Sunday, 13 January 2019

The Cotehele Winter Garland

Cotehele House sits on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley, a valley separating Devon from Cornwall. The house is hidden down narrow deeply wooded high banked lanes making finding the property difficult. We decided to switch on our Sat Nav - a big mistake, as the terrain proved to be far too confusing for it to cope. Instead of arriving at Cotehele we ended up stuck in the middle of a very remote farmyard!!! 
Cotehele House was founded in 1300 but the current architecture is mostly early Tudor dating back to 1485. 
In its 62nd year of making, the Cotehele garland has now become a winter legend. All of the flowers are grown at Cotehele using flower seeds sown at the beginning of each year, and then harvested as early as April. Each year around 40,000 flowers are cut and dried, but this year a record number of 45,000 flowers were placed into the garland thanks to our long, hot summer. The Tudor Great Hall decked out with the 60ft long floral garland is a lovely sight to see.

A video of the 2016 garland
The making and installing of the garland begins in October - the 2018/19 winter garland was made using flowers in shades of red, white, and blue along with small military style ribbon ties to mark the centenary of the end of WWl.  
A 9ft jaw bone stands either side of the doorway. It came from a 61ft Fin whale that was washed up on Colona Beach, Bodrugan in Cornwall on the 2nd January 1875.
Victorian print showing the actual whale
This year there is an additional attractive and colourful display by Dominique Coiffait showing 20,000 linocut flowers which he created on paper to form a frieze running all around the lower walls of the Great Hall. Dominique ran a series of workshops where visitors and children helped him to cut out the thousands of flowers. Hidden amongst the flowers, which are all representative of flowers found throughout the year in the Cotehele gardens, are letters, photographs, and postcards sent home by local Cornish men and boys who were away serving in the the war.
'Forget me not'

It would be lovely, should the opportunity arise, to vist Cotehele again and see the gardens during the summer months.

51 comments:

  1. What an interesting post Rosemary. Those flower garlands are beautiful!

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    1. I have wanted to see this garland for a long time and it was well worth seeking out.

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  2. I agree with Marianne. It must take hours and hours to make that garland? How interesting that the notes, etc are camouflaged in the artwork! Hopefully you will return to show us the gardens .

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    1. Growing the flowers from seed, drying, gathering them all together, then assembling and hanging the garland must be a labour of love for all of those involved.

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  3. What a magnificent place. Those garlands are just incredibly beautiful! They look fresh. I would have loved to see it all in person. 
    The use of the whale bones is interesting. I wouldn't have wanted to be the person they sent to the beach to retrieve them. ;-)

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    1. Dear Catherine - I read that the whale was sold to a fish merchant for £60; the whale-bone was salvaged and the blubber rendered into oil and then resold.

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  4. Amazing admirable. Garlands are beautiful and only admire performers. Greetings.

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    1. Thank you Giga - I agree that the garland is beautiful, thank you for visiting and I send greetings to you too.

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  5. What a fantastic house. Hooray for the National Trust.

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    1. I think that the NT has one of the biggest enterprises in the country now - may be it will be one of the view not affected by brexit.

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    2. Well it began because the owners of the estates could not afford the upkeep of important buildings, so in one way nothing has changed. It is good that they belong to the nation in a trust - I wouldn't trust privatised companies to look after them - or even the government. Especially the government. Look at what is happening to the Green Belt.

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  6. Dear Rosemary, Those linocut flower friezes are absolutely amazing.

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    1. Dear Gina - me too. I thought that it was a really attractive idea which round all around the room, so must have involved a great deal of thought and work.

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  7. A house and a tradition that must slip under the radar of most people - I've certainly never heard mention of either. I shall never complain about putting up Christmas decorations again!

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    1. It is obviously a 12 month job - by the time they take it down they will already have started planting seeds for the next one.

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  8. I've never heard of Cotehele or its Winter Garland before but oh my! Now I want to see it in person! What a wonderful tribute to the power and glory of flowers in our lives. The Great War tribute is very moving too.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed seeing this Debra - it gave us a really enjoyable day out.

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  9. Hello Rosemary, The Coiffait artwork was amazing, but for the actual garland, I would have preferred to see them while growing, as you hinted. The little video should have had a narrator explaining the tradition and process, instead of that annoying harp music.

    I feel sorry for the whale, but its remaining jawbone is an impressive monument. Many New England whaling towns have similar jawbones set up, a reminder of times when whales were meant to be captured and used, not the poster animal to be loved and saved. The great book Moby Dick by Herman Melville remains the classic whaling story; although the symbolism goes much deeper, the book gives an exciting and realistic account into how whales were captured and processed. (I realize the the Cotehele whale was a beached one.)
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I have never before seen linocut work used like this before - being cut out and mounted in overlapping layers gave the frieze a 3D depth to it.
      I saw recently that Japan are intending to start up whaling again which is very upsetting - I understood that there was a moratorium to prevent commercial whaling.

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    1. It lies in a wonderful valley Willaim, and I must return again.

