Easter Sunday, and I was spending it at my aunt’s in Berkshire. In the afternoon we went to West Green House Garden, over the county border in Hampshire, near Hartley Wintney. It is a National Trust garden (and non-visitable house), run on a day to day basis by their lessee. Among other things, opera performances take place there, by the lake.
There was an Easter Bunny hunt that day, which led me in advance to worry slightly about potential crowds, but in the event they were far from overwhelming. Needless to say, we did not join in, nor even visit the children’s petting zoo.
Join us on a roughly clockwise tour.
I don’t know enough about fish to say, but I was wondering whether this one (about 2 ft/60 cm long) was gulping the air because the water did not contain enough oxygen.
And we came to a wonderful tulip garden. I just couldn’t stop taking photos, of which these are a few.
Beyond the tulip garden.
Barbara agreed to pose by one of the many follies.
Above her was this plaque.
I looked this up later. It comes from a poem by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), written in 1711, ‘An Essay on Criticism’. More here on the Pierian Spring and Pope’s poem, and the writings of others, (not to mention magpies) but in brief the Spring is ‘the metaphorical source of knowledge of art and science’.
After a refreshing cup of tea, we completed our exploration.
A village in Dorset, on the River Piddle, recorded in the Doomsday Book as having thirty hides.
It was ages since I had visited a garden in the National Gardens Scheme. There weren’t many gardens near me planned to open yesterday, so I went a little further than usual, into Dorset, to visit Ivy House Garden in Piddletrenthide, described as, ‘A steep and challenging ½ acre garden with fine views, set on south facing site in the beautiful Piddle valley. Wildlife friendly garden with mixed borders, ponds, propagating area, large vegetable garden, fruit cage, greenhouses and polytunnel, chickens and bees, plus a nearby allotment. Daffodils, tulips and hellebores in quantity for spring openings. Run on organic lines with plants to attract birds, bees and other insects. Come prepared for steep terrain and a warm welcome!’
The garden was opposite the village stores in the main street, where the abundance of parked cars told me that the attraction was popular. I took a walking pole from the car, given the warning about the steep terrain, not so much for going up, but for coming down again.
This was the view that greeted me as I entered. The picture does not convey just how steep the garden is.
The garden did not lend itself – with dramatic exceptions – to photos of vistas, being suited rather to cameo appearances. I made my way slowly and steadily upwards.
These ladies look as if they’re singing, don’t they?
These ladies, and one gentleman, were, in close harmony. I was amazed to see that they were using just words as aide memoire. I could never have managed without my part’s music. Their repertoire was extensive.
The gate led to a lane, which I did not take. But I did take advantage of a nearby seat for a while.
I took a different way down for some of the way.
The singers are still there – and this time one, at least, seems to be using a musical score.
About half way down (I had been using my walking pole because I had gone ‘off piste’ and there was no handrail there) I met Bridget and her husband, owners of the property for the last 36 years. Bridget told me that they had bought the place for its garden, which in 1986 had absolutely nothing in it. She also told me that Alfie, the dog, had ‘made’ a video for the NGS: https://ngs.org.uk/a-trot-around-ivy-house-garden/
This was my favourite spot. And one of the garden’s many seats was strategically placed there.
A coffee and cake down in the courtyard completed my visit to the lovely garden, but not to Piddletrenthide. I went on elsewhere, but, as I have to return in the coming days, my next post will be on that and the rest of this visit. (I often say at the end of my posts that I must return some day, but for reasons that will become apparent next time, I really have to!)
It was chilly but bright last Saturday, so I took myself to Hestercombe Gardens, near Taunton. I hadn’t been for several years, and believed the actual house to be the property of Somerset County Council, but see from this history that, having been the headquarters of the Somerset Fire Brigade for over 60 years, it was sold in 2013 to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, (itself created in 1986), for £1. Here is a 54-second aerial video of the entire estate, courtesy of the Trust.
