The sun looked as though it might break through the low cloud, so we (that’s my wife Deborah and me), put the top down on the car and hoped (we’ve come not to expect any particular weather here in Norfolk, UK). Alas, the temperature hovered around 7 C all day, but it didn’t spoil our outing to Cambridgeshire and north Essex. Just over an hour’s drive away lies Anglesey Abbey, former home of Lord Fairhaven and now a National Trust – run house and garden.

I’ve featured the garden already on this blog under a ‘Picpost’ but didn’t really do it justice. So you can see a few more pics of it in the gallery below. We had a pleasant stroll along the Winter Garden walk with its fiery colours and varied textures, though it was noticeable how many evergreens showed evidence of ‘leaf scorch’ by the recent cold easterly winds – the Garrya elliptica was looking especially sorry for itself. At the end of this walk sits the old Lode Water Mill, where flour is still ground and sold to visitors – fortunately we arrived and ascended the steep wooden staircases just before a coach load of german youngsters (several of the boys must have been 6’6″ plus).

Winding our way along the old mill stream we found the House (as the name suggests some of the older parts were once an Abbey) and donning our paper over – shoes to protect floors and carpets, we meandered around this house full of eclectic decor and collections of this and that – including many things ‘rescued’ from other ancestral homes by Lord Fairhaven during the early 20th century. He certainly had a love of Windsor Castle as there is one and a bit large gallery rooms full of different paintings of the place from a number of centurires and angles. I was particularly impressed with the display of some of Lord Fairhaven’s clothes and especially his shoes which looked as new (and some would probably be back in fashion today). He had so many pairs, for different occasions, that they were hardly ever worn – so much for the idea that it’s just women who hoard footwear!

To be honest, this probably wasn’t the best time to visit Anglesey Abbey for the gardens – the display of Snowdrops is famous but was well over, and the late spring has resulted in only a few bulbs being out, most notably the wonderful purply- blue of Scylla in the woodland end of the Winter Walk as well as some Daffodils. The Dahlia beds of course were looking bare and the Roses will not be out for a good couple of months yet (assuming they catch up). Still, there is a lot of interest here, including the more formal landscape garden with its evergreen hedges and statuary and some lovely areas of woodland. We concluded part one of our day with a wholesome lunch of jacket potatoes and salad in the well-appointed restaurant on site. The sun had not broken through, but we didn’t mind – Saffron Walden and the promise of afternoon tea (and Saffron cakes?) beckoned…. return to read part 2 of our special day tomorrow!

Old School Gardener

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