Garden Portrait: The Garden House Part II

The second part of my visit to The Garden House is of the Walled Garden and the terraced areas leading up to the Café.

On both sides of a very neatly mown grass path, which seemed far too good to actually walk on, there are deep double herbaceous borders, filled in late May with swathes of Alliums, Peonies, Lupins, Aconites, Wisteria and lots of other perennials just beginning to emerge.

More wisteria, bronze fennel, grasses and architectural plants such as the Melianthus major, Hostas and Ligularia.

These lupins in particular caught my eye, I just love the deep magenta pink colour

Eventually we made our way up to the Lower terrace and lawns to the café.

Behind the borders are more winding pathways among colourful shrubs and trees.

On every level there was planting to admire.

We didn’t have time to explore the lake and arboretum, as we wanted to have one last birthday treat and enjoy a Cream Tea – the Cornish way!

Naturally it was far too tempting not to have a look at the plant sales although I did intend only to look up the names of a geranium I fancied. However, resistance is futile and I walked away with a couple of new Hydrangea plants for the dappled shade border.

And there is always time to stop and smell the roses

It is a garden I would love to go back to in a different season and being less than 2 hours from home it is entirely possible that we can do it on a day out.

Jo’s Monday Walk

Garden Portrait: The Garden House Part I

My visit to south Devon would naturally have to include a garden tour. This time The Garden House in nearby Buckland Monachorum, a mere 15 mins from the hotel we were staying in. I have read a lot about this garden so I was expecting good things.

Originally a family home and private garden purchased by the Fortescue family back in 1945, The Garden House is now run by the Fortescue Garden Trust, a small charity committed to developing and maintaining this special place, for everyone to enjoy.

It is a true plantsman’s paradise.

Aquilegias
Hardy Geraniums

I have split this post into two parts – this one will take you around the main garden which consists of several areas all connected by meandering pathways. In some ways it reminded me very much of the delightful East Lambrook Manor garden which we visited last year, only much larger.

The first area is the summer garden which leads through to the cottage garden and to the ‘Magic Circle’. You can’t rush. There are so many beautiful plants to see and admire.

From there we wandered through the Acer Glade, around the Wildflower Meadow and along the Jungle Path to Wisteria Bridge. This part of the garden must look absolutely stunning in autumn dress.

Finally a Bulb Meadow takes you onto the lane across which you will find the Walled Garden which is the focus of my second post.

Jo’s Monday Walk

Just Back From… Dartmoor

In the spring of 2017 we had a week’s holiday in the neighbouring county of Devon. South Devon to be precise because it was one area that we hadn’t explored much in many decades. Although we had a wonderful week we never had time to go into Dartmoor National Park so we were determined to go back. A lot has happened since then, but finally last week we did manage a short break.

Great Staple Tor

We based ourselves in Tavistock on the western edge of the park and for once we booked into a hotel with bed, breakfast and dinner included so we didn’t have to think about anything other than where we were going to go each day. I prefer holiday cottages but they are never a proper holiday for me.

The weather was a bit iffy – sunshine and showers forecast throughout the 4 days, but we didn’t do too badly. On the rainiest day we went into Exeter to tick off yet another cathedral from our list. And of course there had to be one garden visit.

Views over towards Tavistock

I planned a circular drive around Dartmoor with several stops to have a walk, enjoy the views and on the OH’s birthday we had a perfect day for it with blue skies, sunshine and wonderful fluffy white clouds. Our first stop was just inside the park, a bare 4 miles from Tavistock, at Pork Hill car park where you have amazing views over Tavistock and towards Plymouth to the south. Loads of parking and a good place for several walks / hiking trails / tors.

Brent Tor is one of the most impressive rock outcrops in Dartmoor. With St Michael’s Church at its top, it makes a distinctive and famous silhouette on the Dartmoor skyline.

And an ice-cream van. Though too early in the day for us.

Onwards to our next stop at Postbridge where you will find a large car park and toilets. There is a small museum and and exhibition about the local area which helps to explain the development of the moors and a shop selling books, maps, information leaflets to help you explore the area, including the Walks around Postbridge leaflet as well as local crafts and gifts. The staff are very welcoming and friendly too.

The ‘new’ bridge over the East Dart River

Close by you will find one of the best examples of an iconic clapper bridge. It is believed to date back to medieval times and would probably have replaced stepping stones to help packhorses cross the river. The bridge has two central piers spanned by three large granite slabs, or clappers.

New bridge and the ancient clapper bridge

The word clapper is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘cleaca’, meaning stepping stones, or ‘bridging the stepping stones’.

The clapper bridge

It’s a very popular place for families who love to paddle in the river with fishing nets for pond dipping (not sure what they can find) and also picnic in the meadow close by.

One of the nicest things about driving through the park is the sense of space. Despite it being the school half term holidays the park wasn’t very busy and most of the many car parks (usually free) were relatively empty which meant we could stop when and where we liked.