I started with lunch in the café. I had to ask what an allegedly vegan dish, a seitan steak was, and was told it was made of pulses. I have to say, I nearly called the waitress after the first mouthful, to check I had been given the right meal, so like meat it was in taste, colour and texture. Too much indeed for comfort! Anyway, once home I looked up and found there are several different recipes, so seitan is not a trade name. Here is a whole article on the subject.
The formal gardens were designed by those celebrated collaborators Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. On past visits I have started with these, but this time I left them to last, bypassing the Victorian Shrubbery, and wandering through the landscaped areas first.
Beyond this point access was forbidden temporarily, because of damage done by Storm Eunice.
From here I had a choice of turning left and returning the other side of the ponds, parallel to the path I had taken, or turning right and climbing up and a bit away from the water features. I chose the latter, not least because it was the sunny side.
At this point I failed to turn sufficiently rightwards and to take a diagonal path towards the lakes again. I blame a couple with a dog coming up a path worn in the grass, parallel to the fence. I assumed that was the correct way – I had not been up here before.
As the terrain I was on diverged increasingly from what the plan told me, I at last concluded that I was far too far over, so climbed a gate on the right to correct my route, and went past this pile of logs – which may or may not have been a feature of the recent storms. I had seen many sawn-off trunks in my wanderings, both where I should have been and where I shouldn’t.
I had also seen masses of daffodils, and took many, many more photos of them than this one.
Moving towards the orchard and the Garden of Remembrance.
I wondered why someone had left this flowerpot around. Looking more closely, I saw written on it, ‘WOBBLY STONE’.
Also not at its best at this time of year, ‘The Great Plat’ nevertheless was a mass of pink, the parterres filled with Bergenia Cordifolia, more commonly known as Elephant Ears, beginning to go over.
Finally, I walked around the Victorian Terrace.
And I was ambushed in the plant sale on the way out, where I fell in love with this purple Euphorbia, and just had to have it. I’ve no idea where to plant it, but I shall find it a good home.
I left the car park at 4 o’clock, just as ‘Weekend Woman’s Hour’ came on the radio. It started with the very same story, broadcast the day before, of the little boy who wanted Mr Putin to become a good man…
Mary’s train from Paddington two days ago drew in to Castle Cary station four minutes early in the morning, and likewise was punctual on the way back in the evening. That is, unlike yesterday and today when the rail system in the south of the UK is in chaos, thanks to Storm Eunice.
To the George Inn, in Croscombe for a coffee, and the first session of putting the world to rights. And congratulating ourselves, yet again, for having, some time back, chosen the only day this week when passing time outdoors was not forecast to be spoilt by rain.
As we got into the car to move on to Wells, the first spots of rain started. Over the eight minutes it took to get to that city (the smallest in England), the downpour got heavier and heavier, such that, at the point we would normally have left the car to walk to our lunch cafe, it would have been a very unpleasant experience indeed. We sat in the car, not yet having paid for our parking, contemplating what to do. Mary consulted her preferred forecaster, Accuweather, which said it would be pouring for the rest of the day. Mine, BBC Weather, almost denied that it was raining, and said that precipitation would be almost non-existant for the rest of the day. We used our eyes, and decided to give up and to go to my home, 20 minutes away, where I would rustle up something for us to eat.
I backed the car out some 10 feet, and suddenly the rain got lighter, light enough to walk under umbrellas to the café. So, OK, we would lunch in Wells, then decide what to do. We paid for the parking – I accidentally did so for much longer than just having a meal would have needed (incomprehensible instructions on the meter). By the time we were sitting down for our excellent meal at The Good Earth, it had stopped raining and there was blue sky. So both weather forecasters were wrong.
The day’s plans had actually been to focus on seeing seeing the snowdrops at the Bishop’s Palace. We took some quiet old residential streets to get there,
and first went via the Penniless Porch . To quote Wikipedia, ‘It was named for the beggars who plied their trade there, however in 2016 a man was prosecuted for begging nearby.‘
and at Vicars’ Close (where still all twelve men of the Vicars Choral live).
