Saturday 31 July 2021

In the Vale of Glamorgan

Around c.650 AD the picturesque hamlet of Llanfarcan was a thriving centre of Christianity. It was here that St. Cadoc built a monastery which by the year c. 800 was a flourishing centre of learning. Despite destruction by the Danes, Llancarfan monastery continued to be the most powerful ecclesiastical community in Glamorgan. It did not, however, survive the Norman invasion, and the Abbey's responsibility then passed to the Abbey of St. Peter in Gloucester. 

St. Cadoc

Although nothing now remains of the monastery, St. Cadoc still retains a presence in the form of the local parish church, where the buildings simple chancel arch suggests a foundation date of around 1200.

Fifteen years ago when work was being carried out to the interior walls due to damage by Death Watch Beetle, peices of limewash fell off them. This revealed red painted lines which indicated the presence of medieval wall paintings. As the church is Grade 1 ⭑ listed it was necessary to employ specialist conservationists and it has taken years and years of work to reveal the paintings. The images painted in 1500 may seem macbre to our eyes, but they were done to convey to a largely illiterate population graphic scenes of the consequences of sin. 

In England I have seen several medieval 'Doom Walls', as they are collioquially named here, which graphically show the Last Judgement i.e the differences between heaven and hell, but the paintings on the walls in St. Cadoc's, Wales use a different approach. 

Covered in over 27 layers of lime wash for almost 500 years, the paintings show St. George and the Dragon, Death and the Gallant, and six of the Seven Deadly Sins.

The King and Queen peer through the castles battlements seemingly in great dismay.

As their daughter, the Princess, plays in the grounds below with her dog unaware of the dragon coming to get her.
But in rides St. George to the rescue, he slays the dragon, and saves the princess. The Virgin Mary is shown to the right bestowing her blessings on St. George.

St George was adopted by the English during the Crusades and later became the patron saint of England whose qualities many sought to emulate; therefore a positive role model that Christians could aspire to. 

Dancing with Death - the Gallant (knight) and the Cadaver (skeleton)

This painting depicts an elegant 15th century young man holding hands with a skeleton. The skeleton is wearing a shroud and appears to be leading the knight out through the window and into the graveyard beyond.

It is difficult to photograph them standing together as the Gallant is on the interior wall whilst the skeleton is featured pulling the Gallant's arm around the corner into the inset window wall. A toad can just be made out on the skeleton's chest, just seen to the left of the snake-like worm's head. We know that it is a worm and not a snake - the lines on it are segments not scales. The Cadavers lips are open in an awful grin. It still has eyes, and tufts of hair hang from the neck. This painting has been done by a completely different hand and is considered to be far older than the other paintings.

The 7 deadly sins

A multi-headed beast along with several small devils lure mortals into transgressions to condemn their souls forever into everlasting punishment. 


The suicidal victim of sloth has reached the depressive limits of monastic isolation. He is in spiritual gloom, cast into despair. His commitment, perhaps faith, withers in hopelessness. Helped by the tempting demon, the sinner falls upon his sword. 

Note: I have difficulty in understanding this representation and description of sloth. However, although today sloth is acquainted with laziness in the medieval period it was a spiritual sin as mentioned above.  

The lower part of this image shows Luxuria/Lust

The young couple seem to our eyes to be involved in nothing more than a cuddle, but the fiery mouth beneath them gives out the warning. 


Here is an attractive young man who clearly aspires above his worldly rank. His lower quarters sit on a humble wooden bench, while blatantly infringing clothing prohibions. Pride is also crossing his legs which according to medieval iconographic tradition casts him as a 'wrong doer'. By contrast his upper half is regally clad, his shoulders heavy with ermine, as two grosteque acolytes place a crown upon his head.


It will be apparent that Gluttony is more often than not linked to drink and the hostelry, as is the wonderfully-painted glutton on St.Cadoc's wall. He may look like Desperate Dan devouring his cow pie in the Dandy comic, but he is in truth a slave to the medieval tavern.


The miser represents the archetype of avaricious characters. His covetous hand grasps at a bagful of money whilst his desires are being stimulated by the number of golden coins which the tempting devils continue to pour into the coffers before him. 


The image on the right shows a horned demon, his wild eyes and salaciously curving tongue, relishes the conflict he is promoting between two very young men, identically clad and certainly not dressed for battle. 

