Another journey on the Road to the Isles on Thursday, 15th September, and this time we went right to the end, Mallaig. Jon had been disappointed to tell us that we would not be able to do the three-hour wildlife boat trip he had planned, as the company had just announced its end for the season, but he would find us a boat trip of some sort.
Shortly after setting off on the hour-long boat trip, we saw dolphins, Jon also reckoning he saw a whale. This was fairly typical of my efforts to get photos of the dolphins. To be fair to myself, I had a poor position in the boat, not near enough to the edge to get, for instance, good views of the bow-riding creatures, let alone good photos.
We sailed towards the Knoydart peninsula, the Isle of Skye over to the west, on our left, and Loch Nevis, nothing to do with the Ben, on our right.
We hoped to see both common dolphins and the whale on our way back. The latter did not co-operate, but when we saw a crowd of gulls, we knew that fish must plentiful there, and therefore hopefully dolphins.
We did see the dolphins, quite a lot of them. My photography was limited for reasons already given. But I’m quite pleased with this.
As we were leaving Mallaig to start the return journey, Jon kindly stopped the van for a few seconds on a main road for me to be able to take the Jacobite, before it started its journey back to Fort William, via Glenfinnan.
We returned to and beyond Arisaig, and had our rather late lunch, sheltering as best we could from the strong and cold wind.
We walked along a small no-through road in changing light conditions. No particular wildlife was to be seen, bar a distant redshank, but we were invited to squeeze the leaves of bog myrtle between our fingers. My response was to say I wanted to bottle it and take it home, so sweet yet sharp and fragrant it was. I was told how I would be able to on Saturday. (I see that residents of Dumfries and Galloway are blessed with the plant.) I took no photos of it though.
As we walked back to the van to make for home, Jon’s keen ears first caught the sound of a skein of geese approaching and flying overhead.
Saturday, 10th to Sunday, 18th September. I stayed at Glenloy Lodge, our accommodation hosts, Jon and Angela, being our wildlife hosts also. Sadly, they are giving up at the end of the year.
In this map, the Isle of Skye is top left, that of Mull bottom left, Loch Ness top right, and Fort William somewhat to the right of the middle, at the head of the narrower part of Loch Linnhe. Glenloy is just a few miles due north of Fort William. Marked up are all the places we visited in the 556 miles we did in the week, except that we went a little off the map beyond Loch Ness once. Clicking/tapping on the map may enlarge it.
I had, reluctantly but due to several uncertainties about rail travel (and reckoning that I couldn’t actually prevent the plane from flying, whereas I could prevent my car from burning up fuel), flown to Glasgow from Bristol, and then taken a scheduled bus service from the city to Fort William. I had planned to listen to a number of podcasts I had downloaded during that last, three-hour, part of the journey, but in the event was so taken by the beautiful scenery that I just looked out of the window all the time. It was very sunny, and I didn’t think I would be able to take any useful photos because of reflections. But, frustrated all along Loch Lomond, I couldn’t resist any longer, and grabbed my phone to take a few of Glencoe. This is the most successful.
Jon met me at the bus station, and told me that there was just one other guest, David. It was not long before we had our meal, after which was the evening ritual of looking out, from the comfort of the sun lounge, for the pine martens who came to enjoy the peanuts and peanut-buttered bread put out for them. So strokeable – though perhaps not with those teeth. As long as we stayed indoors they were not fazed by our presence.
Before breakfast on Sunday, we were summoned to see what, if anything, had been attracted to the moth trap overnight. The answer was no moth, but a couple of sedge flies.
Each day, once we had set off at about 9.30, we were out until 6.00. This day, led by Jon, our first stop was in Glen Roy, famed among other things for its ‘Parallel Roads‘, mythically caused by giants racing in competition along the hillsides, but in fact caused by the shorelines of a retreating lake, which finally disappeared when a glacier blocking it melted.
We were meant to be looking for wildlife, but this is the first creature that caught my eye.
These sika deer were a very long way away. I could not see them with the naked eye.
Young stonechat, waxcap fungus, grass of Parnassus (shame I took only this out-of-focus photo), yellow saxifrage
The Parallel Roads can be seen here.