I came home with well over a hundred pictures taken during the day, so here is a small selection of those I took in the Bishop’s Palace Gardens. (We had actually visited the Palace itself on a previous occasion, perhaps three or four years ago, not written up because the weather was so appalling that photography was worthless, especially in the gardens.)
The next picture may be of historic interest! It may be the last ever taken of St Thomas’s church spire before its top was blown down by Storm Eunice yesterday morning! It’s there, a little distorted by torsion, at the very left of the picture on the horizon.
The incident has been widely covered in the media, but here is a link to it for the record. Excuse the language if your sound is on… The St Thomas’s link above includes the spire wobbling beforehand as well, and here’s the vicar on the subject.
There was a stiff breeze blowing…
Just because everyone takes this view, there’s no reason I shouldn’t.
From a distance I had wondered whether the near-adult swan by the sculpture was a sculpture itself. But no, as this video shows. The voice heard is that of the bystander seen at the end. I had advised her to back off…
Mary and I sat for a while on a swing seat in a formal garden of parterres,
with this in front of us. (I just love stipa tenuissima.)
Emerging back through the Great Hall’s wall, we enjoyed this view.
We contemplated going to visit the Cathedral, but opted instead for a cup of tea in the café, The Bishops’ Table,
with this for a view,
and me clearly pontificating on something.
Mary spotted this as we made our way back to the car. Burns the Bread is an excellent small local bakery chain.
We had already obeyed their instruction, at The Bishop’s Table.
We didn’t go straight back to the car park as I had left my umbrella at The Good Earth at lunchtime. It was fortunate that the rain had held off.
Having decided not to ‘do’ the Cathedral, we instead visited St Cuthbert’s church on the way. Live music was being practised on the organ.
Just as we got back to the car – it was fortunate that we had inadvertently paid sufficient parking to cover more than just lunchtime – it started to rain.
Never mind, we were on our way to the warmth of my house, another cup of tea, to obey Burns the Bread’s instructions once more, and to spend even more time putting the world to rights. Isn’t it amazing how the human ape can talk, and talk, and talk, and not run out of things to say to each other?
Our first Friday walk was postponed for a couple of weeks so that we could go to an exhibition, not open yet on 7th January, in nearly Somerton. My friend Zoe was delayed arriving at my place because of a traffic diversion, and I filled in time wandering around my icy garden, where I saw:
two last roses of summer, and some new shoots,
part of the hedge I have had cut right back, the future of which is pending discussions with neighbours yet to move in (both sides of it having been much neglected for the last three years),
a few starlings at the top of a further neighbour’s silver birch (some of the dozens which invade my garden when I have put out the day’s food),
last year’s water lily trapped under the ice of my pond,
and some heather.
Our short walk was for Zoe to see a nearby view which I have only quite recently discovered.
And from the bottom a look back at Glastonbury Tor across a field which had been very boggy, with streams of melted frost.
We then went on to the ACE Arts centre in Somerton to see The Red Dress. I cannot explain the project better than the first four paragraphs of the home page of the Project’s website.
“The Red Dress Project, conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod, provides an artistic platform for women around the world, many of whom are marginalized and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through embroidery.
“During 12 years, from 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress have travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 73 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 259 women and 5 men, from 29 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work. The rest of the embroidery was added by 128 willing participants /audience at various groups/exhibitions/events.
“Embroiderers include women refugees from Palestine; victims of war in Kosovo, Rwanda, and DR Congo; impoverished women in South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt; women in Kenya, Japan, Paris, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, Canada, Tobago, USA, Russia, Pakistan, Wales, Colombia, and the UK, as well as upmarket embroidery studios in India and Saudi Arabia.
“Many of the women are established embroiderers, but there are also many pieces created by first time embroiderers. The artisans were encouraged to tell a personal story they would like to share, expressing their own identities and adding their own cultural and traditional experience. Some chose to create using a specific style of embroidery practiced for hundreds of years in their family, village, or town.”