The final sin Invidia/Envy appears to be missing. However, at the very bottom of the above image is a man lying on the ground - it is possible to just make out his legs and lower part of his body - could this be Envy?

Friday 23 July 2021


Don't worry, its only me, and luckily I don't have the Covid-19 pinging app. so you are perfectly safe here.

Has Bo Jo's so called Freedom Day fallen to earth like a lead balloon before it even got underway. We, along with many others (not including the young) appear to be carrying on in much the same way as we have done for the past 16 months i.e wearing our masks in shops etc, being cautious and taking care. Now dubbed "The English Experiment" around much of the world, many are now wondering just how it will pan out - wellwe aren't planning to be a part of it. 

We had intended to travel across the water into Wales this week, but we now find ourselves sitting in the centre of an amber heat weather warning, which is not at all conducive to travel. We have a cool shady spot in the garden and are generally taking things slow and easy.
In the garden the Regale Lilies look and smell divine. Lilies were the Pre-Raphaelite painters flower of choice, especially these Regale ones.
Yellow Tiger Lily Leichtlinii - we really do love our lilies
The Callistemon citrinus - bottle brush tree is covered in blossom and stands about 2 meters high,
but it is the pleasant fragrance of Lavender filling the air that we are really appreciating.

Sunday 18 July 2021

Hill Close Gardens, Warwick

.............. are located within a stones throw of its medieval castle, and access to them is via the rather aptly named Bread and Meat Close. 

These hidden hedge gardens from the mid 1840s are rare survivors of the Victorian era. Similar gardens were once found in many of our urban areas, but very few survive today. They were mainly used by artisans who lived above their business premises in the centre of the town with just a simple backyard and nowhere to grow flowers and vegetables. Originally there were 32 gardens here, but only 16 survive today. Some of the land was sold off during the Edwardian period to build new housing. Initially the plots were rented, but by the 1860s they were sold freehold to the various families, which actually contributed to their survival today.

Apart from all of the wonderful flowers in the gardens, a real pleasure for us was being able to visit the small brick built Grade 11 listed Victorian summerhouses which were filled with lots of interesting artefacts. 

Come in, close the door behind you, and light the fire. On a cold autumn day this must have been a really cosy place to take a break from working in the garden, enjoy a rest and make a cup of tea. Did you spot the old carpet sweeper? I recall my mother having one when I was still knee high to a grasshopper. Everybody called them a Ewbank which was the name of the firm that made them. Ours was eventually replaced when my father purchased the very latest electric vacuum cleaner for my mother from a door-to-door salesman. 
Lots of bees were enjoying visiting these Eryngiums - sea holly, which comes in several shades from silver grey to cobalt blue.
Eryngium - Blue Steel

If you look very carefully at the pink and yellow Alstroemeria - Peruvian lily, you might spot this.........

........a very attractive Scarlet Tiger Moth - Callimorpha dominula. 
A network of alleys and pathways takes you all around the gardens each with its own unique atmosphere. 
William Sleath, boot and shoe-maker, had a very large family. The Sleath family supplied the Imperial Yeomanry with their boots.
Advertisement from the local paper.
 Sleath's Fashionable Boots & Shoes
'We especially recommend this new material or ventilating leather cloth expressly for tender feet or light wear. Warranted not to crack or break at the sides'.

What have we got here?

A fine set of old garden tools.

This coming week we are heading over the water again to Wales, but I hasten to add, NOT to visit a garden.

Friday 16 July 2021

Summer Flower Quiz - the answer

1. Dracunulus Vulgaris - dragon lily, voodoo lily, stink lily, black lily etc.

2. Endemic to the Balkans, extending as far as Greece, Crete, the Aegean Islands, and to parts of SW Anatolia in Turkey.

3. A member of the Araceae family. 

4. Should not be grown too close to habitation due to its strong putrid smell. 

It became clear to me that not many people have actually seen this flower or perhaps even knew about it.

Why do I have it growing in my garden? I first discovered the plant about 25 years ago growing in a garden that we visited. I was intrigued by it, and for that matter I still am. I wondered whether it would be possible for me to grow one too. My plant is now almost 25 years old and turns up, along with its offsprings, every year, come rain, snow, sunshine, or whatever weather is thrown at it. I don't protect it during the winter or give it any special treatment. However, importantly I have sited it well away from our house. Why? because for just 24 hours only during the year it smells of putrid rotting meat. This attracts plenty of flies to pollinate it. 

