English suburbia can be easily mistaken for all brick and no beauty. Carparks (parking lots/driveways), rubbish bins (trash cans), and pavement (sidewalks) is often all that can be seen from the passer-bys standpoint. Rarely does foilage-beyond window boxes and the occasional weed or wild grass - make any appearance. Even porches are done away with. The front door is often flush with the pavement unless surrounded by a small little half-enclosed brick area with the usual unsightly rolley bin (dumpster) and parked bikes on display.
It wasn't till the other day after being invited over with my classmates to one of the don's (we would call them faculty) homes that I discovered a whole new world on the other side of those austere, practical facades. This don and his lovely wife enjoyed a massive back garden (we would call it a yard) with a back porch, barbeque, trees, a shed, even chickens. It was kept in pretty English style, with benches and a mixture of eye-catching foilage. All with a high fence around it so's no one else could see or enjoy the beauty.
A classmate helped me out with the difference between this scenario and that of the U.S. where the front area is rather important to make look beautiful, and space is allowed and often required between the front door and the street and sidewalk: whereas appearances are important to Americans, it's all about privacy (pronounced with a soft 'i') for the Brits. They don't care, and it's actually important to them that no one else sees the beauty of their home and garden.
It also explains the high-enclosed beauty of Oxford. If one does not get inside those high stone walls, one will miss the glory and grandeur of the place. It makes the childhood favorite, 'The Secret Garden' novel take on a whole new meaning...