These black-faced sheep distracted me. We saw hundreds of them every day.
Here the Parallel Roads can be seen, along with another geological feature, the river terraces of loose deposits left behind as the River Roy retreated. The little houses are shielings, summer accommodation once used by those tending animals, and their families.
Two carnivorous plants, round-leaved sundew and butterwort
The shieling children did not escape schooling in the summer. This is where they went for it.
We turned back a way. Views up and down the glen from our lunch spot.
Before leaving the glen entirely, and having seen a couple of exciting golden eagles, impossible to photograph, we saw two old monuments, and at Spean Bridge a modern one.
Chew Magna Lake is the fifth largest artificial lake in England, a reservoir in Chew Stoke, Somerset, opened by H M Queen Elizabeth II on 17th April, 1956. It is owned by Bristol Water, who encourage the use of the lake for leisure purposes.
Last week’s ‘first Friday’ walk was a circular one from its north-western edge up part of the 17-mile Chew Valley nearly to Chew Magna, and back along a different route. It is only a small river at the best of times. In the present drought conditions, it is even smaller, and slow-moving.
You don’t need a boat to go fishing, but it must make for a different experience.
As we approached the dam at the lake’s northern end, we could appreciate just how low the water was, with spillway on the left and outlet tower to the right. (I have, minutes ago, just learned the term ‘outlet tower’, and much more from The British Dam Society.)
I think this would be called a ‘shaft’ spillway (same source). Whatever it is called, it is not needed right now.
We heard the tower humming as we passed it.
In the far distance, we could see dabchicks (aka little grebes) and Canada geese. I have not been able to find a collective noun for dabchicks, or any grebe, but did find in this list a wedge, nide, skein or plump of geese, depending on where they are located.
We turned away from the lake and walked northwards, along the Chew valley, frequently encountering the small river or its even smaller tributary streams.
At one point we came across a large patch of scabious,
and I was thrilled to capture this small blue butterfly, even if it was clearly nearing the end of its life cycle.
Many small bridges – or was this a stile? – helped us along. I loved this huge slab across a small stream. I wonder how long it’s been serving.
One information sheet pinned to this tree told us, among other things, that it was Californian redwood, (aka Sequoia, and Wellingtonia) and the other how much treecreepers loved the arrival of the species in the UK because of its soft bark.
I like to think that this is a packhorse bridge, though it is not included in the ‘official list‘. Note the ‘tidemark’.
This is Chota Castle, described on one site as a cottage and on another as a 19th century folly-castle. Chew Valley Films have made a 52-minute film about one of its post-war residents. Or, lasting one minute, here is a Facebook entry by British Country Homes, giving a good look round!
But perhaps this magnificent tree is its greatest attribute.
We thought that perhaps these steps were to help cattle escape should they fall into the stream. Though, come to think of it, why not humans too?
Zoe spotted this deer in the distance.
This beautiful tree greeted us as we neared Woodford Lodge again,
Sunday, 3rd July. Membership of The Newt in Somerset gives free entry to a few other gardens in the UK (and one in South Africa!). I had my eye on two of them as I considered what to do on my last day in Cornwall. But I found that neither Trebah nor Tregothnan opens on a Sunday. So I turned to my booklet, ‘Cornwall’s Archaeological Heritage’ for the first time this week, and also to my National Trust handbook. The former told me about Trencom Castle, a hill fort just a few minutes from where I was staying. Among other things it told me that, “The enclosure may have originated in the Neolithic period and many flint arrowheads were found here in the early 20th century.” So I made this my first destination. But first I had of course to look out to see what was happening in the RSPB reserve, and have some breakfast.
Guess who appeared while I was eating. But at least today he didn’t tap on my window.
I really like these Cornish stiles – especially if they provide a post to hold on to.
The top of the fort was not high, about 180 metres (the same as Glastonbury Tor), and my car was parked at 135, so not much effort was needed. The path was well trodden.
Yet another view of St Michael’s Mount
I didn’t stay at the top for long, not least because there was a party of walkers up there disturbing the peace.