Kirstie Macleod and another woman were working on it while we were there. We wished we could have seen it more spread out, but that would have left insufficient room for visitors, especially given the need to keep a distance. I took an awful lots of pictures. Here are some.
Towards the end of our visit I was beginning to be quite moved, thinking of all the women who had worked on the Dress.
At one point I turned to Zoe and remarked that you’d need a week to study it all in detail. Kirstie was in earshot, and said, ‘A year. I know this work intimately, and I’m still discovering new things.’
I might go back. It’s at Somerton until 29th January, and continues its tour around the world for another ten years.
A couple of weeks ago, I took another friend to visit The Newt in Somerset. Peter was down from Manchester to lead a singing workshop, which I was organising for the South West Early Music Forum the following day. Three times postponed because of you-know-what, initially from April 2020, but that’s a whole other story.
Apples are always the principal theme at The Newt, but especially so at this time of year, as the display in the Threshing Barn illustrated.
They featured in the window of the farm shop as well. Their apple juice is delicious.
(Given that I have already posted so many pictures taken at The Newt in Somerset, I have limited the number posted here.)
We learned that the Japanese Garden would be opening a week later.
Next we walked up the Mound, where we saw a few Shaggy Inkcaps.
Still plenty of colour, though we’re well into the autumn.
Peter noticed the curious ‘steps’ in the chimney stack.
Into the Scented Garden.
The mischievous frogs were disappointed that there were no small children around to squirt water at, though clearly some adults have been by, setting off the sensors.
Access to the (very) luxury hotel, Hadspen House, is prevented by the gate out of sight below this image. Actually they’ve just opened another luxury hotel, called The Farmyard, adjacent.
We were impressed by the great variety of cucurbits growing in their tunnel. Over the year, I have seen these grow from tiny unidentifiable plants, into large flowering ones, and now fruiting ones.
I wonder if the tunnel will be used for the same purpose next year, or for something different.
After an excellent meal in the Garden Café, we walked though the Deer Park.
Walking back through the woodland, we did get a fleeting glimpse of a couple of fallow deer. This is the best I could do, photo-wise.
Back to the entrance/exit via the old Marl Pits.
Another happy visit to The Newt in Somerset. We had to leave – we had things to do relating to the following day, written up here for those interested.
Anyone following the Chelsea Flower Show this autumn (it’s normally held in spring) will be familiar with the name, Yeo Valley, makers of organic dairy products. Their organic garden won the People’s Choice Award for large show garden this year, not bad for first-time participants.
I had visited their garden, with my friend, Zoe, previously – it is situated roughly halfway between the homes of each of us – but the weather had been miserable on that occasion, and we didn’t get as much from the outing as we might have done. Our birthdays fall close to each other, and, for our October birthday ‘first Friday’ monthly walk, we decided to visit the garden, and make a day of it, visiting other places in the area afterwards. We went on the second Saturday, as in October the garden only opens to the public on Saturdays, and this was forecast to have better weather than the first.
In fact the weather was gorgeous. The autumn mist above us allowed the hazy sun to bless us early in the morning, and had disappeared entirely by lunchtime. My camera clicked away – I couldn’t restrain it. In the order I took them:
On 23rd November, I shall be ‘going to’ this talk by Sarah Mead and designer Tom Massey, on how the Show Garden came about.
At midday our allotted time was up, and we had seen just about everything there was to be seen. Zoe knew of a great fish and chips place, Salt and Malt, by the side of Chew Valley Lake, just a short distance away. Alas, I took photos of neither the view nor the fish and chips, but both were very good.
We drove round the Lake to the next car park, intending to do the short ‘Grebe Walk’, which would take us firstly through some woodland, and then along the lake to see, theoretically, grebes among other birds.
But on the return leg we saw nothing but reeds in the lake at that end. Whether this was deliberate cultivation for wildlife reasons, or because of Covid-related (or other) neglect we could not tell.
We walked on beyond the car park to see what we could see. We couldn’t get closer to the lake than this.