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  11. I would recommend visiting Cotehele at other times of the year, it is one of our favourite places to go when we are down in Devon, although we have never seen the garlands apart from in blogs. I had to smile at you ending in a farmyard there are so many narrow lanes to reach it! Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - at least we shall know the roads better next time we go.

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  12. Wow, that is wonderful. love it all. You do visit some interesting places.

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    1. It was our first visit there, and we really enjoyed it.

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  13. Dearest Rosemary,
    Bad luck with your Sat Nav but you ended up at this very special place.
    Incredible for being able to travel back to a place where a House was build in the 14th Century and than later the one you show us here above.
    Those huge garlands are incredible and it must be quite a sight!
    Thanks for sharing such special customs.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - the flower garland takes a whole year in the planning so it is quite a feat of dedication by those who grow the flowers, dry, assemble and then hang the garland for the visitors to admire.

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  14. What a beautiful place! I've heard the name, but never been. That garland is amazing! Preserving all those flowers, putting them all together without damaging them and then keeping them looking so fresh and beautiful! And those beautiful lino cut flowers! You visit some wonderful places and it so lovely to be able read about them. Best, Jane x

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    1. This is a NT property Jane - if you are a member it is well worth a visit. If you go at other times it is still a lovely place to visit - the surroundings are very special - there is a small boat quay as it is on the R. Tamar which meanders off down to Plymouth and then out to sea.

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    2. The last time we were in Cornwall was when we lived in Weymouth, back in '04. We went to the Eden Centre and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. We only had a one night stopover, but it was lovely x

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    3. I visited the Eden Centre when it first opened but have not been back since. I imagine it may have greatly changed since the early days as everything has now matured. I did a blog on the Lost Gardens of Heligan which you might be interested to see here.
      https://wherefivevalleysmeet.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-lost-gardens-of-heligan-calmer-days.html

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  15. What a beautiful tradition, decking the Great Hall with a floral garland. The dried flowers are so pretty and hold their colour so well. I'm sure it is a great spectacle to see. The lino cut cards are a lovely complement, and how sweet to have those notes and letters from the Great War interspersed in the design. Cotehele looks like a very attractive stone building. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. We must return to Cotehele when the flowers are actually growing - there must be a huge expanse of them judging by the garland.

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  16. How absolutely beautiful. An amazing tradition for so many years! Thank you for sharing this Rosemary.

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    1. May be you will have an opportunity to visit Cotehele when you are over this year Betty as I imagine that you will visit Cornwall again.

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  17. Never heard of that place. A great tradition. Very colourful.

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    1. I didn't know about it myself Bob until I read another blog a few years ago and then bookmarked it in my mind to make a visit at some stage.

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  18. Hello, Rosemary. I'm back. Making such a long beautiful garland is a wonderful tradition and seems to be a big annual project. The garland looks like alive, like swimming and crawling freely in the air or on the wall. The linocuts by Dominique Coiffait are impressive, too. I like to see and learn about new things that fascinate me. Gotehele House is my favorite type structure. I’m also interested in how the summer garden of it is. Talking of “swimming freely”, whales swimming freely in the ocean look almost divine.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - lovely to see you back again, and welcome.
      I loved seeing the beautiful garland and really enjoyed the concept of the linocut flowers being given a 3D appearance and what the frieze actually represented too.

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  19. What a lovely post, I wouldn't mind seeing the flowers in full bloom in the summer either !

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    1. Me too Jane, I am hoping to return as it is also a very idyllic spot.

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  20. What a fascinating place Cotehele must be. Is the garland left hanging throughout the year? The whale jawbone gives a good perspective on just how massive the creature would have been. I'm glad you managed to find the place in spite of the SatNav not knowing just where it was.

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    1. The garland is taken down on 12th night Lorrie, and then it is recycled. Hopefully we will find our way more successfully next time we visit.

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  21. Rosemary, thank you for this wonderful post. I was already familiar with the Cotehele garland as UK Country Living (best magazine on the market anywhere and I have had an annual sub. for many years) did a story about it, with great photos of course, a couple of years back. It is so amazing. As for the linocut flowers and 3D effect created by layering, absolutely beautiful and breathtaking in such colors and detail. I had not seen them before and thanks for sharing.

    How about the whale illustration - wow, he was a whopper!

    Mary -

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    1. It was a great day out Mary and the garland was well worth seeking Cotehele out to see it. The 3D linocut frieze was delightful and an unexpected bonus to find.

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  22. This was such a fascinating read.. The garland is an exquisite labour of love ... What a beautiful tradition. Had never heard of Cotechele but will now do some research... I loved the beautiful linocut display too...Thanks for a most inspiring post...Hugs

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    1. That is such a sweet comment Zaa - thank you. I loved seeing the garland and also the linocut frieze which had a 3D appearance and depth to it due to the various layers.

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  23. Wow that garland is truly stunning.

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    1. If ever you are down that way during the winter months it is well worth a visit.

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