The main visit of the day was to Trelissick House, National Trust. ‘The estate has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1955 when it was donated by Ida Copeland following the death of her son Geoffrey. A stained glass memorial bearing the Copeland coat of arms was donated to Feock parish church by Mrs. Copeland. The house and garden had formerly been owned and developed by the Daniell family, which had made its fortune in the 18th century Cornish copper mining industry.’ (Wikipedia, which does history so much better than does the National Trust on its site) The Copelands had been co-owners of Spode, the ceramics company based in Stoke-on-Trent.
I started in the garden and grounds.
At the entrance there had been a notice saying a choir would be singing on the terrace of the house at 1.00 pm. I heard their songs wafting towards me as I wandered around, and at one stage was near enough to zoom a photo on it. I thought how pragmatic the uniform was in the not very warm weather. Blue jeans of any hue and any black top.
I went round to the front of the house and looked round. ‘Trelissick is not your typical country house visit. It is presented as neither home nor museum, but was opened in 2014 simply as a place to enjoy the view. It plays host to a modest collection – including ceramics …’ Here is one which rather pleased me.
Arriving in the small café very late for lunch, I was fortunate to get the very last portion of soup. Visitors were allowed to take their food to any of several rooms. Most of the places were taken, and I ended up in what was called the Solarium, (which I would have called an Orangery otherwise). It was very warm there, unlike outdoors. This was my view.
I think these were ensconced in the Drawing Room for the afternoon!
It became warm and sunny enough to sit out on the sheltered terrace. The choir had long gone, and I found a vacant deckchair.
Not a bad view.
I heard someone nearby talk about a castle in the distance, and sure enough, with my camera on maximum zoom, I could see Pendennis Castle, about 800 metres away, in Falmouth. (It’s on the list for next year.)
Back for my last evening at The Old Quay House, I spent my time, as every evening bar Friday (Minack), divided between Wimbledon and bird-watching.
A temporary diversion, from a couple of weeks ago in Cornwall (eight posts done, three to go) to yesterday in Somerset.
This eponymous company grows and makes lavender products in the village of Faulkland, near the former coal-mining town of Radstock. The interesting history of the farm, which links miners and dairy farming to the current crop, is here. They invite the public in to wander in their fields, to buy their plants (not only lavender), to visit their gift shop, and to partake of sweet and other things in their café. I did all those things yesterday.
The thousands of bees, both honey and bumble of that ilk, and the occasional butterfly, were far too busy to pose for a decent photograph.
There were large patches of oil seed rape at the edges of the two fields of lavender. I have not been able to find out their purpose, as they were not extensive enough to be a crop.
Beyond one lavender field was a large one of pale mauve phacelia,
which I have learned since has many uses including green manure. So perhaps lavender (or sunflowers, for the farm grows these as well, and you may also wander among those, the time come) will be planted there next year.
There were also some beautiful flowerbeds near the entrance.
I ended up at the gift shop and café. I did purchase, a wheat and lavender warmer.
And an ice cream, of which for me there could only be one flavour. It was delicious, though perhaps that had something to do also with the oodles of double cream that went into making it.
All five senses pleased in a couple of hours. Sight in the fields and garden; hearing from the bees; smell from the delicate scent coming off the lavender plants; taste from that gorgeous icecream; and touch from the lovely velvet covering of the warmer.
Wednesday 29th June, part 2. Very shortly after starting to explore the Tresco Abbey Gardens, by which time the threat of rain had lifted, and having had the obligatory and necessary coffee, I was absolutely delighted to see a red squirrel – and then another. I had no idea they were on the Isles of Scilly.
Here are just a few of the over 100 photos I took on my way round the very extensive gardens.
I had now been in the gardens perhaps an hour, totally absorbed in what I was seeing. But at this point I looked up and saw the sea in the distance. I came to, and suddenly remembered where I was. It was a strange feeling, coming back to space and time.
My peregrination had brought me back near the entrance. Whether these were the same two squirrels, I could not know, but as they played they rushed past me, apparently oblivious of my presence .
As I went back to the cafe at the entrance for a something to eat, I couldn’t resist taking another photo of the creature (was it the same?) that had greeted me earlier on.
Also at the entrance there was a small exhibition on the history of the Gardens.