Of course stopping to look at the ubiquitous Dartmoor ponies was a must. The speed limit with the park is 40mph – but you always have to keep your eyes open for sheep, ponies and even cattle crossing or walking in the road. Slow travel at its best.

Is this edible?

I was thinking about what makes Dartmoor different to other similar places I have visited, such as Exmoor, North Yorkshire, the Brecon Beacons. It seems a lot bleaker and desolate with so much space and very few signs of human habitation and perhaps a sense of history from Early Neolithic to the much more recent tin mining. The big skies and on this day, the clouds, are pretty amazing too though I wouldn’t want to be up here in the mist and rain.

Sheep terrain
Inquisitive McMoos

Wending our way around the park via Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey our next port of call was the famous Haytor which lies between Bovey Tracey and Widdecombe in the Moor.

Haytor and the South Devon coast in the distance

Haytor is perhaps the most easily accessible tor and has spectacular views across Dartmoor and the South Devon coast. I think we chose the steepest path up to the rocks though, but we made it!

The rocky granite outcrops (tors) that dominate the landscape were formed over 280 million years ago. People have been here for over 4,000 years, you will see the remains of prehistoric round houses, field boundaries and burial cairns.

It was the busiest place we came across during the day with a lot of people rock climbing and bouldering. There is a Visitor Centre here too where you can buy a ‘Walks around Haytor’ leaflet or the ‘Haytor’ booklet.

We didn’t stop in Widdecombe in the Moor which is famous for two things; The Church of St Pancras, colloquially known as the Cathedral of the Moors in recognition of its 120-ft tower, stands over the village green — helping to make Widecombe one of the most beloved villages on Dartmoor

and the folk song “Widecombe Fair” which immortalises the tale of Tom Pearce and the death of his horse at the famous annual fair which is held on the second Tuesday in September. It is a classic agricultural fair with horse jumping, rural crafts, a dog show and much more.

“Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
All along, down along, out along lea.
For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.”

The roads here are quite narrow so there is much stopping and reversing and squeezing into passing places so not for the faint-hearted driver. I had planned my route to avoid the narrowest of roads, but some are unavoidable. All I can advise is to take your time and don’t panic!

Boulders on the East Dart River
East Dart River walk

Our final stop was at Dartmeet where two rivers – the East Dart and the West Dart converge. After a short stroll along the banks of the river looking for damselflies, dragonflies and Kingfishers we called it a day once the route became too rocky for comfort.

A beautiful female Demoiselle which has metallic green-bronze body with translucent pale brown wings.

All in all a great day out, though to really make the most of Dartmoor you probably need to explore on foot and spread out the walks over several days.

Glastonbury Abbey

If you are in the Mendips region of Somerset you really shouldn’t miss visiting the wonderful Wells Cathedral nor the historic town of Glastonbury, possibly the quirkiest town in England. Steeped in history, myth and the smell of incense, it may not be for everybody.

However, do not let that put you off visiting the beautiful site of Glastonbury Abbey. Since Medieval times, the abbey has held legendary status as the earliest Christian foundation in Britain linked to Joseph of Arimathea and the burial place of King Arthur.

It’s a peaceful place – 36 acres of grounds to explore. Plenty of benches to sit and relax and take in the atmosphere. The remains of the abbey to walk around, which must have been enormous in its day. A medieval herb garden. Views of the Glastonbury Tor.

The abbey was built on the myth that followers of Christ settled here within the 1st century CE and built ‘The Old Church’. Abbot Dunstan remodelled and expanded the abbey and by the time of the coming of the Normans, the abbey was the wealthiest in England.

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Wells Cathedral

The West Front (around 300 of the original 400 medieval statues remain.)

Our visit to Wells last May would not have been complete without a visit to the cathedral there. One of the many that we have not visited previously and a main reason for choosing to stay in England’s smallest city. Not that either of us is remotely religious, but we can’t help admire the craftsmanship that goes into these beautiful buildings, and even I can appreciate the peacefulness that can be found inside.

Master mason William Joy  proposed the Scissor Arches (below) to prevent the collapse of a tower after a lead covered wooden spire was added in 1313. This proved to be too heavy for the foundations. Put in place between 1338 and 1348, they still stand today and are one of the most magnificent architectural features of Wells Cathedral.

The ‘new’ church which was to become the cathedral of the Bishop of Bath & Wells was the first to be built in the Early English Gothic style, during 1175 – c. 1250.  It was built on a new site to the north of an old minster church. Over the following three hundred years there was extension and revision, in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles in turn, as architectural fashion dictated.

The famous Wells clock is considered to be the second oldest clock mechanism in Britain, and probably in the world, to survive in original condition and still in use. The original works were made about 1390 and the clock face is the oldest surviving original of its kind anywhere. When the clock strikes every quarter, jousting knights rush round above the clock and the Quarter Jack bangs the quarter hours with his heels.

With its intricately painted interior dial depicting the Earth surrounded by the sun, moon and stars, it’s unique in showing a geocentric worldview – when the clock was created in 1390, most people still believed that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe. 

Continue reading Wells Cathedral