractiveness of Owls’ Wood. In 1998 I became aware that two rather uninteresting trees, planted many years ago in the wrong place, had grown sufficiently to block the view from the house of the many magnificent old trees growing beyond the boundary of this property. Removing them not only restored the view of these trees but also provided space for a carefully planned new area, of shrubs leading the eye to the magnificent background beyond. Today it is, I believe, the most attractive view from the garden. Secondly, only in the spring of this year, it was necessary to remove a bed of roses that had passed their best days. The position was important because it faced directly towards the terrace and the living rooms of the house. What had been a bed of roses fifty feet long in a quadrant three feet wide only is now eight feet wide and is a mixed border of about 125 shrubs and plants designed to give colour throughout the year.
Pat Finn. December 2013.
This article was given to me in 2006 by Jim Randal, the then owner of Owls' Wood.
Dick Bradley lived in the house now called Stonerings.
I remember Jim planting this bed of floribunda roses, which numbered fifty in total and all the same variety. When in full bloom in July they were magnificent.
Front vieu of Owls' Wood, Gainsborough Road, Winthorpe.
Wall clading of Canadian Cedar Shingles above the front door.
Part of the garden at the rear of the house.