An Author’s Garden and Inspiration

Great Britain

As a child, I was a voracious reader….I still am.  One of my favorite authors was C.S. Lewis.  My mother introduced me to the first book of the “Chronicles of Narnia“,  The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.  As soon as I had finished the first chapter, I was hooked.  I couldn’t wait to read the remaining six books in the series.  So, my mother told me that if I folded laundry for two weeks, then she would buy me the rest of the books.  Over the years, I have read and re-read those books countless times, sharing them with my children.  

In the summer of 2003, my family embarked on a vacation to Great Britain.  It was actually a family tour because our entire extended family came…aunts, uncles and cousins included.  We had a large bus, a driver and my uncle (who is a college professor who teaches classes about C.S. Lewis), as a tour guide.  We visited Scotland, Wales and finished up in England.  

The last full day of our trip was to be my most favorite.  We were to visit the home, pub, church and grave of C.S. Lewis.

Vacation to Great Britain

Vacation to Great Britain

His home is located in the village of Risinghurst, which is just outside of Oxford.  The home is generally not open for tourists and is owned by the United States based C.S. Lewis Foundation and is primarily used by scholars.  

Our time there was spent viewing the gardens and the surrounding grounds.

Vacation to Great Britain

C.S. Lewis wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia” in this home where he lived for 34 years, until his death in 1963.   Both his home and surrounding landscape played important roles in his stories. 

During WWII, he played host to children that were evacuated from London, just as the main characters in his stories were.

Although, I had been looking forward to seeing his home, I was quite surprised at how beautiful the surrounding garden was.  I love surprises that involve beautiful flowers.






My favorite flower that I cannot grow, Hydrangea.

The house used to be surrounded by eight acres of woodland.  Now, the area is smaller.  

I remember how excited I was as we walked around to the back of the house, and were greeted by the sight of a beautiful woodland with a pond.   This area is called the “C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve” and was visible to Lewis from his study window as he wrote his stories.  

My father and oldest daughter explore this picturesque area

 My father and oldest daughter explore this picturesque area.

It is said that much of the inspiration for the land of Narnia came from this wooded area.  During periods of snowfall, you can almost picture the lamp post, that figures prominently in his stories, in the distance.

Vacation to Great Britain

When I stopped to listen, I could almost hear the trees talk as they sometimes did in his stories….

You can read more about C.S. Lewis places to see in Oxford at the following link, “In The Footsteps of C.S. Lewis, Oxford“.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
22 replies
  1. Bangchik
    Bangchik says:

    Beautiful house with beautiful landscape. Inspiring indeed. Interesting to know how most mothers entice children with carrots. I am sure you get hooked with books as much as you had excelled in folding laundry.

  2. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    Oh my! What a wonderful place! I love English gardens! Oh, the cosmos and hydrangeas remind me of my old garden! And that woodland preserve! So beautiful and peaceful. I would love to visit C.S. Lewis's homeplace. I too am a big fan and loved the books as a kid. I had to fold laundry for free though. ; ) Fortunately, my 6th grade teacher kept an awesome library in our classroom full of what would come to be my favorite fantasy/sci-fi books.

  3. Alice Joyce
    Alice Joyce says:

    Gorgeous tour! I never read 'Narnia'… but I may just be visiting Oxford for the first time later this year.
    Sorry I haven't been by lately, Noelle,
    time has been sucked into a vast black hole since working on new web site.
    Would love a break to see the desert wildflowers,

  4. Rosie
    Rosie says:

    I brought my kids up on all the Narnia books and videos. I used to live down the road from his childhood home Little Lea though he had lived in a few houses in our area. I used to see the lion door knocker on the house and used to tell the children that we were walking the same footpaths he once walked.

    If I told you that my grandad's garden was part of the original Narnia would you believe me? It was as he based the Narnia landscape on County Down where I grew up.

    I must get some photos on my blog someday for you – but mine are all in polariod rather than digital. Rosie

  5. lostlandscape (James)
    lostlandscape (James) says:

    I'm not sure if you'd call his home a cottage, but the garden sure screams "English cottage garden" to me, and a really nicely done one at that! Fortunately for us, we can grow hydrangreas–It's one of those "just ad water" (and lots of it) kinds of plants. But as much as I like them myself I've resisted. Water (and Arizona heat) probably aren't issues for gardeners in England…

  6. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    What a wonderful garden to visit. I truly can see the lamp post. I can see how he was inspired during his writings. This is one of my childhood faves too, that lingers on today.

  7. pamsenglishgarden
    pamsenglishgarden says:

    Noelle, This post is just breathtaking! How I envy your visit … I took a class at Oxford U. once, but C.S. Lewis's house was not open to the public. I am so glad I can now see it through your eyes. His cottage garden is an inspiration to me. Great photography. Thanks.

  8. James Missier
    James Missier says:

    I could totally relate to the Narnian's those wind blown petaled fairy and tree moving their roots scene from the movie.
    Didn't know all these are inspiration from the back of his garden.

  9. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    Noelle, i have read many of the writings of C.S. Lewis, beginning with the Narnia series at age 10. Thank you for this wonderful post. I think the surroundings he lived in, as well as his books, say a lot about what was in his heart. His beautiful garden brought tears to my eyes. Truly inspirational!

  10. Rose
    Rose says:

    I'm embarrassed to say, Noelle, that I never read any of The Chronicles of Narnia, but they were favorites of one of my children. But I can imagine how thrilling this must have been to visit C.S. Lewis' home, and what lovely gardens! I've always wanted to visit Stratford-on-Avon, the Lake District, and Charlotte Bronte's home. What an adventure to take with your whole family!

  11. Helen at summerhouse
    Helen at summerhouse says:

    Wonderful photos of such a very English garden. What I find so interesting is that your whole family booked a tour, what a great idea! It must have been fun. And you had the perfect tour guide, your uncle, for a tour of the C S Lewis home and garden!

  12. sweet bay
    sweet bay says:

    What a wonderful post. I have not read his books, but I loved the first movie. (Normally for me it's the other way around.) What a lovely garden and woodlands he had, and a wonderful legacy he's left behind in his books. How nice to get to go to England with the entire family too.

  13. JOHNSON, Cotswold Hills, England.
    JOHNSON, Cotswold Hills, England. says:

    What an interesting post, Noelle and lovely photos.

    Despite Oxford being our nearest city and a place I spend quite a lot of time in I have never visited Lewis's gardens or nature reserve although, of course, I knew about it. Odd how, when places are on your doorstep, you never get round to seeing them.


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