Zooming my camera showed me that the boats were colourful.
And, looking back, gave me the chance to see some unidentifiable birds.
We had no desire to find ourselves back at the fish and chip place, so turned back to where our car was parked, with a view to winding down from our day’s outing. The drive back to Zoe’s, where my car was, took us along a quite busy road, which serves as a dam of the lake, and which is actually a reservoir owned by Bristol Water, the fifth-largest artificial lake in England. The lake is also a nature reserve and an SSSI.
There were many people leaning on the rail, but the birds were unfazed.
Zoe and I had not quite finished putting the world to rights, so before I got into my car, we had a cup of tea in her garden, and I admired the mini-woodland she and her husband are creating there.
I was homeward bound on Saturday, 11th September, but could not let pass the opportunity to visit on the way this world-renowned project. I had a booking for 11.00. My satnav the evening before told me that I would need 90 minutes to get there, which surprised me somewhat, but I allowed two hours. As I left my BnB at 9.00 it was saying I would need 65 minutes – the difference between Friday evening and Saturday morning traffic I suppose. But thank goodness I had all that leeway. There were huge hold-ups on the A30, due I think to road closures elsewhere, with traffic being funnelled on to this road. In the event I arrived just 10 minutes before my ticket’s time.
It was quite a walk between my car park down to the entrance – but not so far that I qualified for the shuttle bus. Just one more car park up and …
I find I have 108 photos, and have found it incredibly difficult to make a selection. I have only managed to cut them down to 58 – sorry – and they give only a glimpse into what was to be seen.
Here’s the plan from my pre-ordered guide. I should like to have been able to sit down and study it in greater depth before going round, but things were well-labelled.
Basically, I wandered around the Outdoor Gardens and then the Crops, which I think is how it is intended you should, then visited first the Rainforest Biome, followed by the Mediterranean one (only about a third the area, but with a few more species), then went along the Avenue to the Core. I seem to have missed the Zigzag through Time, and I don’t think I did justice to the Invisible Worlds.
My photos are largely without commentary.
I think this next picture is my very favourite of the day.
This queue (note one person peeling off left)…
… was for this. Good fun!
There was a link corridor, with shops and café, to the …
About 15 minutes into the Rainforest Biome, there was a notice warning people who were finding it too hot to turn back, as it was another 30 minutes to the exit. (A one-way system was in operation with little byways roped off, presumably because of Covid.) The Mediterranean Biome was also hot, in a lovely dry Mediterranean way, but I was very pleased to find this almost unpatronised drinks bar near its exit. Time for a chilled elderflower cordial.
Frim time to time there was a swooshing sound from above. I had just days ago watched Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin on television on a zipline, and thought, ‘How I would love to do that!’. And here would have been my opportunity! If I had known in advance about the possibility here, I would definitely have looked into it. As it was, I picked up a leaflet when I left.
‘Infinity Blue’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Seed’ were the two main attractions in the Core.
‘Infinity Blue’ from an upper floor. In about a decade it may be lowered into the sea as a reef habitat for marine life. (It’s not crooked, my camera was.)
Up a lift, across a bridge, and it was back to the entrance/visitor centre/exit…
… for a coffee before setting off on the rest of my journey home. I was amused to see this old coffee making machine on display, sadly not in use.
How to reflect on eight such days? I was absolutely shattered for a while after my return, but so happy to have spent my time so fully. Cornwall is a such a beautiful place, with so much to explore and experience. I tried, and I think I succeeded, not to let an underlying fear of Covid spoil my enjoyment, though it was unnerving to see so many people, freed of legal obligation, appearing to believe that if they did not wear masks indoors the risk was only to themselves, not to others. But it was heartening also to see how many did wear masks, especially those serving, in whatever setting.
I have to go back. I have to make that helicopter trip. I have to use more those various guides to archology, geology, walks, built places to visit. My Eden Project ticket is valid for a year! (I could – perhaps – go on that zipline…) I’m already thinking that I may take another holiday in the county next June, perhaps based at Hayle this time.