Guess who visited while I was consuming my soup…
Resuming my exploration of the gardens, I was pleased to see these Echium candicans, ‘Pride of Madeira’. I had bought the T-shirt when on that island. The flowerhead is about one-and-a-half times the size of a lupin head and much more dense.
The sun had been out for some time now, and I was sitting contemplating this area (the following three pictures) when it occurred to me that it would be a shame to see nothing more of the island while I was there.
So I made my way to the exit,
then turned back past the heliport, to the nearest beach. The sun had gone in now, and the breeze, from which the gardens shelter their visitors, was quite fierce. I saw no attraction in hanging around there,
so retraced my steps, past the entrance to the gardens this time, making for a round lake I could see on my map, hoping to be able to get close to it.
Sadly, I could get no closer to the lake than this, despite walking all the way round its extensive perimeter.
In due course, I was back at the heliport, but on the wrong side.
As I said in my previous post, I saw the previous flight come in and take off. Once the barrier was lifted, it was safe for me to cross to reception.
I’d so enjoyed my holiday in Cornwall in June 2021, and found there was so much more I wanted to see and do there, that I decided to book for this year, though in more comfortable accommodation, (the subject of my next post). I drove south-west on Monday 27th June, and, having now reviewed the more than 1000 photos I returned with, can see that I have about 11 blog posts to prepare, for a week’s holiday.
Last year I had extraordinary thoughts of returning to the Eden Project on my way, specifically to have a go on the zip wire there. But in the event I replaced that idea, for a variety of reasons, only one of them not being sure whether I really dared, with a visit to The Lost Gardens of Heligan. So, having dropped Bella off at her cattery (unvaccinated Tilly remaining at home) I arrived at the venue in good time for a light lunch during which I perused the guide.
Heligan has a history going back to the thirteenth century, but was ‘lost’ and increasingly overgrown between 1914 and 1990. Its timeline is here.
This view greets you as you step into the gardens.
I then took Beacon Path. As I often do in discovering a new place, I started by staking out the perimeter, clockwise. During my week in Cornwall, I saw many such tangles of rhododendron trunks.
After a while I found myself in an area called ‘New Zealand’.
The guide explains that the so called ‘Flower Garden’ is also about fruit and vegetables.
This is possibly my favourite photo of the visit,
or perhaps this.
I started to explore more widely than just the main gardens, and came across this wood turner, who was making honey dippers, near Home Farm.
The East Lawn was a large play area for children.
But I was headed much further on, down, down, down, through The Jungle to the Burma Rope Bridge.
This was great fun. I held back to get a clearer picture of what was before me (fortunately no-one was queuing behind me) and to avoid the stupidity of the not-so-young man two in front of me who insisted on bouncing around and disturbing others on the bridge.
At the other end, and after a few yards right, I followed none of these following directions, becoming conscious of the time, and took the Diagonal Path behind me. It was quite steep.
So I was glad of the several opportunities it gave to rest.
Approaching Home Farm again, I saw the very recently installed Bugginghum Palace, which hopes to make it into The Guinness Book of Records as the largest insect hotel in the world.
This is the “Thunderbox Room, a lighthearted title for the gardeners’ lavatory. … It was in the first of the two cubicles in 1990 that Tim Smit and John Nelson first noticed the names on the wall. …. numerous barely legible signatures… August 1914… shortly to depart to fight in the First World War. Of the total of thirteen Heligan men who were to serve… only four survived.”
I was disinclined to enter just to see an old-fashioned loo, especially given the low headroom, but then I noticed a swallow flying in, and suspected that it was visiting a nest.
I was right. Just inside the doorway, behind me …
I hung around, my camera at the ready, to be rewarded with this, for no more than two seconds.
I was doubly pleased to have entered the Thunderbox Room, as it led into the Italian Garden.
Minutes later I was in The Ravine,
then came across this curious tree. It is a Douglas Fir, with a Witch’s Broom ‘necklace’ round it, highly prized by bonsai specialists apparently.
It was time for me to leave – licking an ice-cream. I had not seen the entire estate, far from it, and this is only a tiny selection of the photos I took. But Marks and Spencer called…
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…