Friday 28 May 2021

An Ancient Monument

The route across Exmoor from where we were staying was closed due to roadworks, so we had to take a much longer circular route to Dulverton, the southern gateway up onto the moors. The journey took us through lush green valleys, beautiful forests, and scenic countryside.
Dulverton was once a thriving mill town - this is one of the old mills still to be seen in the town

The ancient monument we were seeking lies at the heart of a U shaped valley a few miles outside Dulverton, with just two narrow roads down from the moors. Unfortunately for us, our sat.nav. directed us to the most difficult route, a very narrow tortuous single-track road, not one for those of a nervous disposition. The roads high grassy banks were prettily strewn with wild flowers beyond which were ancient forests growing amongst large mossy covered boulders deposited during 'The Ice Age'. At every bend we hoped that no other vehicle would be travelling up towards us - passing places were few and far between. The road was very steep with precipitous boundaries. On arrival, breathing a sigh of relief that we had made it, we temporarily forgot about the return journey as we viewed what we had travelled to see.

Tarr Steps is a Grade 1 listed Ancient Monument crossing the River Barle in a beautiful wooded valley. The steps are a 17 - span clapper bridge (the term comes from the Latin claperius, meaning 'pile of stones') constructed entirely from very large stones and boulders.

The first written mention of the crossing was in the Tudor period, but experts believe that it was built 1000 years BC, making it over 3000 years old.

The River Barle is a swift flowing tributary of the River Exe - Atlantic salmon that hatch in the river may journey as far away as Greenland before returning years later to spawn. For rivers to be suitable for salmon they need unpolluted, cool, well oxygenated water along with clean gravel on the riverbed for spawning, these are exactly the conditions that are found in this river.

The water eddies around the supporting stones then gurgles merrily on its journey beneath the clapper bridge.
The surrounding woodland is mainly Oak, Beech, Ash, Sycamore, and Hazel which was once coppiced to provide charcoal for the local iron smelting industry. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest abounding in wildlife - Red Deer, Dormice, the rare Barbastelle Bat along with Otters that feed along its fast flowing river.
On a hillside close to the steps is a Bronze Age burial mound - dating back to a period five hundred years before Tarr Steps, but, I wondered, did they too use this same crossing point in the river? 

Tuesday 25 May 2021

New Life in the Garden

Within hours of returning back home from our trip down to the Devonshire/Somerset border, a small miracle of new birth happened in our garden. One of our many rogue Roe deer, possibly one of those that have been demolishing our flowers, gave birth to the sweetish, prettiest little fawn that you have ever seen - we could hardly believe what we were witnessing.

Here she is licking her baby to encourage her to stand up and feed. We have decided that she is a girl, and named her 'Blossom'. After all her mother may have been one of those 'dining out' on our flowers throughout much of the Spring.

Wobbling up onto her feet was not an easy task, she would feed for a couple of minutes before then collapsing back down on to the ground again.
An opportunistic Magpie appeared on the scene, the mother looked rather anxious, but luckily the bird flew off before any of us needed to intervene.
She found a sheltered spot in which to rest.

Whilst mother demolished more of our plants. However, their requirements are far greater than ours, needing all of the extra nourishment that they can both get.
As the evening drew in the little one made itself cosy beneath one of our tall thick hedges whilst the mother kept a wary eye on the surroundings.
The evening was particularly chilly and wet, and we were very concerned for the little fawn. We felt like giving it a blanket or some straw to keep it warm. In the morning all was well, the little fawn was looking stronger, and by late afternoon they both vanished through the hedge without even so much as a backwards glance. 
Good luck little Blossom, and be safe.
All of the photos were taken through our conservatory windows so are not very sharp. 

Thursday 13 May 2021


 Called the 'Semper Augustus' this tulip was the most expensive bulb ever sold during 'tulipmania' in 17th century Amsterdam. Its unusual colouring, the striations, and wavey edge to the petals made it a greatly sort after bulb. However, it is now known that its appearance was the result of a virus attack which ultimate eventually killed it.
In the 1620s one bulb cost 1,000 guilders but by the time that the 'tulipmania' bubble burst in 1637 its value had increased to the equivalent of five Amsterdam properties. 
Tulip fever spread across Europe, especially here, where many grand homes and wealthy landowners filled their gardens with tulips. They also purchased the highly prized Delft blue and white pergoda tulip display vases. 
Dyrham Park in the southern area of the Cotswolds has a magnificent collection of these unique tulip vases which are normally, at this time of year, filled with seasonal tulips and put on display. However, due to the Pandemic the property is still closed. but very soon it will reopen again. From next Monday our weeks of tough restrictions will be eased and we shall have a new set of freedoms. 

We always enjoy a visit to the gardens at Dyrham so packed ourselves a picnic, having already booked a garden visit online, and enjoyed a stroll around their grounds.

Wisteria sinensis and Chaenomeles japonica climbing up the walls.

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein 

If you are living in this country, enjoy your new found freedoms, but do take care - I'm taking a break.

Saturday 8 May 2021

Charlecote Park

The Lucy family have lived at Charlecote for over 950 years. The de Lucy or de Lucé  family originated in Lucé, Normandy and arrived in England following the Norman Conquest in 1066. 
The Tudor house seen today was built in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy to replace a much earlier property.
Sitting alongside the R. Avon Charlecote is considered to be one of the earliest of our grand Tudor houses.
The Coach House
Four of these handsome hexagonal turrets with leaded ogee cupolas and weathervanes sit at all four corners of the main house along with two more at either side of the main entrance through the coach house.

450 years ago, in 1572, Queen Elizabeth 1 stayed at Charlecote on her royal progress from Kenilworth Castle.  In order to honour her visit this stone colonnaded entrance portico showing the Queen's own heraldic arms was added to the front of the house.

A 'ha ha' surrounds the formal gardens, separating them from the Deer Park. A 'ha ha' is a recessed landscape design element which creates a vertical barrier whilst preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond. A 'ha ha' also acts as a protection to the formal gardens from grazing cattle and deer within the park.  

A single arch stone bridge within the park crosses the R. Dene which then travels down a cascade to join up with the R. Avon.

Young Will, the 'Bard of Avon' grew up along this stretch of river - as a youth did he also walk these pathways? Historically it is said that in 1583 he was caught and apprehended for poaching deer in Charlecote Park by Sir Thomas Lucy himself, who also happened to be the local magistrate. He threatened William with prosecution, but young William immediately fled away to London. It is thought that Shakespeare satirised Lucy with the character of Justice Shallow, who appears in Henry 1V, Part 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Part of the boundary of the Deer Park adjoins the small village of Charlecote.  

The deer park boundaries are all fenced using traditional split-timber deer pales.