Monday 18 September 2023

A Hidden Gem

Our small town museum is housed in a 17th century Grade 11 listed Cotswold stone mansion house once the home of a local wealthy wool merchant. The museum houses a great variety of interesting artifacts. They reveal a rich, and diverse history about the people who have lived and worked in the surrounding valleys from the earliest settlers through to the present day. With over 4,000 objects on display there is something of interest for every age. There are locally found dinosaur and mamoth bones, Roman remains, the world's first lawnmower,  invented locally, historical paintings and importantly the story of wool that brought great wealth to the area courtesy the backs of the "lion" Cotswold sheep. According to a 12th Century saying, "in Europe the best wool is English and in England the best wool is Cotswold". The Golden Fleece' obtained from the long-haired Cotswold Lion breed, thought to have be introduced by the Romans during their invasion, was widely renowned for its heavy wool clip.

The market towns in the Cotswolds would have been bustling with wealthy wool-merchants from rich cloth-making towns abroad who flocked to these hills to buy the wool. The enormous wealth engendered courtesy wool was responsible for the large number of fine "wool" churches, grand mansions, and civic buildings.

The museum is set in a charming wooded parkland filled with a huge variety of specimen trees. However, hidden away behind the mansion is a delightful walled garden which is free for all, as is the museum.

It was a beautiful balmy September day, the recent humidity having departed, so we decided to visit the garden, buy ourselves an ice cream in the Museum shop, and take a wander through the garden.
The garden was restored a few years ago, and is now solely maintained by several local volunteers, who do a great job.
A patchwork of Michaelmas Daisies - Symphyotrichum yield a colourful display. Usually associated with cottage gardens, they also work well in contemporary settings too.

"A final hurrah" from a Sunflower for this summer.

"The grasses beyond the garden wall are waist high, the September flowering of Michaelmas daisies heralds Autumn's arrival. But there was no autumn in the air today; the sun was still August, albeit calendar August was just a memory."

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Seeking Shadows

The country is currently sitting beneath a heat dome, loosely defined as an area of high pressure sitting over the same area for days, or even weeks. Hot air is trapped rather like a lid on a saucepan, pushing temperatures above what is normal for the time of the year. These current high temperatures are not to our liking; we prefer more temperate climes.

We packed a picnic and set off with hopes of finding some shade and cooler air in a local Cotswold garden. 

Buscot Park

In 1956 this estate was bequeathed to the NT by the 2nd Lord Faringdon, and the contents of the house were subsequently transferred to the Trustees of the Faringdon Collection. Lord Faringdon, a batchelor, was considered a controversial character at the time, being a politically, provocative, leftwing pacifist. He was the friend of artists, poets and painters, and gave shelter to Basque and Spanish exiles at the start of the Spanish Civil War. I like the sound of him. The current Lord Faringdon, his nephew, inherited the Buscot estate from his uncle and now administers the house and grounds on behalf of the NT.

Originally this first area of the garden was a kitchen garden but the current Lord Faringdon has changed it into a pleasure garden criss crossed by pathways, trees, walls, and interesting statuary.

Love this pathway lined with Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea' trees - Indian Bean Trees - we have one in our garden too. Now having seen these I think we missed a trick, we should have planted more too.

A steep pathway leads up from what was the old kitchen garden to a hilltop, upon which the 18thc house is built. It's position affords it wonderful uninterrupted views over the Oxfordshire countryside.

But we gave the house a miss and continued on our way. However, should you ever visit Buscot then the house is a must. It is filled with wonderful treasurers all set in a homely, and very tasteful setting. Many of the paintings are of world reknown, having been mainly collected by the 2nd Lord Faringdon "friend of artists". There is a wonderful series of paintings by the eminent Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones called The Legend of Briar Rose, which you can view here should you wish.

The current Lord Faringdon continues in his uncle's footsteps commissioning and collecting works by contemporary artists and sculptores. It is obvious from the garden and the interior of the property that both he and his wife have a very good eye.

This sycamore seed kinetic wind sculpture in the white garden is a fairly recent addition. It happily twirls around, as sycamore seeds do, to the slightest movement of the air. 
Having wandered through maybe half of the garden we cannot leave without taking the beautiful walk leading down to the lake.
The water rill, ponds and features were all laid out by the reknowned Edwardian designer, Harold Peto, in 1904.

You need more energy than we had in order to walk the rest of the garden - we still have a long trek back to find our car. We spent a soothing half hour watching the waterbirds; the herons flitting around the trees on the opposite side of the lake, and soaring kite and buzzard overhead.

As I post this, I am happy to say that today the humid air has passed, and we have even enjoyed a splash of rain, so no need to water our garden.