Sunday 30 March 2014

Glendurgan, Cornwall

Welcome to Glendurgan, another of 'The Great Gardens of Cornwall'. This sub-tropical garden was made by members of the Fox family, prominent Cornish Quakers, who between them evolved four unique gardens in Cornwall. Since posting, Patricia at Red Cardinal has mentioned the fun element of the foxes on the wall. Her comment was a 'lightbulb moment' as I now realise the bronze statues are an obvious reference to the Fox family - something that eluded me, so thank you Patricia.  
Can you imagine how you would keep a very large family of children entertained, amused and occupied in 1820?  The solution for Alfred and Sarah Fox was to create Glendurgan with their 12 children in mind. It was a garden designed for exploration, fun, and to have adventures in. To this extent they created the now famous laurel maze and the giant's stride, which resembles a very large maypole that children can swing out and around on.
It is not difficult to imagine how much the Fox's 12 children must have loved this maze - there were some little people playing in the thatched hut on this picture - they were waving to us from what they considered to be their secret hideaway. However, the maze was not the total preserve of the youngsters.
A visitor to the house in 1854 wrote in her diary "We dined in the house and then lay in the grass and sang until we joined the gentlemen who had retired to the labyrinth to smoke".
Set in its own wooded valley, perfect for hide and seek, the gardens drop steeply down to a small beach on the shores of the beautiful Helford Estuary.
Air plants, members of the Bromeliaceae family, growing on old branches.
Rhododendron cornubia
Camellia - name unknown
Helleborus candy love
The winter months have favoured wild flowers. All of the gardens visited had grassy banks smothered in primroses, violets and red campion.
In the foreground Grevillea rosmarinifolia white variety
I love the copper coloured bark of the Luma apiculata - flowering myrtle, native to the central Andes between Chile and Argentina
Journeys end - their own private beach on the Helford Estuary where they could swim, sail, play ball games, and climb rocks.
What an idyllic playground the 12 Fox children had to grow up in.

Friday 28 March 2014

Buckland Abbey, Devon

Buckland Abbey is tucked away in its own secluded valley above the River Tavy on the Devon side of the Tamar Valley. A Cistercian Abbey which was founded in 1278 by Amicia, Countess of Devon. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries King Henry Vlll sold it to Sir Richard Grenville who converted it into a residence with the help of his son Roger. Whilst Roger was Captain of King Henry Vlll's flagship, the ill fated Mary Rose, he drowned. When Sir Richard died the property and title passed to his grandson, another Richard, who continued the renovations. Young Richard, a swashbuckling seafarer, took part in the early English attempts to settle the New World, and participated in the fight against the Spanish Armada, dying in 1591 at the Battle of Flores.

The Revenge
A Ballad of the Fleet
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
And a pinnace, like a fluttered bird, came flying from far away:
'Spanish ships of war at sea! We have sighted fifty-three!'
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: "Fore God I am no coward;
But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of gear,
And half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty-three?"

The rest of the Ballad can be read here
Swashbuckling Sir Richard Grenville aged 29 years in 1571
National Portrail Gallery
Buckland Abbey eventally became the home of another great seafarer, Sir Francis Drake, Grenville's cousin. It remained with the Drake family until it was given to the National Trust.
Sir Francis Drake 
The Great Barn is one of the largest medieval barns remaining in the country - it would have been filled and emptied many, many times. Piled high at harvest time with grains, apples and root vegetables. Later in the year, sacks of flour would take their place along with barrels of cider, and during the late spring bundles of sheep fleeces.
Here it is possible to see where the original church crossing was removed
Window etchings celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Armada in 1988
A page from a Medieval Antiphonal - a winter choir book giving the sung parts of the service for each day until Pentecost - the manuscript was made in Italy around 1390.
This window is in The Drake's Chamber which was probably used as a bedroom or study. Following a fire the ceiling has been given a new hand crafted plasterwork ceiling part of which shows medieval bee skeps.
Rembrandt self portrait
In 2008 the National Trust were gifted six Dutch paintings. The highlight of the generous donation was a painting that could be a 'lost' Rembrandt. It arrived at Buckland Abbey in 2010 where it has been hanging in the Georgian dining room. Ernst van de Wetering, Dutch art historian and Chair of the Rembrandt Research Project in Amsterdam, visited Buckland Abbey to study the self portrait. He was convinced that the painting is an authentic Rembrandt work. Currently it is undergoing tests by a specialist team at the University of Cambridge that will include things such as x-rays, dendrochronology and analysis of the pigments used. 
Look up and down!
In the kitchen, cooks were making an authentic Tudor meal, one of which was Chicken in Almond Milk. Recipe below if you fancy giving it a try.
The Great Hall is positioned within the centre of the original crossing area in the church, and is the most lavishly remodelled room in Grenville's conversion. The beautiful 16th century floor tiles are thought to have been imported from Holland. The floor level is above that of the original church, as it is where a number of monks remain buried.
The property has always had access to its own spring water 

Monday 24 March 2014

The Lost Gardens of Heligan & Calmer Days at Mevagissey

With the onset of WWl many of the staff that ran and maintained the Cornish estate and gardens at Heligan were called to serve their country. The majority of them never to return.
The gardens disappeared beneath a thin green shroud, but over the next 70 years they slipped into a deep sleep and completely vanished under a dense thicket of thorny brambles, scrubby trees and ivy.
In 1990 two brave souls pushed open the door to the gardens and began restoration work on a shoe-string budget. In 1992 they opened the gardens to the public whilst it was still a work in progress, and gradually over the next, almost 25 years, the Lost Gardens of Heligan awoke.
Part of the National Collection of Camellias & Rhododendrons at Heligan
The giant's head - a living sculpture in the woodland walk - the hair is Crocosmia - it will have a mass of orange flowers when the summer arrives.
The sleeping mud maiden - next month she will look splendid, completely surrounded by a thick blanket of English bluebells
Kniphofia - red hot poker, torch lily
There are 18 gardens that lie along the southern coastal stretch of Cornwall which collectively are known as "The Great Gardens of Cornwall". Plants from around the globe flourish in the sheltered coastal inlet gardens with their own warm micro climate. 
Gunnera manicata unfolding its giant leaves. We tried to grow this in our garden but our ground is too dry. In other areas of the country it requires covering with a straw or fleece blanket to survive the winter, but not here.
Heligan's Jungle Garden
 (awful photo)
Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns
A newly emerging Tree Fern frond
Anemone coronaria planted en masse
The walled garden being prepared to receive its summer flowering plants
The Lost Gardens of Heligan lie close to the coastal port of Mevagissey which suffered huge damaging waves during the storms at the beginning of February this year. After leaving Heligan we called in to see how it was recovering.
Around the little port all appeared to be relaxed and peaceful again....
..... but if you look closely at this last photo you can see an arrow pointing to construction work being carried out to repair the very badly damaged inner harbour wall.