The signpost I had noticed on my way to St Michael’s Mount, on Tuesday 7th September, was for the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. I spent a happy hour-plus wandering around. There were several sculptures to be seen even before reaching the hard-to-find reception kiosk.
You had to walk right into this sculpture, an oval room open to the sky, with an ante-room. It would appear that it was inspired by the sculptor’s Quaker background. I took this sitting on the ledge.
Having finished my tour, I bought a hot chocolate from the snacks kiosk. I sat on the base of Michael Chaikin’s ‘Tree of Life’ and was mesmerised by Penny Saunders’s ‘Restless Temple’. The longer I watched it, the more I realised that it was not mechanically driven, and that its angle of drunkenness was entirely dependent on the strength of the breeze.
I heard a buzzard mewling.
And realised there was a second.
My last stop was at Penzance Harbour. I had by now driven past it thrice, and did not want to let the week pass without exploring it on foot. Combined with a visit to a Post Office for some stamps to put on three postcards I had bought on St Michael’s Mount, this was time efficiently spent, I felt!
It was this that really attracted me to the harbour.
Sadly, it was not possible to get really close, as there was another boat in the way. Men were working very hard on, apparently, restoring and adapting her.
But I was able to take a photo of his rather worn panel.
In her present state she would not be fit to star in anything. I’d have loved to find out more from the workers, but they were – probably deliberately – not lifting their heads, and in any case they were quite far away. I have managed to find out that she left Charleston, Cornwall, around two years ago, headed for Liverpool, and that she arrived in Penzance, probably to be her permanent home, in February of this year. I wonder where Portsmouth fits in.
The Dolphin is a favoured eating place.
As I returned to my car, I noted that the very inner part of the harbour is now a swimming pool at high tide,
and loved the action of a devoted father pulling his children around in the boat.
Another full day, and a happy return to Chiverton House. The weather forecast was not so good for the next day…
Trengwainton Garden (National Trust) was my destination for the Monday afternoon, despite my very tired legs and feet. My plan was to have a gentle stroll around the gardens and then have a drink in the tea-room at the end. Sadly, the last part was thwarted, as the tea-room shut at 3.00 (staff shortage?). But the tea-tray in my room at my BnB was only minutes away.
The entry was at G below, right. I first explored the walled gardens, then went along the main avenue (gently ascending but not gently enough!) to the lawns by the main house, and returned via the woodland area with the stream running though it.
As everywhere I went in Cornwall, my impression was ‘lush and large’ with a dash of exoticism.
I wondered what this huge tree with red flowers could possibly be.
A close up with my camera revealed that it was a fuchsia.
And reaching its origins, I saw that the fuchsia was supported by a sequoia.
The house itself is still owned and lived in by the family that bought it in the 19th century, and a discreet rope keeps the public at bay.
I had been told at reception that the views from up here were ‘spectacular’. She didn’t know where I had been in the morning!
There were several benches up by the lawns, but it took a while for one to be vacated, and how my legs were longing to sit down. Eventually I was able to rest on this bench. I’ve been unable to find anything about the coat of arms – but I have a plea out to the Fleur-de-Lys History Society by social media!
I was intrigued by the apparently perfect square shape of the hole in this trunk.
It turned out not to be a perfect square, and to contain some fascinating fungi.
Back through the tree ferns of the woodland area. I was reminded of my trip with a friend to Tasmania.
One final picture near the entrance.
When eating my huge sandwich at Perranuthnoe at lunchtime, I had been sitting on a bench, with a local woman at the other end. When I told her of my plan for the afternoon, she told me I would learn of the slavery connections of Trengwainton. I didn’t, but, local paper style, it is here. A more sober account, part of a very long description of the property, is by Historic England.
The coolness of the mainly shady gardens of Trengwainton had been most welcome, on the hottest day of my stay in Cornwall. The rest of the week remained largely dry, during the day, but at times was very misty.