I SUPPOSE there can hardly be anyone anywhere who has not at some time or another, when in thoughtful mood, scribbled down the phrase “man versus nature” – but one place where man is certainly in control is the garden at Daylesford House, near Kingham, which straddles the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border.

Here, in a sort of private paradise, eight gardeners spend their days toiling away to ensure that not a weed dares to poke its head above the surface of the earth; and they do so, moreover, without any chemical killers.

I was lucky enough to visit the place earlier this month on a tour organised by the Oxfordshire Gardens Trust.

Having seen the truly lovely Indian-style Gothic Orangery, designed between 1789 and 1790 by John Davenport, it was somehow unsurprising to see a sort of Indian temple on an island in the Bottom Lake, forming the centrepiece of the view from the house.

What was surprising was to learn that it had only been there two weeks — so right did it look in its setting, balancing the dome on the house.

I had signed up to join the tour mainly because I have long been star-struck by that extraordinary nabob, Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India, who employed architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell to build Daylesford House.

By coincidence I had also just finished reading a book by Victoria Huxley, called Jane Austen and Adlestrop (2013 Windrush Publishing Services), which I would recommend any local historian to buy.

It tells, among lots of other interesting stories, the surprising tale of the close connection between Jane Austen and Warren Hastings – not two people that I, for one, would have thought of placing in the same mental compartment. Jane Austen often stayed with rich relatives at the rectory in Adlestrop – which is within easy walking distance of Daylesford.

Also, as I gather from Ms Huxley’s book, Warren Hastings was a fan of Austen’s work.

In 1813 she wrote to her sister, Cassandra: “And Mr Hastings! I am quite delighted with what such a man writes about it. Henry [her brother] sent him the books after his return from Daylesford ... I long to have you hear Mr H’s opinion of P & P [Pride and Prejudice]. His admiring my Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me.”

On top of all that, the affairs of Mr Hastings were closely interwoven with those of the Austen family.

Jane’s aunt, the wonderfully named Philadelphia Austen, had, in 1751, found herself in the position – not unusual for well-brought-up 18th-century girls without fortune – of needing to travel to India in search of a husband.

She, accordingly, set sail that year aboard the Bombay Castle, along with 11 other single women; and six months after landing in Madras married a surgeon in the East India Company called Dr Hancock. In 1759, the couple moved to Bengal, where they became friends of Warren Hastings.

Shortly afterwards Mr Hastings’s wife and baby daughter died, leaving him alone with his three-year-old son, George, whom he decided to send back to England because these were dangerous times in India.

And the person to whom he sent the boy was none other than Jane’s father, the Rev George Austen, who was about to marry Cassandra, Jane’s mother.

Sadly the boy died in England of “a putrid sore throat” but the friendship between the families remained.

Walking around the lovely walled garden created by Daylesford’s present owners, Lord and Lady Bamford – of JCB excavators and Daylesford Organic repute – I could not help thinking of the exotic Indian fruits he introduced here.

Doubtless he would be delighted to see the Indian mood of the garden continuing two centuries down the line.

As for man and nature, I am writing this in my own very, very, much smaller garden, where nature is definitely king.

Grand dream funded by a passage to India

Witney Gazette:

WARREN Hastings, above, dreamed from his childhood, and throughout his colourful career in India, of buying back the old family estate of Daylesford, which could be seen across the valley from Churchill, where he was born in 1732.

His ancestors had owned Daylesford since the 12th century but had gone into decline and sold it.

His mother, Hester, died shortly after his birth.

His clergyman father then abandoned him and his elder sister, Anne, and took himself and his new wife off to live in Barbados.

The poor children, virtually orphans, were therefore brought up by their grandfather and, later, by their uncle.

Upon his return from India in 1785, having amassed a fortune, Warren Hastings set about the business of realising his dream; after three years of negotiations he bought back Daylesford, then consisting of a ruined house and 550 acres of land, before engaging Samuel Pepys Cockerell to build the new house.

In all he spent about £55,000 on acquiring and improving the estate.

Famously, instead of receiving the honours he had expected on his return to England, he was impeached for corruption. The hearing at Westminster Hall dragged on for seven years, becoming a spectacle visited by high society figures including the Queen, before he was cleared of all charges.

At Daylesford he used some old stones, known as the Grey Geese of Adlestrop, to ornament his grounds and make the island in the lake. They were removed from Adlestrop Hill where they might once have formed part of an ancient avenue leading to the Rollright Stones. Legend had it that they were turned from geese into stone by a witch.

Hastings died in 1818 but his second wife, Marian, continued to live at Daylesford until her death in 1837. She is buried near her husband in the churchyard at Daylesford.