By growing this plant I am apparently in good company. It also grows in The Cloisters at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where it is a great favourite with their visitors. The Met always hope that it will bloom for them and give out a good flourish of scent on their 'Garden Days'. 

Sitting amongst the small flowers of Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' makes it easier to appreciate its size. 
The first and only 100% correct answer was received from John @ "By Stargoose And Haglands". I am not surprised as John is extremely knowledgeable about flowers, trees, animals, insects and birds - very well done John.
75% goes to Mariette @ "Back to Basics". She got the first three questions correct, but not No.4
75% goes to John King (who doesn't appear to have a blog) and to Margaret D @ "thoughts & happenings" who also both answered three questions correctly. However, in question No.3. I asked which family does the plant belonged to - the answer being Araceae. John gave the name Aroid as did Margaret, but neither gave the plant its correct family name - Aroid is its species.
My thanks go to Mariette, John and Margaret too.

Monday 12 July 2021

A Summer Flower Quiz

This is an insects eye-view of part of the flower
Currently flowering in our garden, this flower is by no means diminutive - being roughly 60cms long.

It has green palmate leaves with white flecks along the veins which are similar in size to a tea-plate.
The stems are substantial, round, and fleshy with spotted markings up and down them. They stand roughly 90cms high.

1. What is the plants Latin name and common name? It has various common names but anyone of them will suffice.

2. Which part of the world is the plants natural habitat?

3. Which family does it belong to?

4. It is necessary to consider very carefully where you choose to grow this flower - why?  


I shall switch Comments Moderation on to give everyone an equal chance. The answers to the quiz will be given on Friday.

Thursday 8 July 2021

Veddw House Garden

 We left blue skies behind as we headed across the Severn Estuary Bridge and into Wales, seeking a garden that sits high in the hills above the beautiful Wye Valley. The weather had been predicted to be sunny with showers - how wrong that proved to be! The garden is only open to the public for eight afternoon visits per year so regardless of the weather reports we took a chance and went. We were early and parked nearby in the densely wooded forest surrounding the house and garden. We ate our lunch in the car to the drumming sounds of rain beating down on the rooftop. Once the rain stopped and the sun came out, the raindrops twinkled like fairy lights all across the forest. With a break in the weather we took the opportunity to walk along to the garden. 
As we wandered around the garden it rained, but that didn't matter; you see we loved the garden.

The garden is the co-creation of Anne Wareham, garden writer, and her husband Charles Hawes, photographer.
The red Valerians, zingy Euphorbias, and spiky blue grasses create an eye catching combination. 
The garden is about patterns, shapes, colours, drama, sculptural hedges and views.
It is also about history and acknowledgement of those people who have lived and worked here in the past, and about the landscape it sits in and belongs to. It is not so much about plants.  
Zebra grass - Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus 
Anne and Charles are passionate about gardens, but not about gardening! Anne says "I do not go out weeding in my night clothes. I believe there is more to life than gardening, like reading good books and spending time with friends. So we tolerate weeds - indeed we actively encourage some plants popularly considered weeds".
How many people would consider painting a Welsh cottage black? But look! How brilliantly it works. It's a tour de force, perfectly blending both property and garden together.  
Martagon Lily - Lilium martagon 'Album' - Turk's Cap drenched in rain
These lilies can be found growing wild in parts of this area, and also in the Cotswolds near our home. We too have both the pink and white ones growing in our garden. I love them dearly but so does the naughty little Red Lily Beetle. Martagon lilies always evoke memories for me of seeing them for the first time years ago whilst walking in the Alps. 
Anne says "I am not a great plant collector - my aim is to have the plants play their part in the garden, not play at being prima donnas. But the plant knowledgeable will find some stars". 
Wandering around Veddw is like taking a magical mystery tour - what's around the corner or through the gap in the hedge?
The reflective black pool brings the sky down into the garden.
(and the rain too)

"There are just two of us, part time, with six hours a week help (weather permitting) maintaining the garden". 
"We need time to enjoy it and each other with a glass of wine".